Teaching and Learning Resource Center

Credit Hour Estimation for Online Instruction


Due to regulations set by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education, the Higher Learning Commission (from which Ohio State receives its accreditation) must require institutions utilizing federal financial aid to document how in-class and out-of-class time equivalencies are determined for both in-person and distance learning courses.

For a typical Ohio State class in any modality, university policy calls for an average of 1 hour “direct instruction” plus 2 hours “out-of-class” time per week for each 1 credit hour. 

Instruction time for an online class—the amount of time students spend learning—is equivalent to an in-person class of the same number of credit hours. 

For fully online programs and certificates, OTDI instructional designers will assist instructor partners in considering credit hour in the planning and finalization of a new online course. 

Instructors who are not working with an instructional designer are encouraged to consider credit hour during and upon completion of a course design.

Considering rigor and equivalent learning 

When considering this question for course design or curriculum review purposes, the core consideration is not a precise accounting of minutes or hours but rather the instructional equivalence for students. Because class meeting times for in-person classes are familiar and structured, it can be useful to compare the rigor and learning activities of an online class against what would occur in a similar in-person class. 

In the context of the course learning outcomes and number of credits, do the instructional activities and assignments provide students with an equivalent learning experience?

Estimating instruction time for an online class 

Estimating direct and out-of-class instruction time may still, however, be a meaningful exercise for course planning and curriculum review. 

This can be calculated by examining typical weeks of the course with the guidelines below, and estimating the time it would take a student to complete the activities, homework and assignment preparation. 

  • Number of credit hours?
  • Length of class in weeks (14 weeks for a full semester)?
    Provide a brief outline of a typical course week, categorizing course activities and estimating the approximate time to complete them. Each credit hour should add 1 hour of “direct instruction” and 2 hours of “out of class” time per week for a 14-week class. The purpose is not to have a precise accounting of hours, but to give a picture of how the student learning experience would be equivalent to an in-person offering. 
  • Direct instruction?
    List instructional activities and estimate student time required (e.g., class discussions, synchronous Zoom meetings, lectures, active learning activities).
  • Out-of-class instruction?
    List instructional activities and estimate student time required (e.g., homework, reading, assignment prep).


Email ODEE-instructionaldesign@osu.edu.