Managing a Class

Contact Hours

The Colorado Department of Higher Education defines one "contact hour" as a programmed class period lasting no fewer than 50 minutes and no more than 60 minutes. Generally, in lecture situations, one contact hour plus two hours' work outside class time equals one student credit, and, in laboratory situations, 2-3 contact hours equal one student credit. Fifteen contact hours over the course of the semester is equivalent to one semester credit hour.

Credit Hour Definitions

The amount of work to earn a credit hour has to reasonably approximate not less than
one hour of classroom or ―direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work for one credit hour. So, typically, the student would be expected to spend 3 hours in class and an additional 6 hours each week outside of class for readings and assignments, as defined over a 15 week semester. We also have to consider the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time for accelerated courses.

A class meeting over 16 weeks would meet for 150 minutes per week. In an accelerated 8-week course, you would use only half that number of weeks, so students would be expected to spend about 300 minutes (5 hours) interacting in this class per week. Also, since the student would be expected to spend twice that amount of time (10 hours) outside the classroom reading, studying, and writing, the actual attention each week for this course is closer to 15 hours.

If you are instructing an online course, these contact hour components depend on the nature of the course, course content, design, and the level and types of interactions with faculty, fellow students and materials. For guidance on what constitutes direct faculty instruction, please contact CETL (970) 351-2855 if at the Greeley campus, or Instructional Design and Development if you are off-campus, at (970) 351-2944.

The following table shows how differing instructional components are computed for credit:

The new federal rule defines a credit hour as follows:  “One hour of classroom or “direct faculty instruction” and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work for one credit hour.”  In 15 weeks, that is 45 hours of work for every credit hour earned.  

To meet the CCHE mandated 750 contact minutes per Lecture credit hour, the following minimum contact minutes must be scheduled:
1 credit hour class = 750 contact minutes = 12 ½ hours
2 credit hour class = 1,500 contact minutes = 25 hours
3 credit hour class = 2,250 contact minutes = 37 ½ hours
4 credit hour class = 3,000 contact minutes = 50 hours
5 credit hour class = 3,750 contact minutes = 62 ½ hours

One Credit Hour – one 50 minute class per week
Two Credit Hours – two 50 minute classes per week
Three Credit Hours – three 50 minute classes per week or two 75 minute classes or one 3 hour block
Four Credit Hours – three 50 minute and one 60 minute class per week
Five Credit Hours – four 50 minute and one 60 minute class per week
Final Exam week is counted in the contact minutes


Course Type


1 Credit: Expected Minimum Guidelines for Weekly Contact Hours


Participation in client and client-related services that are an integral part of an academic program.  Clinical instruction occurs inside or outside an institutional setting and involves work with clients who receive professional services from students serving under direct supervision of a faculty member and/or approved member of the agency staff.

2.0 Hours = 1 credit
(2:1) Contact Ratio

Directed Study

Faculty and student negotiate an individualized plan of study.

.75 Hour = 1 credit
(.75:1) Contact Ratio

Field Instruction

Instructional activities conducted by the faculty and designed to supplement and/or extend an individual course or classroom experience.

2.5 Hours = 1 credit
(2.5:1) Contact Ratio


Applied and supervised field-based learning experience where students gain practical experience following a negotiated and/or directed plan of study.

3.0 Hours = 1 credit
(3:1) Contact Ratio


Instructional activities conducted by the faculty which require student participation, experimentation, observation, or practice.

1.0 Hour = 1 credit
(1:1) Contact Ratio


Faculty member responsible for delivery and discussion of learning material and related instructional activities.

1.0 Hour = 1 credit

Physical Educ./Recreation

Participation in or the performance of some form of physical activity.  Knowledge associated with the proper performance of the activity is presented.

2.0 Hours = 1 credit
(2:1) Contact Ratio


Practical student work under the supervision of a faculty member or under supervision of a professional in the student’s field and regular consultation with faculty member.

2.0 Hours = 1 credit
(2:1) Contact Ratio

Private Music Instruction

Formal presentation in a one-to-one relationship between student and instructor.

.25 Hour = 1 credit
(.25:1) Contact Ratio


A highly focused course which may include student presentations and discussions of reports based on literature, practice, problems, or research (e.g., a capstone course).

1.0 Hour = 1 credit
(1:1) Contact Ratio


Instructional activities involving training for employment with an active faculty teaching role.

1.5 Hours = 1 credit
(1.5:1) Contact Ratio

Student Classroom Observation

Teacher candidates observe, participate in, analyze, and reflect on issues in education.

2 Hours = 1 credit
(2:1) Contact Ratio


Lab-type activities conducted by faculty (e.g., music ensembles, art studio, theatrical productions, etc.)

2 Hours = 1 credit
(2:1) Contact Ratio

Online Courses

Primary responsibility for the development of online courses at UNC rests with the faculty member who is teaching the course. UNC has a standard format for all Blackboard courses, which can be customized by the faculty member. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to populate the Blackboard course with course documents, resources, discussion boards, and grade center layout. If the course has been taught online previously, the experienced faculty member might share content, streamlining the development process.

If you are not familiar with Blackboard (or need a refresher), the Blackboard Support site has a Faculty section with self-help documents and tutorials on Blackboard functions. In addition, this site contains a section on Planning a Course which provides helpful resources. If you would like to attend a training session on Blackboard, contact CETL (970) 351-2885.

