The institution has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to the commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy. (Definition of credit hours)

Compliance Judgment

X     In compliance     Partially compliant     Non-compliant


To determine that credit hours awarded for courses conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education, the University involves multiple levels of review by groups and individuals that include academic programs, the Academic Affairs Committee, the Graduate Council, the Registrar, the Faculty Senate, and the General Faculty. Programs that offer courses in an alternative format take steps to ensure students maintain a sufficient amount of academically engaged time.

Definition of a Credit Hour

Francis Marion University defines credit [semester] hours for various types of courses including lecture, laboratory, clinical, studio, and music ensemble courses in the Catalog 2016-2017 [1-scroll down the page]. One class hour conforms to the accepted practice of defining a credit hour as an instructional equivalency of 50 minutes (i.e. the Carnegie unit). Accordingly, lecture classes during the fall or spring semesters meet 150 minutes each week—three 50 minute classes for three-day-a-week classes and two 75 minute classes for two-day-a-week classes as seen in the attached “Fall 2017 Course Schedule” [2]. The semesters are 15 weeks long. This means that for a three-credit-hour course, which constitutes the majority of courses at Francis Marion, students will have a total of 2,250 instructional minutes per semester.

During the late spring semester, classes meet 150 minutes per day five days a week for the three-credit-hour courses. The late spring semester is three weeks long. This means students will have a total of 2,250 instructional minutes. In the two subsequent summer sessions, classes meet 110 minutes per day four days a week for the three-credit-hour courses. The summer sessions are each five weeks long. This means students will have a total of 2,200 instructional minutes. The attached “Late Spring and Summer Course Guide” shows class times for late spring and summer sessions [3] and calendars for the most recent semesters [4].

To earn a semester hour of credit, students are expected to spend at least two additional hours per week outside of class to prepare for lecture, studio, and music ensemble courses. Students meet the semester credit hour requirement for laboratory courses when they work at least one additional hour outside of class.

The academic calendar and total number of hours required are consistent with the commonly accepted practices in higher education and based on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System definition of a credit hour [5] and federal regulations regarding the award of credit as described in the SACSCOC “Credit Hour” policy statement [6].

Francis Marion applies its definition consistently in awarding credit for courses and programs. Lecture and studio courses listed throughout the university catalog are typically assigned three credit hours, labs four hours, ensembles one hour, senior capstones one hour, and clinicals six hours.

Policies and Procedures for Awarding Credit

The process for determining the amount of credit to be awarded to courses and programs has been detailed in Comprehensive Requirement 3.4.6 and is summarized here. The process begins when the department or school faculty complete a New Course Description/Course Modification Form [7]. This form requires that departments and schools provide a narrative explaining the purpose for the course, and a course description and a discussion of the teaching method that will be utilized. Additionally, the form requires a course number and credit hours in order to be approved by the department. Course proposal forms are required for all new courses, regardless of format or mode of delivery. A syllabus must also be attached to  course proposals. Faculty who teach distance learning courses are expected to inform students about the time commitment required for such courses. An excerpt from a hybrid accounting course explains that “the typical student should allot a minimum of 12-16 hours per week in order to successfully complete all required activities” [8-scroll down to bottom of p. 2 and top of p. 3].

Assessment of student learning outcomes also ensures the appropriate time is dedicated for courses and programs that differ from commonly accepted practices in higher education. All of the programs with courses that are completely or mostly taught online complete institutional effectiveness reports, for example, the School of Education assesses graduate student outcomes on Praxis exams to determine proficiency in content knowledge, and assesses graduate student outcomes in multiple online courses to determine the extent students collaborate successfully and positively with various educational professionals [9-scroll down to p. 3-5]. All of the graduate courses in the School of Education are taught online.

Further Review of Credit Hours

Once approved by the department or school faculty, the dean/chair signs the course proposal form and forwards it to the Office of the Provost for signed approval as shown in the attached sample [10]. If approved, the Provost forwards the proposal to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate (for undergraduate courses) or the Graduate Council (for graduate courses). The Academic Affairs Committee and the Graduate Council advise the Faculty Senate on all curriculum matters as stated in the Faculty Handbook 2016 [11, 12] and review all new course proposals [13, 14].

To provide further guidance on the amount of credit for proposed courses, the Registrar serves as an Ex-Officio member of both the Academic Affairs Committee [15] and the Graduate Council [16]. The Registrar reviews all forms and proposals (including syllabi) when meeting with these committees [17].

Following approval by the Academic Affairs Committee or the Graduate Council, courses must next be considered and approved by the Faculty Senate [18-scroll down to p. 2 & 6] and the General Faculty [19-scroll down to p. 2 & 6-7] before becoming part of the University’s curriculum. When courses undergo consideration by the Faculty Senate and the full faculty, there are additional opportunities for faculty members to review the level of credit for each proposed course before approval is granted. See the attached Faculty Senate minutes for an example of a review of course credit for the English Composition sequence [20-scroll down to p. 3-4 & 36-37].


  1. Catalog 2016-2017, Credit Hour Definition, p. 52-53
  2. Fall 2017 Course Schedule, Class Times
  3. Late Spring and Summer 2017 Course Guide, Class Times
  4. Late Spring and Summer 2017 2017 Course Guide, Calendars
  5. IPEDS Glossary
  6. SACSCOC Credit Hours
  7. New Course or Modification Proposal
  8. MBA 700 Accounting Course Syllabus-Hybrid Course
  9. School of Education IE Report 2016-2017
  10. Complete Course Proposal Form
  11. Faculty Handbook 2016, AAC Responsibilities, p. 101
  12. Faculty Handbook 2016, Graduate Council Responsibilities, p. 106-107
  13. Academic Affairs Minutes, Feb. 26, 2015
  14. Graduate Council Minutes, Feb. 21, 2017
  15. Faculty Handbook 2016, Academic Affairs Committee Registrar Membership,, p. 101
  16. Faculty Handbook 2016, Graduate Council Registrar Membership, p. 101-106
  17. Registrar Participation, AAC Minutes, Feb. 26, 2015
  18. Course Proposals, Faculty Senate Minutes, Feb. 7, 2017
  19. Course Proposals, General Faculty Minutes, Feb. 14, 2017
  20. English Course Credit Hours, Faculty Senate Minutes, Feb. 9, 2017