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Continuing Education Unit Guidelines

Providing Access To Change The Future


The Continuing Education Unit (CEU) was created to provide a standard unit of measure of noncredit continuing education.


One CEU = ten contact hours of participation in organized continuing education/training under responsible, qualified direction and instruction.

Who can award CEU

The CEU is in the public domain. Use of the CEU is voluntary and no permission or approval is required. CEU may be awarded by accredited colleges or universities or by other institutions or organizations that have an ongoing educational program and meet the criteria for sponsoring and offering programs.

Criteria for Awarding Continuing Education Units

South Dakota State University’s office of Continuing and Distance Education will fulfill the following criteria when administering the CEU process.

  • Organization - Have a designated staff enabled to manage a schedule of continuing education programs.
  • Responsibility and Control - Ensure that every noncredit activity, program, workshop or course to which CEUs are awarded meets the CEU criteria as outlined below.
  • Records - Maintain a permanent record of each learner’s participation and provide a copy of that record upon request.

Before CEUs can be awarded each noncredit activity, program, workshop or course must meet the following criteria.

  • Needs Identification - The non-credit program is planned in response to identified needs of a target audience. The topic should have relevance to the learner’s educational goals and/or job requirements.
  • Planning - Preplanning should include input from representatives of the target audience to be served, faculty/presenters and other individuals having content expertise and recognition of the educational objectives to be met.
  • Learning Outcomes - Program materials must include clear and concise written statements of the objectives/intended learning outcomes. These should be determined by the knowledge, skills, attitudes the participant can demonstrate after completing the program.
  • Instruction - Those teaching the program should have the following qualifications:
    • Competence in the subject matter
    • Knowledge in the instructional technique(s) to be used
    • Understanding of the objectives and intended learning outcomes of the activity
    • Be able to communicate the course content at an appropriate level of understanding
  • Performance - Requirements for satisfactory completion of the program and awarding of CEUs are established prior to the offering of the program. Requirements must be agreed upon by the course coordinator, instructor and the office of Continuing and Distance Education. The requirements should be based on either the ability of the participants to demonstrate what they have learned, pre-determined levels of attendance or a combination of both.
    • Performance-based assessments may take many forms such as: demonstrations, written or oral exams, written reports.
    • Attendance-based assessment must be set at a high level and must be documented by attendance rosters or sign-in sheets.
  • Program Evaluation - What is the difference between assessment and evaluation? Assessment is the measurement of the individual learning outcomes based on the objectives. Evaluation is the measure of the quality of the program and the experience as a whole.
  • Records - Have a system to identify those who have satisfactorily completed the program or activity. If attendance is part of the requirement for receiving CEUs a system must be in place to monitor attendance.

Calculating the CEU

One CEU = 10 contact hours of participation in organized continuing education/training under responsible, qualified direction and instruction.

Contact hour = one 60 minute / hour of interaction between learner and instructor or learner and materials which have been prepared to cause learning.

The instructor or learning source must monitor the learner’s progress and provide some form of feedback to the learner. This applies for face-to-face interaction as well as distance learning programs.

The following programs are examples of activities to include when calculating contact hours for CEU:

  • Classroom or meeting time led by an instructor.
  • Projects, assignments and field trips which are a fundamental part of a learning program.
  • Activities, where a learner is engaged in a learning program and their progress is monitored and they receive feedback. For example, computer-assisted instruction, interactive video, web site learning and planned projects.

The following activities are not intended to receive CEUs. These activities may be worthwhile learning experiences; however they should be measured by something other than a CEU.

  • Academic credit courses: CEUs may be awarded for academic credit courses which meet the CEU criteria; however, participants cannot receive both CEU and academic credit.
  • Association membership and leadership activities
  • Committee meetings
  • Entertainment and recreation
  • Individual scholarships
  • Work experience
  • Unsupervised study
  • Travel
  • Mass media learning programs: Programs delivered through the mass media (e.g., television, radio, newspaper) do not qualify for CEU, unless these presentations are an integral part of a planned learning program, which meets the CEU criteria.

Proposed programs with less than ten hours of instruction (1.0 CEU) will be carefully considered against the criteria to ensure that sufficient time is available to build a measurable competency that can be considered a significant continuing education experience.

No fewer than five hours of instruction (.5 CEUs) will be approved.

The 60-minute hour is the standard for awarding CEU.

Determine the number of contact hours by adding all countable portions of the program.

  • Example: A learning program has six 50-minute sessions with 10 minutes between for set-up/breaks.
  • The number of contact hours would be computed as: 6 x 50 = 300 total minutes in organized, interactive learning / 60 = 5 contact hours.
  • Divide the number of contact hours by 10 to get the number of CEU. For the example above: 5/10 = .5 CEU.
  • CEU can be expressed in tenths of a CEU (i.e., 17 contact hours equals 1.7 CEU; 3 contact hours equals .3 CEU; if the calculation is 1.78 this should be expressed as 1.8 CEU).

Submitting a Program for CEU Approval

Items to be digitally submitted to the office of Continuing and Distance Education:

  • Program Approval Form (for instructors only) 
    Note:  Program Approval Forms must be received by the Office of Continuing and Distance Education at least two weeks prior to the start of the program.
  • A Blank Course Evaluation Form (our standard form may be used or one specific to the program can be developed)
  • Itinerary or Agenda of event(s) – Session start and end times must be included. This is needed to verify the number of CEUs requested for approval. 

A confirmation email of the Program Approval Form (for instructors only) will be emailed to the sponsor indicating the number of CEU approved. Participants wishing to receive CEU credit will need to complete the CEU Participation Form (for attendees only). This form requires the participants to list the name of the instructor and verify the information they have entered is valid. They have the option to include the instructors email, which will send the instructor an email notifying said participant has requested CEU's.

At the conclusion of the program, the following items must be completed digitally, no later than two weeks after program completion:

  • Completed CEU Participation Forms (for attendees only) – these forms require attendees to verify the information they've submitted is accurate and include the name and email address of their instructor or program supervisor, which will indicate the assessment for attainment of the individual learning objectives has been met.
  • Class Roster - Participant CEUs cannot be awarded until a class roster is received post training.  This is needed to verify participant attendance. 

The cost of the CEU charged by Continuing and Distance Education is $15 per person/per approved program. This fee covers the processing of CEU requests and maintenance of the participants file.

The $15 fee must accompany the completed CEU Participation Forms in order for CEU request to be processed.

CEU certificates will be issued by Continuing and Distance Education to each participant submitting the Participation Form and $15 fee. They will be emailed to individual participants at the address provided on the Participation Form. The certificate will be the participants’ official documentation of program completion.

Replacement certificates can be requested from the office of Continuing and Distance Education for an additional fee of $15.