Hours of Instructional Activity Equivalents (HIA) for Undergraduate Courses

Face-to-face, online and hybrid courses all have the same credit hour requirements for students. The intent of this material is to provide guidelines to help measure student activity times with the understanding that hours are not the end-all measure of learning.

The information here will provide Penn State faculty and instructional designers with general estimates of student learning time in online and blended courses and will help answer the question of “is there too much/not enough” in the course. Faculty are the ultimate decision-makers in determining their course’s alignment to credit hour requirements and in making estimations about the amount of time students spend “in” and “out” of class for blended courses or engaged in learning activities for online courses.

Expectations and Terminology

Penn State credit hours and weekly expectations

Expectations & Terminology

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Time Equivalencies

Time estimations for instructional and learning activites

Time Equivalencies

Tools and Examples

HIA blank templates and examples (Basic and Detailed)

Tools & Examples

Expectations and Terminology

Hybrid Course Classification @ Penn State
One specific requirement for students to be eligible for a PHEAA Pennsylvania State Grant is that they must complete 50% of their credits through classroom instruction. As a result, all hybrid courses must be classified beginning Fall 2019 in order for the Office of Student Aid to evaluate PHEAA eligibility. While only undergraduate students are eligible for PHEAA grants, all hybrid courses including master’s level courses must be coded with the proper hybrid classification. This webpage provides details on how to classify a hybrid course in the University’s systems.

University Senate Policy 42-23 Credit Requirements by Type of Instruction

  1. For the typical student, a total of forty-five (45) hours of work planned and arranged by the University faculty is required to gain 1 credit. 3 credits require 135 hours of instructional activity (HIA).
  2. The typical distribution of student learning time is approximately one-third instruction and two-thirds outside preparation.
University Senate Policy 42-23 Credit Requirements by Type of Instruction
Instruction time
(1/3 of total time)
Outside preparation time
(2/3 of total time)
Activities that are typically instructor led, guided, or facilitated such as group discussions, field trips, and lectures. Activities that students actively participate in such as reading, writing, and analyzing.

Also referred to as:

  • Instructor-led activity
  • Direct instruction
  • Class or seat time for blended courses
  • Equivalent Instructional Activities (EIA)

Also referred to as:

  • Student-led activity
  • Out-of-class work
  • Work done without instructor oversight
  • Equivalent Learning Activities (ELA)
  • One (1) PSU credit = 45 Hours of Instructional Activity  (15 hours EIA + 30 hours ELA)
  • Two (2) PSU credits = 90 Hours of Instructional Activity (30 hours EIA + 60 hours ELA)
  • Three (3) PSU 3 credits = 135 Hours of Instructional Activity (45 hours EIA + 90 hours ELA)

Weekly Expectations Based on Semester Length and Credits

3-Week Course
# Credits Total Instruction Time
(in hours)
Total Outside Preparation
(in hours)
Weekly Instruction Time
(in hours)
Weekly Outside Preparation
(in hours)
1 15 30 5 10
2 30 60 10 20
3 45 90 15 30
5-Week Course
# Credits Total Instruction Time
(in hours)
Total Outside Preparation
(in hours)
Weekly Instruction Time
(in hours)
Weekly Outside Preparation
(in hours)
1 15 30 3 6
2 30 60 6 12
3 45 90 9 18
8-Week Course
# Credits Total Instruction Time
(in hours)
Total Outside Preparation
(in hours)
Weekly Instruction Time
(in hours)
Weekly Outside Preparation
(in hours)
1 15 30 ~1.875 ~3.75
2 30 60 ~3.75 7.5
3 45 90 ~5.625 ~11.25
12-Week Course
# Credits Total Instruction Time
(in hours)
Total Outside Preparation
(in hours)
Weekly Instruction Time
(in hours)
Weekly Outside Preparation
(in hours)
1 15 30 1.25 2.5
2 30 60 2.5 5
3 45 90 3.75 7.5
15-Week Course
# Credits Total Instruction Time
(in hours)
Total Outside Preparation
(in hours)
Weekly Instruction Time
(in hours)
Weekly Outside Preparation
(in hours)
1 15 30 1 2
2 30 60 2 4
3 45 90 3 6

Time Equivalencies for Instructional Activities

The term “equivalent instructional activity” (EIA) is synonymous with “in-class” and “direct faculty instruction” particularly in a residential or blended course. For an online course, this could include content created by the instructor that provides directions, faculty insight, and content expertise. Examinations may be included as instructional time. One important point is that the EIA is not the amount of time that faculty spend teaching the course but rather the amount of time a student would be engaged in this faculty-directed activity.

The term “equivalent learning activity” (ELA) is synonymous with “student work” and includes all assignments or other academic activities required to be completed outside of instructional time. Student work may include reading, studying, writing, completing worksheets, research, etc.

Logging on constitutes neither active faculty teaching nor active student learning. Faculty should demonstrate active faculty engagement in online teaching/instructing students. Methods such as discussion boards, chats, etc. can serve as instructional time.

The following table provides estimated equivalencies for the amount of time it will take to complete instructional and learning activities. In some cases, the instructional time and learning activity time will need to be combined to find the total hours for a given assignment.

