Balance Your Course Load– for You and Your Students

It’s that time again, faculty are busy performing the final review of their syllabi, as well as making last minute changes to their fall courses. The age-old question will most likely arise, “Am I assigning too little or too much?” in regard to readings, activities, homework, and exams. According to the Federal definition of a credit hour, “The requirement is that the institution determine that there is an amount of student work for a credit hour that reasonably approximates not less than one hour of class and two hours of out-of-class student work per week over a semester for a semester hour or a quarter for a quarter hour,“ (“Program Integrity Questions and Answers – Credit Hour.” Home, US Department of Education (ED), 21 Apr. 2016,  This refers to time expended on discussions, readings, lectures, study, research, and assignments. 

Technology can assist with identifying whether a course meets or excessively exceeds this requirement. There are several online tools and guides available to help reassure faculty that they haven’t created a class that only Superman or Superwoman could complete during one semester. Choices include:  

Course Work Load: Enter Reading Assignments, Writing Assignments, and Exams, with guide –

Time Commitment Calculator: Enter Credit Hours and Number of Weeks to calculate the expected number of hours to be devoted by traditional and online learning students each week –

While covering your syllabi that first day, you might want to share how technology, namely student cellphones, can increase the amount of time needed when completing assignments or when studying for exams. These two studies prove that the ability to multitask effectively and efficiently is a myth: No, we really can’t multitask: A demo and The cost of task switching: A simple yet very powerful demonstration

Improve your semester and student outcomes by using these tools and information to share course demands and expectations, as well as give your students tips on how to be more efficient in their studies. Have a great semester! 

Author: Martha Henckell, Ed. D., Academic Technologies


“Course Workload Estimator.” Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence, 

 “Credit Hour Workload Calculator: Academics: AIC.” Academics, 

Frantz, S., No, we really can’t multitask: A demo, October 16, 2017 retrieved 8/6/19 

“Program Integrity Questions and Answers – Credit Hour.” Home, US Department of Education (ED), 21 Apr. 2016, 

Time Commitment Calculator, 

Weinstein, Y., The cost of task switching: A simple yet very powerful demonstration. 7/28/17  retrieved 8/6/19.