Estimating workload for learners and determining how much to assign.

Getting your site ready on Canvas? Wondering what you can write in the “How to be successful in this subject” page?

One way to give your students a better idea of expectations for your subject might be to provide an estimate of how many hours per week they should try to dedicate to your subject.

Now, given what you know about your subject area, you could probably just pull an estimate off the top of your head. But hey, we’re at University, so question your assumptions, right? Likewise, if you’ve never thought much about calculating workload there is a handy tool to get you started on making an estimate. In 2016, researchers at Rice University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) developed this simple tool for calculating learner workload. Check it out.

Reading & Writing, bread & butter

The estimator starts with reading and writing rates.

Reading rates are determined by inputing pages per week, page density (words on page), how many new concepts are introduced in the reading and what the purpose of reading is. Writing rates are calculated by pages per semester, page density, genre (Reflection, Argument, Research), and drafting.  Both of these can be manually adjusted by adding the exact hours per written page and pages read per hour.

What about exams and other assessments? Well, you can input the number of exams or other assessments and then how many study hours you expect.

Check yourself

So say you do this and discover that you you are asking learners to do a lot more work than you assumed?

Well, the researchers at CTE have a few pieces of advice. In summary, you could deploy backward design to re-evaluate the goals of a subject or reduce the number and size of your assignments. If that looks like a daunting task at this stage in the year, keep your assignments but adjust your expectations for the work. Rather than expecting analytical reading of 80 pages every week, perhaps it will be enough for student to skim those texts to simply get the gist. Finally, are there alternative assessments that reach the same goals you want for students? It doesn’t have to be a 10 minute presentation at the end of session, it could be four, two-minute talks spread across session.

Anyhoos, if you’re really interested you can read a much more comprehensive and detailed report on the research and design of this tool at Rice Univeristy’s own website and a blog post from CTE that describes the genesis of this estimator

Feature image by

unsplash-logoBoris Smokrovic

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