Estimated equivalencies for the amount of time it will take to complete instructional and learning activities.
Activity Hours of equivalent instructional activity (EIA) Hours of equivalent learning activity (ELA) Notes
Blog entries (public) ½ hour per page 1 post equals ½ hour

Students’ opportunity to apply learned concepts or for reflection on learning experiences;

To be shared with instructor and/or classmates for thoughtful analysis, feedback and assessment.

Journal entries (private) ½ hour per page 1 post equals ½ hour

Students’ opportunity to apply learned concepts or for reflection on learning experiences;

Not to be shared with other classmates.

Discussion activities 1 – 3 hours per activity
  • Initial post equals ½ hour
  • Read all and respond equals 1 hour
Instructor-guided or mediated threaded discussion that directly relates to course objectives and which has specified time frames, expectations for participation, and thoughtful analysis.
Case study and analysis 1 – 3 hours 1 hour equals 1 hour In-depth analysis requiring utilization of higher order analytical skills which relate to course objectives and is shared with instructor and/or classmates for feedback and assessment.
Problem solving scenarios 1 – 3 hours 1 hour equals 1 hour In-depth analysis requiring utilization of higher order thinking and analytical skills which relate to course objectives that may/may not be shared with instructor and/or classmates for feedback and assessment.
Synchronous communication 1 hour equals 1 hour 1 hour equals 1 hour

Examples:

  • conference call
  • chat
  • phone call
  • video conference
  • web conference
Tours and field trips, including virtual 1 hour equals 1 hour 1 hour equals 1 hour Students participate as individuals or in groups in analyzing an activity & preparing a paper or presentation, to be shared in whole or in part with instructor and/or classmates.
Group projects 1 – 3 hours per week for duration of project 1-10 hours per week, depending on project objective, deliverable, and duration

Examples:

  • email
  • chat
  • collaborative documents
  • discussion board
  • video conferencing
  • face-to-face
Guided or service learning projects 1 – 3 hours per week for duration of project 1 – 10 hours per week, depending on project objective, deliverable, and duration

Examples:

  • email
  • chat
  • collaborative documents
  • discussion board
  • video conferencing
  • face-to-face
Laboratory, Virtual Laboratory and Lab Reports
  • 1 hour of virtual laboratory equals 1 hour
  • 1 lab report post, review and respond to classmate posts equals ½ hour instruction
Creating and conducting of experiments (kit or simulated) and writing of laboratory report(s). Potential to have student collaboration with reviewing and responding via posting of reports as a team or as class discussion.
Lecture activities including lecture notes 1 hour equals 1 hour 30 minutes per page of notes Notes in response to video and lecture
Media projects: Podcast 1 hour equals 1 hour 10 – 12 minutes equals ½ – 3 hours of instruction depending on production value For every minute of a completed podcast project, several minutes will be required for production. The variation is dependent upon format: interview/informal with minimal post-production to creative/high production with potential special effects / field recording.
Media projects: Video 1 hour equals 1 hour 3 – 5 minutes of minimal production value video equals 1 – 3 hours of instruction For every minute of a completed video project, several minutes will be required for production. The variation is dependent upon format: interview/informal with minimal production value, remix/mash-up, or creative/high production with potential special effects / field recording.
Online Quizzes 1 hour test equals 1 hour 1 hour test equals 1 hour Opportunity for instructor to assess students’ subject knowledge and provide feedback on students’ progress.
Peer Review / Assessment Up to 1 hour per page for review of peer papers Student review of peer assessment and follow up response post/email to student/teacher equals ½ – 2 hours of instruction Review of peer papers
Reflection Paper
  • 1 private response equals ½ hour instruction
  • 1 shared response (required to read all student responses) equals 1 hour
½ hour per page Informal writing in reaction to a reading, video, quote, or questions from professor
Research Paper
  • 5 page project equals 1 hour
  • 3 – 5 page paper equals 1 – 2 hrs. instruction
2 hours per page Research and writing of a formal research paper.
Readings n/a
  • 5 minutes per page for scholarly reading
  • 3 minutes per page for popular reading

Examples:

  • Textbook
  • Online content
  • Popular reading
  • Websites

Tools and Examples

A BASIC and a DETAILED HIA calculation spreadsheet have been developed. In addition to the blank template for each version, there are example versions as applied to specific courses. Any of these can be downloaded and customized to meet the needs of specific individuals and units.The examples demonstrate various ways that instructional designers and faculty have used information about hours of  instructional activity (HIA) with their courses. There is no one way to utilize these HIA resources but rather what is included can serve as a guideline for designing course assignments.


BASIC HIA Tool

BASIC HIA Tool - Applied to HDFS course

BASIC HIA Tool - Applied to MKTG course


DETAILED HIA Tool

DETAILED HIA Tool - Applied to ENGR course

DETAILED HIA Tool - Applied to MKTG course


These resources were initially produced through the efforts of the Penn State Online Faculty Engagement Subcommittee during the 2017-18 academic year. The material is intended to serve as guidelines and to facilitate discussion around course activities. Except where otherwise noted, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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