Credit hours are units used for each course that, when combined, indicate a students’ progress toward graduation. Contact hours for each course more fully represent the amount of time students need to commit in order to learn the content for a course, not including time for homework and study. Contact hours can occur in many settings such as during a lecture, a lab, a clinical setting or an offsite learning experience like those found in internships.

How does Schoolcraft College determine the amount of credit hours and contact hours needed to optimize learning?

Optimizing Learning Using Credit and Contact Hours

Why Schoolcraft College Uses Credit Hours

In alignment with the Department of Education (Federal Code §600.2 and 600.24 under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended), Schoolcraft College defines a credit hour as:

“the amount of work needed to achieve identified learning outcomes established for each course:

(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 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.”

Credit hours serve as a basic unit for progress toward a credential or degree and must accurately represent the students’ commitment to the time, rigor, and level of learning associated with learning needed within each course and within each academic program.   

Credit hours serve as the unit used to determine the costs for each course and is required as a part of Federal aid eligibility.  

Credit hours, when identified through the development of an academic plan, also indicate the length of time to complete a credential and the amount of work that is to be expected.

Understanding Credit and Contact Hours at Schoolcraft College

While a single credit hour may indicate an hour of lecture every week, many courses require additional hours of contact that go beyond a lecture format such as those found in a lab setting, a clinical experience, or an internship opportunity. This means that a 4-credit hour biology course may include 4 hours of lecture each week, but also will require an additional 3 hours of contact with a faculty member in a lab setting totaling a 7-hour per week commitment on campus or online. This applies to a 15-week semester and may need to be adjusted for varying session length offerings.

Other courses, such as those found in nursing or medical assisting, may require additional contact hours off-site in a clinical setting which is supervised by a Schoolcraft College faculty member. 

In addition, Schoolcraft’s commitment to expanding students’ opportunities reaches into courses where real-life experience can be gained such as in internship courses that might be supervised by an employer outside of Schoolcraft.

Understanding the difference between a credit and contact hour is essential when students build their schedules and register for classes.

For more information about Course Load and Planning Your Study Time, visit the Student Handbook.

Creating Consistency Across Learning Options

Schoolcraft College provides a structure of learning outcomes which supports the practice that 3-6 competencies (skills, knowledge, talents, or aptitudes, etc.) can be mastered within each credit or additional contact hour. The competencies are captured in the Schoolcraft College Common Syllabus which has been developed for every course, and they are implemented in all courses regardless of length or modality of learning. This consistent framework ensures students that a minimum of state and federally required 800 minutes of coursework is present for every credit and contact hour that the student completes. 

How Schoolcraft College Determines Contact and Credit Hours

When building courses, faculty work to identify the competencies (skills, knowledge, talents, or aptitudes, etc.) needed to achieve a defined set of learning outcomes.  During this process, they evaluate the best overall instructional method for learning the content in this course. Is it a traditional lecture-type environment?  Is it a hands-on or experience-based environment?  Often courses or programs will find that additional contact hours in a lab, clinical, or other off-site learning opportunity will enhance the students’ learning.  These additional contact hours are not only essential for students, but also may also be a requirement of licensure (such as in nursing, paramedic, or pharmacy technician credentials) or third-party program accreditation requirements (such as in health information technology).

How Schoolcraft Identifies Contact and Credit Hours

Every course at Schoolcraft College has communicated the number of credit hours like this:

Discipline Course Number

Course Title

  • # Credit Hours
  • # Lecture Hours
  • # Laboratory Hours (if present in the course)
  • # Off-site Hours with Faculty (if present in the course)
  • # Off-site Hours without Faculty (if present in the course)

This information may vary from course to course and is available on the course webpage, catalog, and on every syllabus that is shared with the students. 

As an example, General Biology (BIOL 101) appears like this:

Biology - BIOL 101
General Biology
4 Credit Hours
4 Lecture Hours
3 Laboratory Hours

This indicates that the BIOL 101 class is 4 credit hours with 4 hours dedicated to lecture and 3 hours in a lab setting.  BIOL 101 has a total of 7 contact hours.

The Nursing Assistant Training Program course (NATP 115) would appear like this:

Nursing Assistant Training Program - NATP 115
Nursing Assistant Course
6 Credit Hours
3.5 Lecture Hours
4.5 Laboratory Hours
3 Off-site Hours with Faculty

This NATP 115 course is 6 credit hours with 3 and a half hours in lecture, 4 and a half hours in lab, and 3 hours in a clinical setting with faculty.  NATP 115 has a total of 11 contact hours.

Internships, such as the Accounting Internship (ACCT 206), are represented in this way:

Accounting - ACCT 206
Accounting Internship
3 Credit Hours
1 Lecture Hours
12/40 Off-site Hours without Faculty

This ACCT 206 course is 3 credit hours with 1 hour of lecture and then between 12 and up to 40 hours of internship hours depending upon the placement in a business or industry setting, without faculty present.  ACCT 206 has a total of between 13 to 41 contact hours.

Credit Hours and Academic Programs

The accumulation of credit hours may result in the completion of a credential. For more information about credentials, please see the Student Handbook.

Additional Contact Hours

The total number of contact hours sometimes exceeds the number of credit hours.  This will not only impact the number of hours a student needs to plan for in their schedule, but also can create additional costs to the students and the college. Schoolcraft College supports student learning by limiting any charges for additional contact hours to a maximum of 4 additional contact hours per course.  As an example, students completing the NATP 115 course for 6 cr (3.5-4.5-3) would need to pay for the 6 credit hours, but only four of the additional five contact hours.  Further, students pay an in-district rate for all excess contact hour fees regardless of the rate they pay for credit hours. For more information about Additional Contact Hour Fees, please visit Tuition and Fees.