Credit Hours in Online/Hybrid Courses


Per the Wake Forest University Registrar,

Semester Credit Hour is the quantitative unit used to measure coursework. The number of semester credit hours assigned to a course reflects the outcomes expected, the mode of instruction, scheduled in-class time, additional formal meeting times, and the amount of outside preparatory work expected for the class.

Faculty members expect students to work an average of two hours outside of class for every hour spent in the classroom. Therefore, if a student were to take the standard 15-hour course load, the student would be expected to spend approximately 15 hours in the classroom and approximately 30 hours outside of the classroom, for an average total of 45 hours of classroom work, study, writing, research, etc. each week. For a 15-week semester, this translates into 135 hours of work per semester per course and 675 hours per semester for a full course load.


Please note that some graduate or professional programs may have higher requirements.

These standards are in alignment with the requirements set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Credit hour: Except as provided in 34 CFR 668.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an amount of student work defined by an institution, as approved by the institution’s accrediting agency or State approval agency, that is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education and that –

(1) Reasonably approximates not less than –

(i) 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 period of time; or

(ii) At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1)(i) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours; and

(2) Permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels.

The university’s regional accreditor, SACS, also requires that via its Principles of Accreditation that an institution

“…implements policies for determining the amount and level of credit awarded for its courses, regardless of format or mode of delivery.”


Thinking about Credit hours for Blended and Online Courses

Accreditation and regulatory requirements typically establish expected workloads, based on credit hours, that identify a balance between in-class vs. out-of-class work. Since online and blended learning opportunities can disrupt the in-class vs. out-of-class distinction, it is important to ensure that courses offered in these modalities provide students with (1) an overall workload commensurate with normal credit-hour expectations and (2) a comparable level of interaction to replace any face-to-face hours lost. To that end, the workload balance in an online or blended class should aim for the same balance as a traditional face-to-face course, where instructor-mediated/directed learning activities are allowable replacements for face-to-face instructional hours. Lists detailing the general characteristics of these activities and their examples are included below.




Once a course’s particular methods, approaches, and  strategies have been chosen and development has begun, the Workload Estimator tool can assist you in approximating and comparing the amount of work and time required for a class versus the number of academic hours it is supposed to represent. The Rutgers University Office of Instructional Design has also developed a Planning Time Calculator that might be useful in conjunction with the Workload Estimator.


Example: These are based on the above numbers for the University’s standard credit hour calculations. Some numbers have been rounded up for the sake of convenience.  (These estimates are based on 3 hours of study time)


8 Weeks

12 Weeks

15 weeks

3 Credits

19 hours per week

12.5 hours per week

10 hours per week

2 Credits

12.5 hours per week

8 hours per week

7 hours per week

1 Credit

6 hours per week

4 hours per week

3 hours per week

The examples presented above are not exhaustive, and as with any instructional strategy these activities will only be as good as their implementation. Consultation and training in their design, implementation, and assessment are recommended, and the Office of Online Education is available to provide such guidance.