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4.9 Definition of Credit Hours

 

The institution has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy.  

 

_X_  Compliance           ___  Partial Compliance          ___  Non-Compliance

 

Narrative

 

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) uses commonly accepted practices for defining a credit hour from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) credit hour policy statement, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDs) definition on minimum length for academic courses, and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBOR) seat time for academic credit policy. The institution uses comparison of peer institutions, academic leadership of the institution, and the guiding principles from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) requirements as criteria for determining semester hour credit.

 

The process and criteria used by MABTS regulates the amount of academic engagement in relation to student learning outcomes for the typical student at the institution as evidenced by (1) the amount of hours given toward subject material and (2) an analytical (peer review) process by faculty of student learning outcomes evidenced by artifacts (papers, projects, etc.).

 

Definition

 

The institution has a clearly stated policy regarding Academic Credit Hours for Courses which states “the seminary reports academic credits in units of semester hours. Each course description listed for both undergraduate and master level subjects represents a three- semester-hour unit” [1]. In addition, the 2014-15 master course schedule demonstrates three hour classes within degree programming [2]. Course syllabi demonstrate assignments required to gain semester hour credit [3]. 

 

MABTS follows the definition of a credit hour set forth by the SACSCOC credit hour policy statement [4]. In accordance with SACSCOC guidelines, MABTS defines a credit hour as:

 

  1. Not less than one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time, or
  1. At least an equivalent amount of work as required outlined in item 1 above for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

MABTS operates on a 50-minute classroom hour in accordance with commonly accepted practice in higher education [5].

 

According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a unit of measure represents the equivalent of an hour (50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire semester. It is applied toward the total number of semester credit hours [6] needed for completing the requirements of a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award. Fifty clock minutes per week per credit hour for approximately 15 weeks [7] provides approximately 750 minutes instruction time per credit hour, which adheres to the IPEDS definition on minimum length for academic courses.

 

Furthermore, MABTS’s calculation of course length adheres to Tennessee Board of Regents (TBOR) policy on Seat Time for Academic Credit [8]. As noted in TBOR policy, the workload associated with the traditional three-credit hour lecture class is used as the basis for determining equivalent workload and credit hour assignations to online courses. All classes must be of reasonable length and include both content and contact sufficient to maintain high academic quality and standards commensurate with credit hours awarded for a “traditional” three-semester hour lecture class (TBOR Seat Time Policy).

 

Non-traditional courses are subject to the same review requirements as all courses. These courses involve a variety of methodologies. Non-traditional courses may vary in format but are equivalent in expected learning outcomes. Credit awarded for distance education (distance learning technology) courses is determined in the same way as face-to-face courses. For a three hour course, online students must log on to the course website (www.midamericaondemand.org) three days each week—similar to a traditional three-hour residency class that meets three times a week [9]. Work assignments are equivalent to those for a regular three-hour semester resident course [10]. Students taking classes through the distance education program must meet all academic requirements and the Practical Missions requirement that apply to resident students [11]. Students may earn up to 49% of graduation requirements through online courses [12].

  

Criteria

 

The procedures used by MABTS for determining credit hours is as follows: (1) a comparison of similar courses and credit hours with peer institutions; (2) an Academic Council analysis (the Academic Council consists of the following: Academic VP, Executive VP, Dean of the PhD program, Dean of DMin program, the Dean of the Masters and Undergraduate program, and the Director of Institutional Assessment; (3) Association of Theological Schools (ATS) requirements.

 

Comparison of Peer Institutions. The Academic Council at MABTS monitors peer institutions and their standards to insure that it meets or exceeds the generally accepted norms for programs of studies. As the two examples indicate below, the 120 hours required by MABTS in its Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies is consistent with other peer-accredited institutions. 

  • Regents University College of Arts & Sciences, Bachelor of Arts in Biblical & Theological Studies, 1000 Regent University Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23464 888.718.1222 (SACSCOC accredited, 120 hours)

Biblical and Theological Studies Core Requirements

(39 credits)

RELS 201

Principles of Theology

(3)

RELS 210

Biblical Background and Interpretation

(3)

RELS 240

Studying and Teaching the Bible

(3)

RELS 250

Mission and Message of Jesus

(3)

RELS 330

Theological Writing and Research

(3)

RELS 420

Systematic Theology

(3)

RELS 485

Senior Seminar [our capstone course]

(3)

Plus one of the following emphases (18 credits)

Biblical Studies Emphasis

RELS 313

RELS 314

RELS 315

RELS 316

RELS 317

RELS 318

RELS 350

Students select 15 credits from the following list:

