By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist
At my undergraduate college orientation, the director of academic advisement took a moment to inform my freshman class that college is more than just attending classes. Nobody in the room look overly surprised by this information, that is until they distributed a chart that further informed the group that for a college freshman taking a full-time course load, there would be between 24-36 hours of out-of-class work per week.
As I progressed through my college education, I learned that the 24-36 hour figure presented at orientation was an estimate that varied widely depending on the course subject and level, my pre-existing knowledge, and the professor’s teaching style. Yet, my freshman year was an eye-opening experience that included many late nights in the library spent reading and writing more pages than I had ever previously attempted in my academic career. Sometimes it felt impossible to keep up with my work, and that was without the responsibilities of a full-time job or family, which so many of today’s college students balance in addition to their studies.
Years later, the tables turned, and I found myself in the role of educator. There I was, looking at the very same chart I received my freshman year, wondering how I would find the right workload for my students. It turns out, I am not alone; I am often brought into conversations with colleagues who feel challenged to find the right balance for their students. It seems many of us feel that this challenge is only compounded by technology and the multitude of teaching modalities that blur the line between time spent in-class and work performed outside-of-class.
As you pursue the right workload for your students, my best advice is to seek input from colleagues both inside and outside of your academic discipline, to talk to your students, and to tune into the research and conversations about student workload that are happening across the landscape of higher education.
A handy tool for gauging your current (or future) student workload is Rice University’s Course Workload Estimator. This is an impressive, research-based tool created to estimate how much time a student can reasonably expect to spend on work outside of your class every week based on planned weekly reading assignments, writing assignments, exams, and other assignments; I highly recommend checking it out.
What do you do to determine the right workload for your students? Tell us about it in the comments section!