Instructor-Led Credit Best Practices

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:

Expected Student Academic Work per Credit

Instructional Time per Credit

General Education Policies

Instruction Hours

Official UofM policy dictates the number of credits multiplied by the number of weeks to reach the minimum instruction hours. In most cases this means the number of instructional hours per week (for semester courses) equals the number of credits for the course. Instructional hours need not be spread out evenly by week. 

In learning abroad, there are many different program lengths outside of the standard 15-week semester period. Therefore, in determining the appropriate number of formal instruction hours we use the following formula for a 3-credit class offered for a 15-week period:

Each UofM credit awarded should equal approximately 15 hours of formal instruction time.

Formal instruction time is defined as:

Informal instruction (labs or experiential learning) counts as half time and is defined as:

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

Pre-departure and 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 pre and 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:

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.