If the course you are teaching does not show when you access Blackboard, contact the Department for whom you are teaching. It is possible that the course was not scheduled to have an online component or that you have not been put in the course as instructor. The Blackboard system syncs with the Banner (URSA) system at 11am and 4pm daily. Changes to Banner affecting course enrollments, merging with other courses, etc. updated during these sync times.

The Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning recommends the seven principles for college teaching developed by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson. Extensive research examining good teaching and learning in colleges and universities drive these principles:

  • encouraging contact between students and faculty,
  • developing reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  • encouraging active learning,
  • giving prompt feedback,
  • emphasizing time on task,
  • communicating high expectations, and
  • respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.

The Office of Extended Studies recommends that the online teacher:

  • Models effective communication skills and maintains records of applicable communications with students. Best practice: Emails sent from BB will also be sent to your UNC email address, so create a folder for each course and save both your emails and student emails in the folder for a record.
  • Encourages interaction and cooperation among students, encourages active learning, provides prompt feedback, communicates high expectations, and respects diverse talents and learning styles. Best practice: Include guidelines for participation, collaboration and feedback in the syllabus and adhere to them yourself. Persist in a consistent and reasonable manner, until students are successful. Best practice: Monitor student participation using the performance dashboard to ensure that students are not “absent”‖for more than 1 week. If a student has not accessed the course in 7 days, contact the student.
  • Establishes and maintains ongoing and frequent teacher-student interaction, student-student interaction. Best practices: Establish expectations for your level of participation in 36 the discussions (students should not expect you to respond to every posting).
  • Provide a summary of the discussions at the end to both close a discussion forum and give students the benefit of your expertise.
  • Gives students clear expectations about teacher response time. Best practice: Provide, in the syllabus, specific response times students can expect from you for the following situations:
    Email response time
    Recommended: Within 24 hours. If a question requires thought or research, respond to the student that you will get back to them later.

    How often you will check into discussions
    Recommended: 5 days a week.  
    Minimum: 3 days a week.

    Assignment grading response time
    Recommended: Within 1 week of submission.
  • Provides timely, constructive feedback to students about assignments and questions (see guidelines for response time above).
  • Notifies students of any absence which will affect the response times published (examples: this can be a planned absence such as a conference, or an emergency absence).
  • Other resources and guidelines:
    Instructor Response and Availability

Evidence of Direct Faculty Instruction

Direct faculty instruction in an online class is evidenced by the following items which can be observed once the course is built, prior to the start of a semester
Course materials in the online class include the following:

  • Welcome and start up information
  • Introduction to each unit
  • PowerPoints, Instructor Notes, and other documents created by the instructor and uploaded to the course.
  • Links to websites included as resources in the course
  • Links to YouTube videos included in the course
  • Voice recordings and other media pieces created by the instructor
  • Assignment descriptions
  • Rubrics

Preparation Time

The preparation for creating an online course is recognized in the industry as more time intensive than prepping for a face-to-face course since everything needs to be explicitly laid out and defined in the online course, AND the course structure needs to be created and course documents need to be uploaded. Some of this preparation time should be attributed to ―instruction time because the faculty is essentially preparing and delivering everything up front in the online course.
Ongoing facilitation during the course should include the following:

  • Announcements that provide information for each upcoming week, summaries of past activities, or clarifications.
  • Responses to questions from students in both the discussion boards and via email.
  • Information posted in the discussion boards by the instructor to redirect student discussion, clarify specific points, require students to delve deeper into the topics, or summarize a discussion.
  • Other timely documents, articles, and information posted in the course to clarify or expand on topics based on what has occurred during the course.
  • Feedback provided within test questions when a test is built.
  • General feedback on assignments.
  • Emails sent to individual students about course progress, questions, assignments, etc.
  • Feedback on assignments to individual students.
  • Feedback on essay questions in tests.

The last three items are not easily observable, since they involve communication specifically between the instructor and student.

UNC Recommendations:

  • Include Netiquette as a part of the course to guide students with online communication and follow the netiquette yourself.
  • Include a “What I Expect from You” section with guidelines for participation, and collaboration in the Welcome information or Syllabus.
  • Include a “What You Can Expect from Me” section to establish expectations for your level of participation in the discussions and response time including how quickly you will answer emails or questions and the turn-around time for grading assignments.
  • Use Announcements (or discussions or blog) to provide weekly communication with students.
  • Consider dividing a large class into small discussion groups, with summaries posted in the Main Discussion area.
  • Gives students clear expectations about teacher response time.

First Day of Class

During the first class session, you should distribute the syllabus to students and discuss it with them. You should also post the syllabus on the course Blackboard page. Faculty members are advised to remind students of the attendance policy of the institution and of their intention to enforce this policy. In addition, you would do well to remind students of the institutional policy on academic dishonesty, and on accommodations for students with disabilities.

First Day of Online Class

Before the first day of online class, you should post the course syllabus and any relevant course materials on Blackboard. It is also helpful to students if faculty members teaching online courses email students prior to the first week of classes to explain the format of the course and clarify how to use the online resources for the class.

Cancelling Class

In the event you must cancel class, it is important to notify students as soon as possible. You should send an email to all students in the class, informing them of the cancellation and giving instructions for assignments and how to proceed. You should also place a sign on the classroom door notifying students of the cancellation. For online classes, instructors should post an online announcement for the cancellation.

Before canceling a class session, the instructor should try to find a guest lecturer or other method of instruction in order for the students to receive the full benefit of learning from the course.