Colorado State University > Institutional Research > Institutional Research Manuals and Documentation

An understanding of the formula for calculating contact hours requires some background and understanding of the types of courses offered at Colorado State as well as the CCHE enrollment reporting guidelines.

First, there are two basic types of courses for which we calculate contact hours. These are identified with a code called "workload type". The workload type definitions follow:

Second, it is important to note that IR calculates contact hours only for those sections and FTE enrollments that we are reporting to CCHE as state-funded RI FTE enrollments. Non-RI students and sections (such as Continuing Education sections) do not have contact hours calculated.

Third, all enrollment numbers used in contact hour calculations are census date enrollment numbers. If one looks at other datasets extracted at a different point in time the same formulas would yield different results due to students that add or drop the section.

CCHE defines "contact hours" as that time in which the student is involved in direct face-to-face instructional contact with the faculty member(s) teaching a particular section. The CCHE definition for a base contact hour is 750 minutes of section meeting time. In order to calculate the contact hours one needs to calculate the total number of minutes (during a semester) that the students are being instructed by a faculty member.

Calculating contact hours is done differently according to the workload type of a particular section, and any available scheduled meeting times for that section. The first priority for calculating contact hours is to use the actual scheduled meeting time information for the section. Not all types of sections have scheduled meeting times, but if meeting times are available and assigned to a section the contact hours are calculated using the following information about the section:

In an example course below the contact hours are calculated:

Formula components used to calculate total meeting time minutes and contact hours:

The begin/end dates DO NOT include finals week--which is allowed to be counted in the contact hour total; however, the begin/end dates do include a week in which classes do not meet (Thanksgiving week or spring break) so the formula above produces a result that is extremely close and reasonable.

Many sections, however, do not have scheduled meeting times and therefore contact hours must be derived by making the assumption that there is an understanding by the offering department that is communicated to the students in terms of reasonable expectations for contact hours given the type of course being taught and the amount of credits being earned by the student.

CCHE has minimum guidelines expressing the minimum number of weekly contact hours expected to receive 1 credit. This varies depending upon the instruction type (delivery method) of the section. These minimum guidelines are listed below:

In the information above the contact ratio is 1 for a "lecture" section meaning that a student enrolled for 1 lecture credit is expected to meet for 1 base contact hour during the semester. A base contact hour is 750 minutes. For internship sections one is expected to meet for 3 base contact hours per 1 credit earned (2250 minutes).

Therefore, sections without formally scheduled meeting times are assumed to be meeting the required number of minimum contact hours.

If a lab course is required to have a minimum of 3 weekly contact hours and the meeting time calculations show only 2 weekly contact hours, a check is made to see if the section also has an "hours arranged" component. If so, it is assumed that 2 of the weekly contact hours result from the scheduled meeting times and the remaining 1 required contact hour is met with the "hours arranged" work that is done by the student outside the formally scheduled lab time.

Generally all "E" workload courses have scheduled meeting times and the contact hour calculation for those is straightforward. It's also true that nearly all "S" type courses are variable credit and therefore do not have formally-scheduled meeting times so the contact hours are derived from the above guidelines.

There is a very small portion of sections, however, that are "S" type sections AND have scheduled meeting times. Since the calculation of contact hours should be a measurable item the meeting times are always used (as opposed to deriving contact hours from a ratio) when available. Less than 1 percent of those "S" sections with meeting times the contact hour calculations yield results that are significantly higher than the minimum required contact hours according to CCHE formulas. It is entirely possible (and also permissible) that any section actually meets more contact hours than the required minimum.