Credit Standards

Credit Standards for Instruction and Student Work

Effective: September 1, 2011

Last Updated: Approved by EPC on December 15, 2010; Approved by Campus Assembly April 12, 2011, Revised and approved Oct 12, 2020

Policy Owner: Academic Affairs

Credit standards are fundamental to the integrity of University degrees, transferability of courses, curricular transparency, workload assignments, and accountability to state, regional, federal, and specialized accrediting agencies. Consistency in assigning credit hours to courses is required.

This policy maintains the semester credit hour as the standard while broadening its applicability to online and partially online courses. The policy will be reviewed and adjusted as accreditation agencies redefine standards for higher education.

1. The number of credits assigned to an individual course is a function of the breadth and depth of subject matter deemed appropriate by the program faculty and approved through the regular curriculum review process.

2. Curriculum guidelines permit programs to define the delivery mode(s) approved for courses/class sections as follows:

  • Classroom (100% physical class meetings)
  • Partially online (4 or more physical class meetings per term)
  • Primarily online (1-3 defined physical class meetings per term)
  • Online (no physical class meetings)

The pedagogy should be appropriate for the delivery mode selected for the section of a course.

3. One credit hour is defined as 50 minutes.

4. For all classroom delivery modes (assuming a 15-week semester or equivalent number of contact hours):

a. In order to successfully complete a course, one undergraduate credit represents three hours of academic work per week (an average of two hours outside of class for every hour in the classroom), averaged over the semester. One credit equals 45 hours of work over the course of the semester (1 credit x 3 hours of work per week x 15 weeks in a semester equal 45 hours of academic work).

b.Professional norms and the nature of the academic work may necessitate spending more than three hours per week per credit. For example, study abroad, directed learning, clinical experiences, laboratory work, studio activities, and music ensembles may require more than an average of three hours per week. Demands on the student in excess of the average of three hours per credit per week are permissible with college approval and with appropriate notification to the student of the amount of work expected for the course or educational experiences (e.g., UMD course catalog descriptions, syllabi).

c. Professional norms may necessitate more physical in-class time in lieu of academic outside of class time.

d. All proposals for undergraduate courses must include a student workload statement demonstrating how the course conforms to the student workload expectations laid out in this policy. College curriculum committees and other approving bodies must consider the student workload statement in reaching a decision on whether to approve a proposed course.

5. For course components that designate individual study or research, the scope of the student workload will be established to require the average student to work a minimum of three hours per week per credit.

6. For course components that designate a working/learning experience, e.g., internship, student teaching, practicum, field work, in general, 1 credit requires a minimum of 40 hours of work in a supervised setting over the course of the term. 

7. The breadth and depth of graduate level work is expected to require additional time (greater than 3 hours per week per credit) to achieve satisfactory academic performance.

8. For dual listed courses in which, for example, undergraduate students register for the 4xxx level course and graduate/professional students register for the 5xxx level course, workload expectations will be higher for the graduate/professional students. See Course Numbering Policy