Credits and Notional Hours

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What are credits and notional hours and how does it work?

After the last post about the Sponsorship for Firearm Instructor, I have had a few queries. Mostly asking (some in rage) how I can present a 5 day course in just 4 days. I have read the post a few times over and still do not see a 4 day course. Anyway, just for clarity, it is not a 4 day course. Nor is it a 5 day course! Just to get that part cleared.

It is a course much longer than that. The CONTACT SESSION of the course is 5 days. That means that the learner receives the books (or learning material if you which to use more professional terms) in advance and arrives at the CONTACT SESSION well prepared. This means that I gave the learner enough study time (written in the Formative Assessment) and enough time to prepare for the practical Qualification Shoot of the course, which forms the Practical Assessment.

You see, I have a question: How can anyone present this course in JUST 5 DAYS if the credits are 10?

If 1 credit means 10 notional hours, would that not mean a 10 day course? So, how can I expect a learner/ student to successfully complete the course if I robbed him/her by not providing him/her with enough study time before he/ she came on course?

Cheating your student!

So, if you, as the instructor, hand your class the course material on Monday, the first day of the course, and expect them to write the summative exam on the Wednesday, day 3 of the course, did you not cheat your learner? Did you not rob the learner of allowable study time? Who is to blame now if the learner fails the Assessment? How can a Firearm Instructor Course be just 5 days?

That said, what does CREDITS and Notional Hours really mean?

Notion meaning

One of the definitions, or similes, of notion is “idea” and this would basically mean to have a idea of something.

Notional learning hours

How does this relate to learning?

Notional hours, or notional learning hours, refers to the amount of suggested amount of time, or rather the time it should take the average learner to complete and achieve the specific learning outcomes of the specific course, unit or program. Notional hours are not precise measuring tools for a specific unit. It is rather an indication of the amount of study and commitment expected on the course. It is an idea of what the duration of the course must be for the average learner to obtain the required skill and knowledge to successfully achieve the outcome of the Unit.

What is an average student? /learner?

First, you will ask: “What is an average student (learner)?”

These are the students that will do the minimum to complete what is expected of them. They will participate in the class when expected to and most likely successfully complete the course and will complete their homework (most of the time). They are not very eager to learn and will most likely not try to complete the work quicker than expected. So, if you give them homework to read page 1-3, they will mostly stop at the end of page 3 and not do more. Homework done!

The average student most likely completes what is expected without fully exerting him/herself.

They just do enough work to “make it” and usually have a median GPA of 2.8 – 3.0.

Grade Point Average Definition

Grade Point Average Definition

A grade point average is a number representing the average value of the accumulated final grades earned in courses over time. More commonly called a GPA, a student’s grade point average is calculated by adding up all accumulated final grades and dividing that figure by the number of grades awarded. Aug 29, 2013

Notional Hours Include:

Notional hours include:

  • Pre-course preparation (Preparation for and completion of formative assessments)
  • Private study time and homework
  • Contact time (time spent in class, practical, workshops, online studies, etc.)
  • Summative exams (theoretical exams, presentations, etc.)
  • Practical Summative assessments

Notional hours: The expected time a learner will spend, on average, to achieve the Specific Outcomes of the Unit. This will include all relevant studies like, projects, practical preparation, practical work, classroom activities, private study and assessments.

What are credits?

Credits count the learning outcomes and reverting it to notional hours at a specific level. In general, 1 credit will denote to 10 hours of learning. This means that the average learner should not take more than 1o hours to complete one credit. So, if the course is 2 credits, it should not take the average learner more than 20 hours to complete the specific Unit.

The emphasis is on the learner’s achievement of the Unit and not detail in time spent on course. The credit is awarded after successful completion of a specific Unit and the Specific Learning Outcomes (or Specific Outcomes).

“CREDITS” and “Notional Hours” are internationally recognized terms and not unique to a specific country. For example, I am currently studying my Associate’s Degree with a total is a minimum of 64 Credits. This course carries international recognized course with 21 subjects, or Units.

Each Learner is different

It is important to understand that each individual is different. Contact learning time and the need thereof for each individual, will be different. This includes the mode of delivery, or the presentation of the material to the student.

The real time spent on written work or the time it takes to master a practical skill, is different for each individual. The individual’s capability or previous experience differs form the next. This would also include the time spent in the workplace where relevant.

Consider the level at which the learning is offered or suggested to be offered.

Learning Assumed to be in Place

This means the following:

“Learning Assumed to be in Place” appears in a given Unit (U/S) . This specifies the Literacy and Numeracy Skills the trainer can assume the learner has when presenting the specific course. So, the trainer can assume that the learner on the Firearm Instructor course: SAQA 123520: Supervise Firearm Training, and has a Literacy level (Communication) of a Grade 8 student. The Numeracy level (Mathematical) should be be that of a Grade 9 student.

The SAQA 123520 quoted as follows:


Communication at NQF Level 2.

Mathematical Literacy at NQF Level 3.

It is further assumed that the learner will have completed all unit standards relating to firearms that they intend supervising. I.e. if the learner has completed unit standard 123515: “Handle and use a handgun for business purposes”, which will enable them to supervise only this unit standard after achieving this unit standard.”

This course has a value of 10 CREDITS.

Notional hours and the average student

The notional hours suggest that it should not take an average student with a Communication ability of a Grade 8 pupil more than 100 hours to complete the course.

Take note that the entry level requirements may differ from the outcome. This means that we can assume that the average learner enrolling for this course can communicate at a Grade 8 learner level. The outcome of this course is on a level 5, based on the specific contents.

Will a learner/ student with a higher level of Communication be able to complete the course faster?

Off course! Remember, it should not take the AVERAGE learner with a Communication Level of a Grade 8 pupil more than 100 hours. Off course this would mean that anyone with a higher level of understanding or communication will indeed be able to achieve the outcome much quicker.