Online course contact hours

Online courses should have the equivalent amount of contact hours per student credit hour as those delivered in other modalities. The student 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 (defined as a nominal 50-minute classroom hour) and a minimum of two hours of out‐of‐class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester 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 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. The amount of academic credit awarded for such other academic activities is specified in UAM 6,081.

This definition applies in every instance in which academic credit is awarded to students, regardless of whether instruction is delivered face-to-face, online, remote, hybrid, or by some other mode.

For the typical three credit class, it is expected that a student will be engaged in classroom learning experiences of 150 minutes x 15 weeks = 2250 minutes. This means the student should spend the equivalent amount of time within their online classroom participating in discussion boards, taking quizzes/examinations, viewing video or PowerPoint slides, reading information from linked web sites, reviewing instructor lectures or any other items that engage the student within the online classroom. Recommended calculations for time-per-online activity can be found in the attached table [see following page]. Homework hours at the University of Nevada, Reno should equate to approximately two hours per every in-class contact hour for any given course. Items that fulfill the homework hours are reading the course text, completing formal writing/ research assignments, answering questions on text readings, conducting research, studying for examinations, and other out-of-classroom course requirements.

Online instructional activity equivalencies

The following table lists common instructional activities in the online teaching modality with a description of these activities, and a conversion of these activities in terms of instructional contact time. Adapted from Valdosta State University.

Instructional activities are listed with descriptions and a corresponding rate of equivalency.
Instructional activity Description of instructional activity Rate of equivalency
Active learning strategies Facilitators lead students in evaluating course concepts in light of experience, enhancing the depth and breadth of content by intensely-focused group activities in class. 1 active learning strategy = 1 hour instruction
Blogs, journals, logs Instructor guides students in applying learned concepts or reflecting on learning experiences; learned concepts to be shared with instructor and/or classmates for thoughtful analysis, feedback, and assessment. 1 private post = ½ hour instruction 1 shared post (incl. reading all classmates’ posts) = 1 hour instruction
Case studies and problem-solving scenarios Instructor leads students in performing in-depth analysis utilizing higher-order analytical skills, which relate to course objectives. Analysis is shared with instructor and/or classmates for feedback and assessment. 1 case study analysis and post = 1-2 hours
Zoom sessions Instructor directs students in collaborative, synchronous discussion with specific expectations for participation. 1 hour session = 1 hour instruction
Conferences (group) Under instructor’s guidance, students participate in collaborative, synchronous learning with specific expectations for participation and feedback. 1 hour conference = 1 hour instruction
Conferences (in- depth individual) Instructor engages students in collaborative, one-to-one synchronous learning experience; student will need meet specific participation and feedback expectations. 20 minute conference = 1 hour instruction
Discussion board Instructor guides/mediates threaded discussion, engaging learners with content that directly relates to course objectives and that has specified timeframes, expectations for participation, and thoughtful analysis. 1 post/reply = 1 hour instruction 2 posts/2 replies =2 hours instruction
Guided project Instructors lead students in a summative project; student(s) and instructor collaborate via email, chat, discussion board, and/or in person to research, analyze, synthesize, and prepare project. Instructor receives periodic updates and provides guidance and feedback. 1 hour of instruction per week for duration of project
Instruction and presentations Instructors provide students with instruction, including presentations in a virtual classroom setting. 1 hour = 1 hour instruction
Instructional PowerPoint presentations, videos Instructor-mediated content is made available in an alternative delivery format for students to view/interact with in order to expand upon and clarify course concepts and objectives. Student reviews and posts response to 1 unit of content = 1 hour instruction
Library research Instructor guides students through in-depth research of scholarly articles or professional journals that relate to course objectives; results of research are to be shared with class in a designated manner. 1 three-five (3-5) page paper = 1-2 hours instruction
Modeling Under instructor guidance, students compute, analyze, and/or interpret data and/or generate appropriate visual aids (using tools like Excel, SPSS, etc.). 1 hour = 1 hour instruction
Online quizzes Instructor-created quiz through in which students demonstrate subject knowledge to provide faculty with feedback on students’ progress. 1 hour test = 1 hour of instruction
Peer Review/ assessment Employing instructor-designated criteria, students evaluate each other’s work. Student review of peer assessment and follow up response post/email to student/teacher = 0.5-2 hours based on scope
Portfolio Preparation Instructors guide learners through compilation, evaluation, and production of learning portfolios prepared according to course /program rubrics and aligned with specific learning outcomes. Portfolio conferencing with final presentation of completed portfolio = 1 instructional hour, or equivalent to length of the exercise.
Reflection paper or article review Instructor-guided activity whereby students apply learned concepts to personal experiences or apply higher order analytic skills in assessing scholarly articles or professional journals. 1 private post = ½ hour instruction 2 shared posts (required to read all classmates’ posts) = 1.5-2 hours instruction
Service-learning project Instructor leads students in completion of service project with specific learning objectives that integrates community service with academic study; faculty provides guidance, support, and feedback to students; student shares experience and reflection with classmates via emails, chats, discussion boards, and/or face-to-face. 1 hour of instruction per week for duration of project
Virtual Laboratory and Lab Reports Instructor provides students with computer- simulation or online laboratories in blended lab-based courses or in order to replace missed laboratories. Instructors require students to submit, share, or post lab reports produced and assess work according to course rubric. 1 hour of virtual laboratory = 1 instructional hour, or equivalent to length of the exercise