Credit Hour Policy

Statement of Policy

Excelsior College uses the credit hour as a standardized measure of student achievement in order to ensure a reasonable level of consistency (a) among the College’s courses and other Excelsior sources of credit and (b) between Excelsior College sources of credit and credit accepted from outside of the College (transfer courses, PLA, external exams, etc.).

Excelsior assigns credit for its own courses and exams, and for prior learning it evaluates, based on two standards:

  1. The student learning outcomes of the credit-bearing activity, accompanied by verified evidence of student achievement of those outcomes. The student learning outcomes should be comparable to those generally acknowledged in the field as appropriate for the subject and level. Each student’s performance on the outcomes should be documented through suitable assessment of that student’s work.
  1. A reasonable approximation of the hours of time required by a student with a typical level of prior knowledge to meet these learning outcomes under conditions typical for traditional institutions of higher education. One credit hour should approximate 45 hours of student work for a traditional student. Three credit hours should approximate 135 hours of student work. This is based on the federal standard of three hours per week over a 15-week term or an equivalent amount of work in another format. The actual number of hours an individual student will take to complete the work will vary based on a variety of factors, including academic preparedness and prior knowledge.


The following practices will ensure a reasonable level of consistency with accepted standards in assigning credit to student work and prior learning at Excelsior College.

Courses, exams, and other sources of credit will be developed/evaluated by qualified faculty and/or other subject matter experts. Content and outcome expectations will be informed by their knowledge of regulatory, academic, or industry standards in their fields; the content and outcomes of comparable courses  at other educational institutions; the content of textbooks or other learning resources typically used for classes at this level and with this subject matter; and their own experience as teachers and/or practitioners in the field.

Learning design and assessment professionals will work with faculty in the course development process to ensure that courses use appropriate methods for assessing and documenting individual students’ achievements of the outcomes.

Course developers, exam developers, and PLA evaluators will use the college’s course-leveling guidelines as a reference point when gauging the level of student work.

Course developers, FPDs, and LEDs will also use the College’s guidelines for approximating the number of hours of student work in a class as a reference during the course development or revision process.  While there will be considerable variation from student to student, these guidelines provide a rough standard for comparing the workload of different classes.

Degree programs will regularly undergo a curricular review as part of the program evaluation process. As part of this process, outside subject matter experts will comment on the currency and rigor of the curriculum. This helps us to align program curricula and outcomes with those at peer institutions and broader societal expectations.

College faculty and staff systematically assess student learning at the program and general education levels. They use this information when developing and revising courses and curriculum, ensuring that the course development process is focused on student achievement of appropriate learning outcomes.

The Transfer Analysis Center (TAC) maintains a comprehensive list of other College policies detailing the criteria and processes for accepting transfer credit, prior learning assessment, and credit for non-collegiate learning evaluated by third parties.