Coursework – Appropriate Number of Credit Hours, Credit Hour Maximum, Limitation on Study Outside Classroom and Online Course Enrollment
Appropriate Number of Credit Hours for Coursework
Pursuant to American Bar Association Standard 310, Michigan State University College of Law maintains the following policy to determine the appropriate number of credit hours for coursework performed by students and to ensure faculty compliance.
Unless otherwise specified, students will complete at least 42.5 of coursework per credit hour awarded. For coursework with a classroom component, for each credit hour awarded, students will receive at least one hour of direct faculty instruction for fourteen weeks (or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time), thirty hours of out-of-class academic engagement, and time for a final assessment or additional instruction, as follows:
Number of Credit Hours for Coursework
Number of Credits
Minimum Number of Hours of Classroom Time or Direct Faculty
Aggregate Number of Hours of Out-of-Class Student Academic Engagement (over the
course of the semester)
Minimum Time for Assessment (length of exam or amount of time spent completing final assessment)
or Additional Instruction
Per ABA Interpretation 310-1, “fifty minutes suffices for one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction” under Standard 310. See Managing Director’s Guidance Memo, Standard 310 (May 2016).
Out-of-class academic engagement is considered in the aggregate over the semester. Some courses are offered under more compressed schedules during a semester. In such situations, the Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs will ensure compliance.
The Fall and Spring semesters are comprised of (1) fourteen weeks of classroom instruction (plus makeup days for holidays); and (2) at least three calendar days for a reading period. The Summer semester is comprised of (1) seven weeks of instruction (plus makeup days for holidays); and (2) at least three calendar days for a reading period.
Classes will be scheduled to comply with the amount of classroom time noted above. Instruction times may be adjusted to account for out-of-class, supervised instruction. In such situations, faculty members will be required to justify the deviation from the default in their syllabi. The Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs will assign the amount of in-class time for each class in compliance with this policy.
- Courses with In-Class or Take-Home Final Examinations: For courses with final examinations, there is a separate minimum time for assessment based on the total number of credit hours for the course.
- Courses with Other Methods of Assessment: Many courses focus on oral and written advocacy. As such, the assessment for some courses is not in the form of a traditional final examination, but a final written or oral assessment. In such courses, the form of assessment, whether a research paper, oral presentation, or a similar advocacy, research, or writing project, will require significant effort in excess of the equivalent number of in-class hours leading up to and during the week of final examinations or at an equivalent time earlier in the semester. At their choosing, faculty members may include additional instruction at the time that would have otherwise been dedicated to a final examination.
- Distance Learning Courses: The standards set out in this policy apply equally to in- person and distance education courses.
A student must complete at least 42.5 hours of work per semester for each academic credit awarded for an Directed Study. Credit will be awarded only if the student completes at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour, as evaluated by the faculty advisor to the Directed Study. Students must log all hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.
A student must complete at least 42.5 hours of work per semester for each academic credit for working in a law school clinic. Student work will include: (1) all aspects of advising and representing clients; (2) meeting with faculty for regularly scheduled supervision sessions, as well as additional sessions as necessary; and (3) preparing for and attending weekly clinic seminars and case rounds. Through the clinic, students will plan for lawyering activities, perform substantive legal work, receive faculty feedback, and engage in self-reflection. Students must log all casework hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.
A student must complete at least 42.5 hours of work per semester for each academic credit for working in at a field placement (externship). Students must log all hours worked. Students in field placements must take a zero-credit seminar.
Journals and Law Reviews
The work completed for Law Reviews and Journals constitutes “other academic activities,” as designed by ABA Standard 310. Credit will be awarded only if the student completes at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour, as evaluated by a faculty advisor to the publication. Students must log all hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.
The work completed for competition teams such as moot courts, mock trials, and other similar activities must constitute at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour completed. Preparation, legal research, practice, and attendance and participation in competitions will be counted toward the 42.5 hours per credit hour, as evaluated by the faculty advisor to the Competition. Travel time and administrative time may not be included in the calculation.
Variable Credit-Hour Classes
For classes in which a faculty member permits students to write longer papers in exchange for additional credits, any such additional credits will be in the form of a directed study, and must meet the requirements set forth in Section I.B.
Requirements for Faculty Compliance
Faculty members will be required to submit a form each semester with their syllabi certifying that their courses comply with this policy.
Credit Hour Maximum Per Semester
During Fall and Spring semesters: Full-time students at MSU Law are allowed to enroll in a maximum of seventeen (17) credit hours. NOTE: To be eligible for financial aid, during the regular semester (fall or spring) students must be enrolled for five (5) credits minimum, and a minimum of three (3) credits for the summer session.
During Summer session: Students are allowed to enroll in a maximum of seven (7) credit hours without approval.
International Students: International students must register for a minimum of twelve (12) credits during the regular semester.
Any student with an irregular and/or overload schedule must obtain the permission of the Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs prior to enrollment.
Limitation on Study Outside Classroom
Sixty-five (65) credits of the eighty-eight (88) credits required for the J.D. degree must be regularly scheduled classes at the law school. Transfer credits in "regularly scheduled courses" taken at another law school are counted.
ABA Standard 311 mandates that JD students have at least 64 credits of "courses that require attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction.”
Non-regularly Scheduled Classes
For purposes of this requirement, credit hours completed in the following and/or other similar courses and/or programs are NOT regularly scheduled classes:
- Moot Court;
- Law Review;
- Non-law school courses in a dual-degree programs;
- Externships programs.
Online Course Enrollment (Limitation on Distance Education)
Distance education is an educational process characterized by the separation, in time or place, between instructor and student. It includes courses offered principally by means of technological transmission; audio or computer conferencing; videocassettes or discs; or correspondence. Distance education presents special opportunities and unique challenges for the maintenance of educational quality. As a complement to regularly scheduled class sessions at the College that form the core of instruction in the J.D. program, distance education courses have the potential to support the College’s educational mission. The College is committed to developing and offering distance education opportunities for J.D. students that conform to the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools, or approved variances from the Standards, as set forth in the policies set forth below:
- Credit toward the J.D. degree for study offered through distance education is awarded only where the academic content, the method of course delivery, and the method of evaluating student performance are approved as part of the school’s regular curriculum approval process. Credit is awarded in a manner consistent with the ABA Standards.
- The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs works closely with instructors to ensure that distance education courses provide:
- ample interaction with the instructor and other students both inside and outside the formal structure of the course throughout its duration such that students in distance education courses have opportunities to interact with instructors that equal or exceed the opportunities for such interaction with instructors in a traditional classroom setting; and
- ample monitoring of student effort and accomplishment as courses progress.
- The Associate Dean for Library and Technical Services, together with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, ensures that the College has the training and technological capacity, staff, information resources, and facilities required to provide the support needed for instructors and students to participate effectively in the College’s distance education courses.
- In any term, the College will not grant a student more than the permitted number of distance education credit hours as set forth in the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools, or as set forth in approved variances from the Standards. Students may not enroll in more than four credit hours of distance education without approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. No more than a cumulative total of 12 credit hours will be granted toward the J.D. degree for distance education courses.
- No student may enroll in distance education courses qualifying for credit under this policy until that student has completed instruction equivalent to 28 credit hours toward the J.D. degree.
- The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Registrar are responsible for maintaining an effective process to verify the identity of students taking distance education courses and to protect student privacy.
- No credit may be given toward the J.D. degree for non-law distance education graduate level courses or for law courses that are developed only for non-J.D. programs and not approved for J.D. credit.
Amended: February 12, 2014
Updated: July 11, 2022