Learning Modes and Assigning Academic Credit Hours

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A credit hour is a unit of measure that gives value to the level of instruction, academic rigor, and time requirements for a learning activity undertaken at an educational institution. In accordance with the federal definition of a credit hour and with commonly accepted practice in the higher education community, a credit hour at Burlington College reasonably approximates a minimum amount of student work in a Carnegie unit, as defined below.

The number of credit hours awarded for each learning activity corresponds to the minimum amount of work a typical student is reasonably expected to complete within a specified amount of academically-engaged time in order to achieve a level of competency (i.e. learning outcomes). One Carnegie unit (one credit hour) equates to a minimum of 37.5 hours of student engagement with the learning material in and outside of formal instructional time. In determining the amount of work learning outcomes entail, Burlington College has taken into consideration alternative delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines and degree levels. Out-of-class hours are estimates based on how much time a typical student requires to complete the activities and assignments reflected in the learning contract and/or syllabus.

Learning Modes
Instruction at Burlington College is presented in several ways. While time estimates have been provided below as general guidelines, when the College offers activities for abbreviated time periods or in independent study, it ensures that students completing such activities acquire levels of knowledge, competence, and understanding comparable to that expected of students completing work in a standard time period or class. In smaller group and individualized activities, in-class instructional time may be concentrated or one-on-one; therefore, there is greater emphasis on more focused study outside of class. Advisor permission is required for enrollment in tutorials and guided independent studies.

Most courses are three credits and meet weekly with an instructor over the duration of the semester. Expectations for a three-credit course are a minimum of 37.5 in-class instructional hours plus 75 out-of-class hours of engagement with the learning material. Courses that are offered for another number of credits or over a different length of time maintain 12.5 in-class contact hours plus 25 out-of-class hours for every credit hour assigned.

Expectations for a one credit mini-course are 15 in-class contact hours plus 22.5 out-of-class hours of engagement with the learning material. Mini-courses may meet over several consecutive weeks, several weekends, an intensive week, or intermittently over the entire semester.

Expectations for a one-credit workshop are approximately 15 in-class contact hours, scheduled over two or three days (usually a weekend), plus out-of-class projects to prepare and apply workshop material to total 37.5 hours of engagement.

One to four students meet regularly with an instructor. Expectations for a three-credit tutorial are a minimum of 22.5 instructional hours plus 90 out-of-class hours of engagement with the learning material.

Guided Independent Study (GIS)
Students undertaking guided independent studies should have a demonstrated ability to work independently. Guided independent studies are usually upper-level, require previous coursework in the discipline, and demand extensive independent work outside of the meeting time. One to four students meet individually or in a group with an instructor. For every three credits, a guided independent study requires a minimum of 100 hours of independent engagement with the learning material over the semester and 12.5 instructional hours, asynchronous or synchronous, with the faculty according to the schedule determined in the Learning Agreement. Instructional contact includes such academically related activities as submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam, an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; contributing a question to a required online discussion about academic matters; attending a study group that is assigned by the College; or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the learning activity.

NOTE: An approved faculty résumé and Learning Agreement must be submitted by no later than the end of the free add/ drop period for a student to be enrolled in an individualized guided independent study or tutorial. See also Degree Requirements section for limitation on the number of guided independent studies and/or tutorials allowed in specific degree programs.

Distance Learning
Distance Learning at Burlington College is primarily composed of residencies, guided independent studies and individual work with a faculty member using various media.

Action Learning/Internship
There is an internship requirement for each major in the baccalaureate degree programs. A three-credit internship requires students to complete 96 field-supervised on-site hours and to attend 22.5 in-class hours at the concurrent action learning seminar. Students undertaking internships for a varying number of credits must attend the 22.5 hour seminar and complete 32 on-site hours for each one credit. Under special circumstances, a student may undertake an internship without attending the group action learning seminar. These students enroll in a guided independent study that requires, for three credits, 12.5 instructional contact hours, 96 field-supervised on-site hours, and 10 additional hours of out-of-class engagement with the learning material.

The seminar instructor provides guidance through the support seminar, and submits the final evaluation of the student’s progress. A Learning Agreement for this study must be submitted at the time of registration and be approved by the academic advisor and seminar instructor by the end of the Free Add/Drop period. Note that there are limits on the number of Action Learning credits that a student may apply toward the degree.

Degree Projects
The Degree Project is the six-credit culminating study of the student’s learning, usually undertaken over the last two semesters of study—three credits each semester (DPI and DPII). Students are expected to attend the degree project seminar, if on campus, for 22.5 in-class hours and spend at least 90 out-of-class hours engaged with the learning material each semester. Distance learning students attend related seminars at the residencies ranging from one and one-half to six hours, work closely with their faculty for at least 22.5 instructional contact hours, and are expected to be independently engaged with the learning material for at least 90 hours each semester.

Intensives and Trips
Expectations for intensives and trips, while scheduled differently, are equivalent to expectations for other courses. These activities have been designed expressly to include more direct contact time over shorter periods of time. Generally these learning activities are offered for three credits, and include pre- and/or post-trip/intensive meetings, as well as readings and written assignments to be completed outside of the group experiences.

Online Courses
Courses delivered through on-line learning maintain the same academic standards as those offered on the main campus. The College ensures that students studying online are able to achieve learning outcomes comparable to those achieved in on-ground programs. Much like a guided independent study, for every three credits, an online course requires a minimum of 100 hours of independent engagement with the learning material over the semester and 12.5 instructional hours, asynchronous or synchronous, with the faculty according to the schedule determined in the learning contract.

See also Award of Credit, Learning Agreements.