2023-2024 Catalog

Credit Hour/Unit Policy

Each credit hour, defined as a unit, at Occidental College requires a minimum of 3 hours of student work per week throughout a 15 week semester. As such, each 4-unit course typically represents a minimum of 12 hours of involvement per week, and each 2-unit course represents a minimum of six hours of involvement per week. For a 4-unit course, there is an expectation of 180 total hours of student work, with proportional expectations of 90 total hours for 2-unit courses and 45 total hours for a 1-unit course. A typical 4-unit course meets in-person for three hours per week or equivalent over the course of a semester. Faculty may choose to set expectations for student involvement differently while maintaining a reasonable approximation of the minimum requirement. Faculty might also require, or students might choose, to spend more hours than the minimum requirement. This definition holds for all types of courses (e.g., lecture, seminar, independent study, lab, practicum, etc.), regardless of the amount of units offered.

Some courses have co-listed or concurrent sections (such as laboratory work or discussion sections) that count toward the total course meeting time for the corresponding course. For some other cases, such as independent study courses, the total of the meeting times are not represented in the student information system. In this circumstance, the additional hours (equivalent to the student workload) are documented in the course syllabus. 

A few select online courses are offered during a 10-week summer session. The course meeting times are synchronous and equivalent to regular semester-based courses as well as the equivalent out-of-class work. Summer courses are optional for students.

Periodic Review and Policy Application


The Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs (ADFA) conducts a compliance review prior to each term as course schedules are input in the student information system. In addition, the ADFA performs periodic audits of course meeting times in conjunction with the Dean’s Office to ensure the minimum requirements are met.

Syllabi are reviewed by the academic department chairs on a periodic basis to ensure all syllabi include information such as; course meeting times, course descriptions, course learning outcomes, relevant course policies, grading, assignments, and articulation of class time and out of class time. 

In addition, the amount of out of class work in each major is reviewed periodically as a part of the program review process. New course proposals and curriculum change proposals also include a review of the course descriptions, student workload, learning goals, and links to departmental learning goals to ensure they meet academic policies and standards as a part of the approval process.

In the case of courses with variable schedules and/or not all directed instruction time is recorded in the student information system, the course syllabus clearly articulates the student work equivalencies indicated in the above policy.