What We’re Consulting: Course Workload Estimator

We often struggle to know how much work we are actually asking our students to do. In this blog post, we’re going to tell you about a tool, informed by research, that helps you to know how long it could take your students to complete the tasks you’ve assigned (reading, writing, exams/studying).

This is the first entry in a new series for the CNDLS blog: What We’re Consulting. We are all feeling overwhelmed right now by the wealth of resources that are available and being shared with us, especially concerning our pivot to hybrid courses. The purpose of this series is to highlight especially useful multimedia resources that reflect research, best practices, and also experiences from other professors and instructors talking about their work and efforts. It is a complimentary series to “What we’re Reading” and it will highlight podcast series, multimedia projects/initiatives, websites, and even how-to videos, as well as other resources that you may find helpful.

Call it a curation project for you. 

The first resource we’re sharing is the Course Workload Estimator tool, developed by Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. In developing the tool, Elizabeth Barr and Justin Esarey consulted multiple sources, all faithfully recorded in their Estimation Detail section, but also had to make a number of informed guesses and decisions. The sources include research on reading rates, surveys on time spent on tasks, and learning science studies and findings. And they are incredibly transparent about how they came to the final version of the tool and the decisions they made, all of which are listed and explained directly underneath the tool itself. 

We at CNDLS have used the tool to help us talk to faculty about workload in the design of hybrid and online courses, and, in this moment of reflection, it might be a good time to get a better estimation of just how much work we’re asking our students to do in our courses. The Course Workload Estimator is a great place to start to think more critically about our syllabus and course design, in any modality.