Study of the Prophets (3)

Pauline Literature (3)

Wisdom Literature (3)

Acts of the Apostles (3)

Psalms (3)

General Epistles (3)

Biblical Languages (3)

(15)

RELS 260

RELS 261

RELS 467

Plus 3 credits of Church History courses from the following list:

Church History I (3)

Church History II (3)

American Church History (3)

(3)

Theological and Historical Studies Emphasis

RELS 260

RELS 261

RELS 301

RELS 422

RELS 430

RELS 467

Students select 15 credits from the following list:

Church History I (3)

Church History II (3)

Apologetics (3)

Topics in Theology (3)

Christian Ethics (3)

American Church History (3)

(15)

RELS 313

RELS 314

RELS 315

RELS 316

RELS 317

RELS 318

Plus 3 credits of Biblical Studies courses from the following list:

Study of the Prophets (3)

Pauline Literature (3)

Wisdom Literature (3)

Acts of the Apostles (3)

Psalms (3)

General Epistles (3)

(3)

Electives

(32 credits)

Elective credits can be taken in any discipline (100-400 college-level courses)

Total Degree Hours: 120

  • Liberty University, 1971 University Blvd., Lynchburg, VA 24515, (434) 582-2000. Bachelor of Science in Biblical and Educational Studies, SACSCOC accredited, 120 hours.

 

Academic Council. The Academic Council uses a team approach in assessing the prevailing standards regarding the various programs of study and sets forth a curriculum that equips the students for academic excellence and ministry in their field of study. For example, the institution realized FTE numbers were declining because students were transferring in online credits from other schools. When asked, the majority of students responded that they would take classes at MABTS if offered. This and other factors served as an incentive for the Academic Council to begin working on a SACSCOC substantive change concerning an online degree program at MABTS. The council’s goal was to receive approval before the start of the 2015-16 academic year [13].

 

Consistent with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Requirements. In determining the credit hours for courses, MABTS follows these guiding principles found in their General Institutional Standards (3.1.2):

 

The theological curriculum, comprehensively understood, embraces all those activities and experiences provided by the school to enable students to achieve the intended goals. More narrowly understood, the curriculum is the array of specific activities (e.g., courses, practica, supervised ministry, spiritual formation experiences, theses) explicitly required in a degree program. In both the more comprehensive and the more narrow sense, the curriculum should be seen as a set
of practices with a formative aim—the development of intellectual, spiritual, moral, and vocational or professional capacities—and careful attention must be given to the coherence and mutual enhancement of its various elements [14].

 

Thus, MABTS has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy.

 

Peer Review Process. The process and criteria used by MABTS regulates the amount of academic engagement in relation to student learning outcomes for the typical student at the institution as evidenced by (1) the amount of hours given toward subject material and (2) an analytical (peer review) process by faculty of student learning outcomes evidenced by artifacts (papers, projects, etc.).

 

In 2013, to aid departmental faculty in the peer review process, the academic council produced two generic rubrics – one for papers [15] and one for projects [16]. Faculty were asked to send in two ungraded copies of the students’ papers (or written copies of projects) to the office of the Academic Vice President at the conclusion of each semester.

 

Each January and August, departmental and peer review personnel meet are assigned artifacts to score with either a project or paper rubric. Some artifacts are scored within the department and others are peer reviewed by faculty outside their department. The identity of each student is removed from each artifact to prevent scoring bias and a Likert scale instrument is used [15, 16]. The scores are transferred to a tally sheet [17] for the analysis of findings [18]. The findings results are emailed to all degree program coordinators to use for improvement of student learning outcomes.

 

Conclusion

 

The institution’s credit hour requirements are in accord with federal regulations, in that, (1) not less than one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks or (2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required outlined in item 1 above for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

 

Documentation

 

1. 2014-15 MABTS Catalog, p. 92

2. 2014-15 MABTS Catalog, p. 123

3. Sample Course Syllabus

4. SACSCOC Credit Hour Policy

5. 2014-15 Master Course Schedule

6. IPEDS Credit Hour Definition

7. IPEDS Semester Definition

8. Tennessee Board of Regents Seat Time

9. Online Course Sample Syllabus

10. Online Course Sample Syllabus Two

11. Online Requirements for Students

12. 2014-15 MABTS Catalog, p. 83

13. Academic Council Minutes

14. ATS General Institutional Standard 3.1.2

15. Generic Rubric for Papers

16. Generic Rubric for Projects

17. Peer Review Tally Sheets

18. Master and Undergraduate Rubric Scores

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