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Class Organization and Workload

Double-check student workload with the Workload Estimator

Faculty sometimes underestimate the time it takes novices to get through reading containing unfamiliar terms. Similarly, writing workloads vary by the type of the writing and the outcomes: personal reflections in a discussion board, for instance, are far less time-consuming to write than academic essays. Even there, however, lots of smaller writing assignments can add up to substantial student workload.

Once you have your class set up, we encourage you to check the time required with the student workload calculator. A three credit hour class typically has six hours of work outside three hours of synchronous meetings (9 hours total). A student taking five courses at these rates already has significantly more than forty hours of work assigned a week. 

The link to the estimator is below. The research behind the tool is linked from there as well.

You might want to note the following definitions to use it effectively:

Page Density

  • 450 words: Typical of paperback pages, as well as the 6″ x 9″ pages of academic journal articles
  • 600 words: Typical of academic monograph pages
  • 750 words: Typical of textbook pages that are 25% images, as well as the full-size pages of two-column academic journal articles 

Text Difficulty

  • No New Concepts: The reader knows the meaning of each word and has enough background knowledge to immediately understand the ideas expressed
  • Some New Concepts: The reader is unfamiliar with the meaning of some words and doesn’t have enough background knowledge to immediately understand some of the ideas expressed.
  • Many New Concepts: The reader is unfamiliar with the meaning of many words and doesn’t have enough background knowledge to immediately understand most of the ideas expressed

Reading Purpose

  • Survey: Reading to survey main ideas; OK to skip entire portions of text
  • Understand:  Reading to understand the meaning of each sentence
  • Engage:  Reading while also working problems, drawing inferences, questioning, and evaluating


The workload calculator was not designed with the pandemic in mind. It is worth considering that we are all less productive during this pandemic, for a variety of reasons, and you may want to account for that by multiplying the result of the calculator by a chosen percentage. E.g. if the calculator gives you an outcome of 4 hours a week and you believe that most things are taking students 25% longer because of pandemic issues, it is reasonable to add this in (e.g. 4 * 1.25 = 5). This is obviously at your discretion, but as the credit hour definition is rooted in time expected to complete tasks, and such calculations should be rooted in real-world conditions, not idealized circumstances.

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