Do I have enough content in my course?
Now there is a question I would guess many people have either asked or been asked. For blended and online developments in particular I have this conversation time and time again. Of course there is a particular pedagogical paradigm and teaching style bias that is just underneath the surface. Let’s for a minute just let that bias slip by, further consultations and developments with instructors provide space for deeper conversations, right now the panic has set in, “my course starts soon!”
Going back to much older courses, where only print resources were available, we might look at the number of pages as an extremely rough estimate or proxy for student study time. A student taking several courses might have one class where there is maybe 20 pages of readings per week, and another that has 20 chapters! (Hopefully I’m exaggerating, but there is one particular course development I worked on where – against all recommendations – about 400 pages of readings were assigned. Couple that with the fact it was a seminar course of maybe a 12 hour equivalent, it didn’t surprise me that almost all student feedback came back with notes about the heavy reading load).
Estimating reading speeds is next to impossible. In a class of 10 students or 100 students you’ll have a range that have different reading speeds, but also different reading strategies. Ok, what about video? Surely we can estimate the amount of time students will take to watch the video because I know the video is 14 minutes and 11 seconds. Perhaps. But again, students might interact with that video more than once, watch it at half speed, or at double speed. They might even skip over it.
Another complicating factor are the supplementary or branches that are in the learning material itself. The infamous “for more information” or “for a closer look at topic X” some students might take each and every path provided to them.
Lastly (off the top of my head anyway), we have learning activities built into the module/week/lesson. How long will it take a student to participate in the discussion? How much time will it take students to write a 2000 word essay, and is that reasonable? The only rule of thumb I’ve come across for that one is for you to do the task yourself, then multiple that by at least 4. That rule stems from my days as an Industrial Arts teacher so I’m not so sure about it’s translation to writing papers.
Our team came across How Much Should We Assign? Estimating Out of Class Workload from Rice University’s CTE. It sparked conversation, and questions about course design for sure, although I’ll be the first to admit any estimation will still be quite rough. Ultimately I know it is important for us to balance what we ask of our students with the expectations associated with completing higher ed courses. I’m not sure that asking “do I have enough content” is the right question at all in closing in on that balance.
How do you think about the balance between student time on task for a course, expectations in the course, and the reality that many students have other commitments?