Learning Abroad Center

Instructor-Led Credit Best Practices

All learning abroad programs must have the same academic rigor and contact hours as courses taught on campus.

University of Minnesota Academic Policies

The following are relevant UofM academic policies to reference:

Instruction Hours

1. One UofM credit awarded should equal 15 hours of formal instruction time.
Formal instruction time is defined as:

  1. In-class instruction
  2. Facilitated discussion
  3. Fre-arranged guest lectures with a content expert
  4. Onsite lectures during site visits and excursions

2. Informal instruction (experiential learning) counts as half time and does not include formal lecture or guidance from an expert or the instructor and is defined as:

  1. Site visits
  2. Excursions
  3. Field trips
  4. Community engagement
  5. Guided tours

3. Self-guided experiences count as part of the course workload but do not figure into contact hours or formal instruction time.


Formal instruction hours should equal about 1/3 of the total work for the class. The other 2/3 should be reading, writing and/or other activities directly related to the learning of the course topic. “Other activities” may include self-guided activities such as museum tours, scavenger hunts related to the course topic, interviewing locals for an assignment, etc.

Due to the experiential nature of most instructor-led programs there is fluidity and informal instruction hours may surpass formal instruction hours.

Pre-departure and Post Program Work

Required assignments can not have due dates prior to the start date of the program. Pre-departure contact hours are for pre-departure orientation and preparation and not counted in the total program contact hours. Post program contact hours and work counts towards the total credit hours, although in general, it is not a best practice to count a significant amount of post work in a learning abroad program (unless it is an embedded course).

Embedded Courses

Embedded courses combine on-campus instruction with learning abroad. The on-campus instruction must cover academic course content and should not solely cover pre-departure orientation information. Common embedded models are:

  • Fall semester (on-campus) + winter break (learning abroad)
  • Spring semester (on-campus) + spring break (learning abroad)
  • Spring semester (on-campus) + May session (learning abroad)

It is recommended that the contact hours be distributed as evenly as possible between the on-campus courses and the learning abroad experience. A significant amount of the course material needs to be taught both on-campus and abroad in order to be considered an embedded course. The enrollment terms must align with the terms the course is taught on-campus and abroad. The embedded model cannot be used to register students during a term in which the course is not primarily taught.

Due to the number of contact hours while abroad, many embedded courses begin later or end earlier in the semester than courses taught solely on-campus.

The abroad components should happen within two weeks before or after the credit-bearing semester. For more information review Best Practices for Embedded Study Abroad Programs developed by the Office of Undergraduate Education.