Definition of Semester Credit Hour and Length of Semester Term

An ad hoc group was formed to examine the Ohio Department of Higher Education's (formerly the Ohio Board of Regents) existing definition of the duration of a semester. The group recognized that federal financial aid regulations already provide a definition and recommends using that established national guideline. The group also concluded that the current definition of a semester credit rests implicitly on the concept of the credit hour more than on the number of weeks or days in a semester. Consequently, the group preconceived its task as defining the semester credit hour and proceeded using the following guidelines:

  • An institution's semester calendar will not violate any accreditation regulations, federal guidelines, etc.
  • An institution's semester calendar will facilitate the attainment of the Ohio Department of Higher Education's goals, including the transfer process.
  • A semester credit hour will mean the same throughout Ohio's public institutions of higher education.

Because the credit hour is the basis on which all degrees are awarded and credits are transferred among schools within and outside of Ohio, the definition of the credit hour should be consistent with current practice. At the same time, the definition should be flexible enough to accommodate alternative modes of instruction that may not yet exist. We believe that the following definition achieves both those goals.

Semester Credit Hour Definition

One semester credit hour will be awarded for a minimum of 750 minutes of formalized instruction that typically requires students to work at out-of-class assignments an average of twice the amount of time as the amount of formalized instruction (1,500 minutes). It is acknowledged that formalized instruction may take place in a variety of modes.

While awarding semester credit hours typically occurs for instruction delivered in accordance with an institution's standard semester calendar, it may also occur for instruction that may not follow the typical pattern of an institution's standard semester calendar as long as the criteria for awarding such credit is met.

Semester Length Definition

The length of a semester shall consist of no fewer than 15 calendar weeks and no more than 17 calendar weeks of instructional time. The inclusion of breaks or holidays within any particular semester shall be at the discretion of the institution so long as the institution is in compliance with the criteria that defines a week of instructional time, and is in compliance with the criteria for awarding semester credit hours.

Concluding Note

The ad hoc group wishes to echo the Ohio Department of Higher Education's memo of February 4, 2000, defining the length of academic terms. It stresses both the need for flexibility required by new modes of instruction and scheduling and the need for consistency in transferring credit among institutions and equity in awarding subsidy. Ultimately, the responsibility for protecting the academic integrity of curricula, programs, and schedules rests upon the judgment of the chief academic officers of Ohio's public colleges and universities.