Curricular Definitions

Section III. Item 2.

General

Program

A major at a specific degree level.

Unit of Instruction

A prescribed curriculum with a specific title. This category includes majors, emphases, specializations, minors, concentrations, undergraduate options, and those graduate options that appear on a transcript. (See "Option" below.)

Reasonable and Moderate Extensions of Existing Curricula; Deletions; and Consolidations

This category includes new formal instructional units below the level of major: emphases, specializations, minors, options, and concentrations. In addition to new units, this category includes most program consolidations and modifications. It also generally includes changes in the titles of existing degrees, majors, and subunits, and the establishment of what the boards consider interchangeable degrees in an existing degree program (e.g., B.A. and B.S. in a program previously offered only for the B.A.). However, this classification does not apply if a professional degree is being added to or substituted for a liberal arts degree (e.g., a B.F.A. for a B.A.), or if changes in title or structure result in an essentially new entity or program. Deletions of programs are approved by the governing board (Board of Trustees).

Catalog Change

Any change in the catalog, curricular or otherwise.

Degrees and Instructional Units

These terms should be used in catalog copy and other official statements only when the designated meanings are appropriate. Terms such as "emphasis," "specialization," and "option," must not be used informally to indicate departmental subfields. Instead, "area of study," "field of study," "area of interest," "group of courses," and the like may be used.

Undergraduate Degree (identified on transcript)

The formal academic designation conferred upon completion of an undergraduate major program and all other undergraduate requirements (B.A., B.F.A., B.G.S., B.M., B.S., B.S.Ed.).

Undergraduate Major (identified on transcript)

An extensive program of study in a designated subject area at the undergraduate level. A new major is not necessarily equivalent to a new degree; it may be a new degree or it may be instituted within the framework of currently approved degrees.

Contract Major (identified on transcript)

An individualized undergraduate program of study approved at the college level.

Graduate Degree (identified on transcript)

The formal academic designation conferred upon completion of a program, and all associated requirements, within the Graduate School (Ed.D., Ed.S., M.A., M.A.S., M.B.A., M.F.A., M.M., M.P.A., M.P.H., M.P.T., M.S., M.S.Ed., M.S.T., Ph.D.).

Law Degree (identified on transcript)

The formal academic designation (J.D.) conferred upon completion of a program, and all associated requirements, within the College of Law. Such a degree is a professional post-baccalaureate, but not a graduate, degree.

Graduate Major (identified on transcript)

An extensive program of study in a designated subject area at the graduate level. A new major is not necessarily equivalent to a new degree; it may be a new degree or it may be instituted within the framework of currently approved degrees.

Minor (identified on transcript)

A limited curriculum in a designated subject area at the undergraduate level.

Emphasis (identified on transcript)

A subdivision of an undergraduate major, listed in the Undergraduate Catalog under a specific title.

Specialization (identified on transcript)

A subdivision of a graduate major, listed in the Graduate Catalog under a specific title.

Concentration (identified on transcript)

At the undergraduate level, a limited curriculum in a designated interdisciplinary area.

Certificate of Undergraduate Study

(identified on transcript) A course of study consisting of a coherent set of courses, fewer than for a major, addressing a specific theme.

Certificate of Graduate Study

(identified on transcript) A course of study, not linked to the pursuit of a degree, consisting of a coherent set of courses, fewer than for a major, addressing a specific theme.

At the graduate level, a course of study, typically interdisciplinary, linked to the pursuit of a specific graduate degree.

Option

At the undergraduate level, the term "option" indicates a subdivision of a minor listed in the Undergraduate Catalog under a specific title.

At the graduate level, the term "option" is used to designate a choice available in completing a particular program, such as the choice between a thesis and a non-thesis plan of study.

Alternative

A local term used to specify a group of courses identified by a department, which further defines choices within an emphasis or specialization.

Teacher or Other Professional Certification Curriculum (identified on transcript)

A specified curriculum, approved for catalog inclusion, leading to teacher or other professional certification in a given area. Certification curricula may be identical to major programs, emphases, or specializations, or may be free-standing.

Courses

New Course

A course differing significantly in basic content from previous offerings at the proposed level; or any combination or division of existing courses that constitutes a new entity. Topics courses specifying a list of topics can have individual topics added. This procedure constitutes a topic (course) addition subject to curricular approval.

Course Revisions

The revision of a course in such a way that its basic content is not altered.

Crosslisted Course

A course that is offered for academic credit in two (or more) departments. The course is listed in the catalog under all departments involved. Each listing should have the same or similar course numbers with identical titles, credit hours, descriptions, and requisites. One department is designated as having primary responsibility with other departments carrying the "X" suffix on the course number. For each listing, crosslisted departments and course numbers are indicated.

Course Deletion

The removal of any course from the offerings of a department (or other unit). Courses in which content varies according to a list of topics can have individual topics deleted. This procedure constitutes a topic (course) deletion subject to curricular approval.

Credit Hour

Unit of Credit, Definition, Application, and Process

The assignment of credit hours reflects the collective professional judgment of faculty and campus academic officers. 

Northern Illinois University utilizes a definition of credit hour that is consistent with Federal guidelines. A credit hour is defined as one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and no less than two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time. The policy allows examination periods to be counted in the minutes of direct instruction. The standard meeting times for courses are a 50-minute, Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and a 75-minute Tuesday-Thursday schedule. For courses that have less structured classroom schedules, such as research seminars, independent studies, internships, practica, studio work, or any other academic work leading to the award of credit hours, a credit hour may be determined by (1) an amount of student work that reasonably approximates the above definition of a credit hour or (2) an established assessment/measure of student learning outcomes that verifies student achievement and serves as the equivalent of the above definition of a credit hour. 

This credit hour policy applies to all courses (graduate, professional, and undergraduate) that award academic credit (i.e. any NIU course that appears on an official transcript as a course for which credit is received) regardless of the mode of delivery including, but not limited to, self-paced, online, hybrid, seminar, and laboratory. 

Curricula committees at Northern Illinois University are charged with following the policy on credit hours in their review and approval of all courses and certifying that the expected student learning for the course meets the credit hour standard. The determination of credit hours is made when a new course or a revision to an existing course is proposed. The submitted syllabus is examined for contact time as well as for assignments and evaluation mechanisms. NIU collects and manages data on all courses to ensure, through periodic checks, that there is compliance and consistency with the credit hour policy across diverse course delivery modes. 

 

Approved by Graduate Council, March 2, 1992, September 10, 2012
Approved by Undergraduate Coordinating Committee, April 30, 1992, September 6, 2012 
Editorial modifications, June 5, 1997; December 15, 1998; April 5, 2001

Last Updated: October 16, 2012