Estimating Course Workload

Every now and then, you stumble across a tool that makes you stop and think, “how am I just learning about this now?!” This is one of those tools.

Rice University developed a free tool to help instructors estimate course workload. Since such a common question from students is, “How long will this take?!” I can see this tool coming in handy. Students really appreciate when they have a good grasp of the course requirements and expectations. This tool helps students plan out their schedules, and this level of transparency can add credibility to the course. It can show students that the instructor wants them to succeed. Instructors may even share with students how to plan in advance to manage their course workload and keep up with the flow of the course.

Unfortunately, not a ton of valid or reliable research has been done on the topic of estimating course workload. What I like about this tool is that it’s obvious the creators have done their research and then created something that’s as accurate as possible, given the available information out there. Read about the research behind the tool here.

The tool offers a fairly good estimate of how much reading, studying and prep work will be required (outside of class time) each week. In addition to this estimate, the creators allow users to manually adjust the time something can take to complete. If an instructor thinks an assignment or reading material may take a bit more time, it’s easy to make the adjustment.

I think the most valuable aspect of this tool is that it gives instructors a better understanding of their own expectations. Are they asking too little, too much, or just enough? In grad school, I worked on a group assignment in which we had to develop a whole course program. A fellow group member developed a lesson plan in which he assigned eight articles for students to read before class. I didn’t think this was necessary and voiced my concerns, but my argument fell short. Perhaps if I had this tool at the time, I could have better demonstrated my concerns…

Try it out for yourself here:


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