3.4.6 Practices for Awarding Academic Credit

The institution employs sound and acceptable practices for determining the amount and level of credit awarded for courses, regardless of format or mode of delivery.

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Prairie View A&M University uses sound and acceptable practices for deciding the amount and level of credit awarded for courses of all formats and delivery modes.

Prairie View A&M runs on a Fall / Spring semester system, plus two short and one long summer sessions, and use the semester credit hour (15 contact hours with 750 minutes of direct instruction) as its unit of course credit. Therefore the University abides by the guidelines suggested in the Texas Education Code and Texas A&M System Policy. According to Rule 4.6 of Chapter 4, Subchapter A of the Texas Administrative Code, traditionally delivered, face-to-face courses worth three semester credit hours should last 15 weeks for a total of 45 contact hours, plus up to 3 hours for a separate final exam [1]. At Prairie View A&M University, online courses carry the same academic credit as their face-to-face equivalents.

Texas A&M System Policy 11.03: Shortened Courses defines the requirements for classes offered in less than 15 weeks; the same amount of contact hours, 45 to 48, must be covered. The policy also allows for reduced contact hours in the case of classes "reviewed by a faculty review committee and determined to have equivalent learning outcomes to a traditionally offered course," particularly Internet-only offerings [2]. During Prairie View A&M's short summer sessions of 5.5 weeks, students are in class 2 hours per day to meet the minimum contact hours.

Certain courses carry less than three semester credit hours because they are not classified as lecture classes. For lab courses, the Texas Education Code defines one semester credit hour as 32 contact hours, and accordingly, at Prairie View A&M, labs typically are offered once a week for a two-hour period and have a final exam period. Many physical activity Human Performance courses—swimming, golf, dance, etc.—and private music lesson classes are treated as lab courses and therefore carry one semester hour of academic credit. Some developmental courses in mathematics, reading, and English are assigned credit hour value for financial aid purposes but carry no official academic credit hours.

Specific, intensive courses also carry more than three semester credit hours, particularly in the sciences, mathematics, and architecture, and have proportionally more contact hours. In the accredited, pre-professional programs in the College of Architecture, design studio classes, for example, meet four days per week and over two hours each day to qualify for six semester credit hours [3].

When new courses are designed, the amount and level of credit depend on the type of class.  The University course inventory update lists nine instructional categories [4], and the form must include the maximum number of semester credit hours for the class [5]. The course information, accompanied must then be routed through the department head, the departmental curriculum committee, the college Dean, and the college curriculum committee if any, before it goes before the appropriate University Council [6] [7].

The University Academic Council (UAC) is charged with reviewing all proposed curricular changes at the undergraduate level, including new courses, "to avoid unnecessary duplication across disciplines and/or programs and to ensure that proposed changes reflect best practices," including appropriate semester credit hours for the content and rigor of the class [8]. The Graduate Council performs the same function for master's and doctoral courses as evidenced by the included meeting agenda [9].

Online versions of existing courses go through a multi-step approval process as well. A faculty member must develop the entire course, including all lectures and assessments, in the WebCT eCourses platform and go through training and certification. The Office of Distance Learning, the departmental faculty, the appropriate department head and Dean, the University Distance Learning Council [10], and the Office for Academic and Student Affairs all must approve an Internet-only class before the Registrar adds the course to the approved inventory. The procedure helps ensure that course content is equivalent to the face-to-face delivery version and credit is awarded appropriately [11].

The semester credit hour value of each course is indicated in the University Catalogs, in the course listing in the Panthertracks online system, and on the standard course syllabi. Additionally, in Prairie View A&M's four-digit course numbering system, the first digit
represents the course level (below college level/developmental is 0, masters is 5) while the fourth digit indicates the credit hour value of the course [12]. Therefore MATH1133 is a freshman level class worth 3 semester credit hours; CPET4101 is a senior-level class worth 1 semester credit hour.

Comprehensive Standard 3.4.4 discusses policies for determining academic credit for exams and transfer courses.

Supporting Documentation and Links

Comprehensive Standards 3.4.6

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