Columbia College

Guidance on Course Points

CC-GS Joint Committees on Instruction

Guidance on Course Points

Regulations on the apportioning of academic points for undergraduate and graduate coursework are set forth by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). The Office of the Provost bears responsibility for university compliance with NYSED regulations, and works with all Columbia schools to this end. The Provost’s Office delegates to the curriculum committees of the schools the task of ensuring that all courses carry an appropriate number of points of academic credit. The CC-GS Joint Committee on Instruction is therefore tasked to ensure consistency of practice within and among academic programs, and to protect the integrity of the undergraduate degrees earned by our students.

Points are assigned to courses based on a minimum of in-class time in combination with a minimum of out-of-class hours for course assignments.  The relevant NYSED regulation states,

Semester hour means a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course which requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments, except as otherwise provided pursuant to section 52.2(c)(4) of this Subchapter.  This basic measure shall be adjusted proportionately to translate the value of other academic calendars and formats of study in relation to the credit granted for study during the two semesters that comprise an academic year.

Thus, each point of academic credit requires a minimum of three hours work each week in a 14-week semester, typically divided into one hour of classroom instruction (with an hour of classroom instruction defined as at least 50 minutes) and two hours of independent work (which may include readings, problem sets, papers, individual or group projects, and so forth).

Points of Academic Credit

Minimum hours of teaching and learning per week

(for a 14 week term and a 50-minute classroom hour, excluding final exams)

 

In class

Out of class

Minimum weekly total

Minimum semester total

1

1

2

3

42

2

2

4

6

84

3

3

6

9

126

4

4

8

12

168

5

5

10

15

210

Summer courses are subject to the same NY State guidelines:

Points of Academic Credit

Minimum hours of teaching and learning per week

(for a 6 week term and a 50-minute classroom hour, including final exams)

 

In class

Out of class

Minimum weekly total

Minimum semester total

1

2.5

5

7.5

45

2

5

10

15

90

3

7.5

15

22.5

135

4

10

20

30

180

5

12.5

25

37.5

225

This typical ratio between in-class hours and out-of-class work hours of 1:2 can be adjusted to a certain degree, provided that the total minimum number of hours of classroom contact plus out-of-classroom work per week meets the required minimum of three hours per week per point.  Additional information on course points can be found in the Provost’s policy on credit hours, reprinted at the end of this document.  

For instructors proposing a new course

Instructors proposing a new course to the COI should provide, in the CIM form submission, documentation of the minimum total hours estimated for the course—classroom instruction hours plus out-of-classroom work hours—for the number of points proposed for the course.  Instructors should provide their best estimate of the minimum number of hours per week required by the demands of the course, and the requirements for the course relative to other courses. It is understood that this value is only an estimate, and represents an average value over the duration of the course; in addition, time devoted to the course will vary by student. Instructors proposing a course for which there is variance from the recommended balance of in-class and out-of-class activities (1:2) will be required to provide a clear and compelling rationale for this exception.

For instructors proposing a change in points for an existing course

For an existing course, instructors should submit documentation of the minimum total hours estimated for the course—classroom instruction hours plus out-of-classroom work hours—for the number of points proposed for the course.  Instructors proposing a course for which there is variance from the recommended balance of in-class and out-of-class activities (1:2) will be required to provide a clear and compelling rationale for this exception.

For programs proposing changes in points for numerous courses

Academic departments, centers, and institutes can propose changes in points for multiple courses at one time if the rationale for the adjustment in points is the same for all courses under consideration. Proposals should include the syllabi for all courses to be changed and a statement of the overarching rationale for the changes, as well as special attention to any courses for which the proposed change in points would involve a move away from the recommended 1:2 balance of in-class and out-of-class hours. Departments should submit proposals of this type directly to the COI.  In addition, because NYSED requires any program that is significantly changed to be re-submitted for approval, proposals should also include a description of any changes to the requirements for the major and/or concentration that would ensue with the change in points for these classes. The Office of the Provost is happy to provide guidance on the types of changes that should be submitted to NYSED.

Questions about the process for proposing changes in points may be directed to cc-gs-courses@columbia.edu.


Office of the Provost

Policy on Credit Hours

Columbia uses credit hours to measure the amount of work required in order to complete its courses. Each unit of credit represents at least three hours of work per week for approximately 15 weeks. This standard complies with the regulatory requirements of the federal and New York State governments and with the accreditation requirements of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Students normally spend at least 50 minutes per week in class for each credit they receive and are expected to devote at least another two hours to studying for their course outside of the classroom. Schools may modify the ratio between the students' work in and outside the classroom as long as the total expectation is at least three hours. For example, it may be appropriate to reduce the time spent in the classroom when a school awards credit for internships, field work or clerkships when those activities require a substantial commitment of time. Classroom hours include time spent in lecture courses, colloquia, seminars, laboratory sections, discussion sections and studios. 

Columbia uses a comparable standard in assigning credits to its on-line courses where students may progress through the lectures and other class activities at their own pace. For each credit, they are expected to spend a minimum of approximately 45 hours over the term, either in fulfillment of the on-line requirements of the course, or in reading and completing other assignments for the course.

The University has delegated to the deans of the individual schools the responsibility for ensuring that all of the courses comply with its credit hour policies. Each school has a curriculum committee (often known as its Committee on Instruction or Curriculum Committee) whose approval is required for every new program and every course it offers. As part of its evaluation of new programs and courses, the curriculum committee assesses whether it complies with this policy. Faculty must obtain the approval of the appropriate curriculum committee in order to modify the time commitments they expect of their students.

Link to the CIM form is here: https://bulletin-next.columbia.edu/courseadmin/

Link to the CIM form guidebook is below.

Please contact the Committee on Instruction Staff at cc-gs-courses@columbia.edu 
if you have any questions. 

 

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PDF icon CIM form guidebook801.78 KB