Seat Time and Distance Education Courses: Background Information and Process

Why is this Necessary?

Due to Federal regulations promulgated by the US Department of Education, the Higher Learning Commission requires institutions to document how they determine in-class and out-of-class time equivalencies for distance courses and therefore document how credit hours for distance courses are determined.

Higher Learning Commission Policy Changes Adopted on Second Reading
Title: Federal Compliance Requirements for Institutions

Assignment of Credit Hours: The institution’s assignment and award of credit hours shall conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education. Those institutions seeking, or participating in, Title IV federal financial aid, shall demonstrate that they have policies determining the credit hours awarded to courses and programs in keeping with commonly-accepted practices and with the federal definition of the credit hour, as reproduced herein for reference only, and that institutions also have procedures that result in an appropriate awarding of institutional credit in conformity with the policies established by the institution.

Federal Credit Hour Definition: A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally-established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than: (1) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or (2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours.
34CFR 600.2 (11/1/2010)

What do we need to do to respond to this policy for distance courses?

We need to use a consistent process for determining the equivalent of in-class and out-of-class time for distance courses. 

How is Creighton addressing this?

The Center for Academic Innovation (CAI) is proceeding as follows to document in-class and out-of-class time for distance courses.

Courses offered both online and on-ground

If a course is offered both on-ground and online, and each of the following conditions is met, then the online course is considered to have equivalent classroom and out-of-class time as the on-ground course. 
• Stated student learning outcomes are the same
• Assignments are the same
• Term length is the same
• Online students are required to regularly engage with the instructor and with other students in the course
If the above conditions are not met then additional information is gathered which will be used to calculate in-class and out-of-class time for the distance course. The process for gathering this data is outlined below.

Courses offered only online

The process described in the following section will be used to gather information in order to calculate the equivalent of in-class and out-of-class time for the distance course.

Process for documenting in-class & out-of-class time

The following process is used to document in-class and out-of-class time equivalents for an online course which either does not have an on-ground counterpart or for which the student learning outcomes and the assignments differ between the online and on-ground versions of the course.

  • The Survey of Distance Course Activity is sent to the instructor of record. The survey asks the instructor to provide information about the various learning activities students enrolled in the course are required to complete.
  • The instructor may either complete the survey or respond by asking CAI to gather the information.
  • The Center for Academic Innovation personnel use the information gathered by either the survey or by the CAI personnel to calculate in-class and out-of-class time equivalencies.
  • CAI contacts the instructor to discuss the results of the calculation and modify the results if warranted based on additional information provided by the instructor.
  • In-class and out-of-class time equivalencies of all online courses are documented by CAI and stored on the Office’s Intranet site.

The tables on pages 3-5 of the Documenting Credit Hours for Distance Education Courses document include the activities that can account for classroom time and out-of-class time.

What if an instructor does not believe the assumptions included in the calculator (tables on pages 3-5 of the Documenting Credit Hours for Distance Education Courses document) are those that should be used?

Instructors are invited to contact CAI to discuss the assumptions used as well as the activities.  Since this is a new process for the University, feedback and ideas to ensure the process and calculations accurately reflect the equivalent of classroom and out-of-class time are welcomed.