I want a word or short expression that signifies the total number of lecture hours in a course.

This is something I want to write in a syllabus along with other relevant data about the course.

The expression would appear like this:

"Total number of lecture hours in this course:" 40

I believe I could simply write "Lecture hours." But is there any other usual expression?

  • I'm in Brazil. I am translating a course syllabus from Portuguese to English and here it is common to report the total number of lecture hours. The expression used for this is "carga horária", which translates literally as "hour load", but I don't think this is a good translation. – Daniel B. Feb 13 at 16:01

The short answer is that there is no precise equivalent.

There are many different measures for the academic workload entailed by a course, varying by country and sometimes by institution. (The phrase academic workload is not used to represent this value; where used, it would likely be interpreted to refer to the difficulty of the course.) I would expect to see the label of the unit used on a syllabus, and there are innumerable labels in use at different institutions, meaning slightly different things, but all conveying the idea of a measure of the instruction given in a course:

  • credits
  • units
  • hours
  • modules
  • course credits
  • course credit hours
  • course units
  • course credit units
  • contact hours
  • credit hours
  • credit modules
  • credit points
  • credit units
  • modular credits
  • semester credits
  • semester hours
  • semester credit hours
  • semester units
  • etc.

The only terms that have universal meaning throughout the Anglosphere would be those referring to specific measures, like ECTS credit or Carnegie unit.

I see nothing wrong with a literal translation of the term as lecture hours, or total lecture hours. In the context of a syllabus, a student or academician would probably understand the intended meaning. You might use credit hours or academic units or some such if you want to avoid confusion with the literal number of hours spent in lecture, which is sometimes given to compare against the time spent in a lab/practical, recitation/section/seminar/tutorial, or other components of the course.

The number of hours—40—would be more likely to cause confusion, unless the reader is familiar with how courses are measured in Brazil. A course which entails 40 hours of direct instruction in a semester might be a 3-credit hour course at Howard University, a 4-unit course at the University of Queensland, a 9-credit course at Cal Tech, a 2-modular credit course at the National University of Singapore, and so on and so forth, but I do not think there is much point in trying to calculate such equivalencies unless your audience will be at a specific institution and you are confident that you can determine accurate equivalents to their measures.

  • "Contact hour" has a fairly consistent meaning within US academia, and would be my choice here if lecture is the only scheduled, in-class instruction (i.e. if there's also a lab, then contact hours would be the total of lecture and lab hours and you would need to specify those individually). – 1006a Feb 14 at 6:16

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