In a face-to-face course, credit hours are generally based on the hours per week the students spend in the classroom or lab, or “contact hours” with the students. A course that meets for three 50-minute periods per week during a full 15-week semester is considered 3 credit hours. But how do contact hours translate to the online environment, particularly when there are no synchronous meeting requirements?
Instead of looking at classroom contact time, we need to estimate Time on Task. The Rochester Institute of Technology has a nice page explaining this concept, but I’ll summarize here. When the course designer is putting together the course, they need to estimate how long it will take the average student to complete all of the assignments for that week, including reading assignments, videos, quizzes. discussions, group work, etc. (Wake Forest University has a workload estimator tool that will help calculate those estimations.)
As summarized in the above article, undergraduate courses use the following formula: For every 1 credit, the student has 3 hours of work each week for a full semester session. So in other words, a student in a full semester 3-credit course should expect to spend nine hours a week on the course. What happens if the course runs for a portion of the semester? The same amount of time must be devoted to the course, it’s just condensed into a shorter period of time. For example, if a 3-credit course is only half a semester, the student should expect to spend 18 hours a week on the course.
|15 weeks||8 weeks||3 weeks|
|3 Credits||9 hours per week||18 hours per week||N/A to our programs|
|2 Credits||6 hours per week||12 hours per week||30 hours per week|
|1 Credit||3 hours per week||6 hours per week||15 hours per week|
Graduate students should expect to put more time into a course. The following is our estimations by number of weeks and credit hours for graduate courses. Please note that we’ve only indicated the time on task amounts for the credit + duration combinations offered by our program.
|14 weeks||7 weeks||3 weeks|
|4 Credits||~12 hours per week||N/A||N/A|
|2 Credits||N/A||~12 hours per week||N/A|
|1.5 Credits||N/A||~9 hours per week||N/A|
|1 Credit||N/A||~6 hours per week||~12 hours per week|
Although we can provide these basic guidelines, determining how much time the work in a course would take the students each week is up to the course designer/subject matter expert.