Loyola University Chicago

Office of Online Learning

Contact Hours Guidelines

Courses offered at Loyola must abide by federal credit hour works standards, which have been defined as follows:   

“A 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 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 activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours. 34CFR 600.2 (11/1/2010)”  

Online and blended courses seem to present a challenge to the one hour of direct faculty instruction rule, also known as “contact hours.” However, federal guidelines have been made purposefully flexible so that there is no “seat time requirement” for courses, and this one contact hour may be made up in online classes with certain equivalent work by students. The Department of Education suggests that contact-equivalent time might include: 

  • Taking an exam 
  • Submitting an assignment
  • Completing an interactive video or computer-assisted presentation 
  • Attending a study group or group activity established by the instructor 
  • Participating in an online asynchronous discussion 
  • Working with the faculty member during online office hours 
  • Completing online correspondence related to the course 
  • Reviewing an instructor-created lecture  

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education has updated definitions of distance learning to require that there is "regular and substantive interaction" between a student and instructor. Such interactions must be with an official course instructor, be initiated by the instructor, be scheduled and predictable, be academic in nature and course-relevant, and have direct interaction between the instructor and the student. Visit this page from SUNY Online for more.