Class Time in Online/Hybrid Courses

by MU Instructional Designers
May 17, 2022
5-7 min read


In order to follow Middle States policy and the U.S. Department of Education guidelines regarding instructional and non-instructional time, Messiah requires that online instructors outline for students which activities in their course are instructional and which are non-instructional.


Instructional Time (IT) refers to time that the student spends in instructor-student interaction or student-student interaction (a form of online engagement). This is sometimes called “class time” to refer to activities that take place during the face-to-face class, but for clarity, we’ll use instructional time.

Examples of IT

  • Recorded videos, podcasts, or PowerPoint presentations, which serve as lecture equivalents
  • Asynchronous Canvas discussions (in which faculty participate)
  • Synchronous class meetings via video conferencing software or live chat
  • Faculty interaction with small groups, similar to how an instructor would check in with groups in a physical classroom
  • Videos if they are a) created by the instructor, or b) educationally contextualized by the instructor (e.g. with introduction and discussion afterward), as would be equivalent to showing a video in class
  • Student completion of an online quiz/exam
  • Faculty’s written/audio/video feedback on assignments
  • Recorded student presentations, which serve as in-class peer presentation equivalents.

Non-Instructional Time (NIT) refers to time that students spend independently interacting with content such as in external readings, homework assignments, groupwork that the instructor is not involved with, etc.

How much IT and NIT should I have?

PDE has a policy stating the number of “Classroom Instruction” (IT) hours that are necessary for all degree-granting institutions. This information should be on your syllabus. Although some disciplines differ, generally there should be two non-instructional hours for each instructional hour of the course.

Comparison of number of credits to number of hours of IT and NIT
# of Credits IT Hours NIT Hours
1 14 28
3 42 84

Those hours are totals for the entire course, so you’ll need to determine what that looks like week to week depending on how long your course is.

Comparison of IT and NIT hours per week for 6-, 8-, and 16-week 3-credit courses
Number of weeks IT hours per week NIT hours per week
6 7 14
8 5.25 10.5
15 ~2.8 ~5.6
16 ~2.6 ~5

How do I calculate my IT and NIT?

Messiah’s Equivalency Policy can be a useful resource for calculating instructional hours for common course activities. Remember: The key principle to consider is that instructional time is for student-to-faculty interaction and student-to-student interaction. Student-to-content interaction is non-instructional time.

Tip for Calculating Reading Time

When calculating reading time, we recommend considering that the average reading speed for adults is 200-300 words per minute (WPM). When you have a reading in your course (textbook, article, etc.), we recommend using that rate and then including a bit of extra time for students to annotate, highlight, or think further about the content, since reading 500 words of a textbook takes longer than reading 500 words in a novel. We often use the handy online Read-o-Meter, into which you can paste the text of an electronic reading (website, article, etc.) and get the estimated reading time.

Here is an example of what that looks like for a 3 credit Graduate Nursing course that run 8 weeks

screenshot from nursing course illustrating how IT and NIT hours are outlined in course schedule
Beside each activity in the course schedule (reading, assignment, etc.), the estimated IT and/or NIT hours are listed in columns to the right.

Here is an example from the 2 credit DIGL 101 course that ran in a online UG summer term.

screenshot of instructional and non-instructional time related to course activities
Beside each activity in the course schedule (reading, assignment, etc.), the estimated IT and/or NIT hours are listed in columns to the right.

Lastly, here is an example from a 3 credit EDME 552 course.

screenshot of course schedule in syllabus listing course activities with the following columns: course activities, instructional time, non-instructional time, and course objectives
Course schedule is made up of four columns: Weekly Topic/Assignments, Instructional Time (IT), Non-Instructional Time (NIT), and Objectives. Rows with a light gray background indicate the change to a new week in the course.