Have you ever taken a trip with a tour group? Or looked at an itinerary of places and activities to see if it meets your expectations and/or fits into your schedule? Most guided tours include an itinerary with a list of destinations, activities, and time allotted. This helps travelers manage their expectations and time.
Now, have you ever thought of an online course as a guided trip? The instructor is similar to a tour guide, leading student travelers to their destination. And, like travelers, students naturally want to know what to expect and how much time to commit to their learning. They could benefit from a detailed itinerary, or schedule of activities, that includes estimated time commitment for each week.
As an instructional designer for hybrid and online courses, I like to include a detailed schedule for each week to help students organize their time and stay on task. In order to determine what is on that schedule, I begin the design process with a draft of the course syllabus that outlines where the students are headed (learning outcomes) and how the instructor knows they arrived (assessments). This draft helps me understand the instructor’s plans for the course. Together, we look at the learning outcomes and assessments, as well as course requirements like credit hours to determine appropriate learning activities along the way. The course credit hours inform the workload requirements for students. For example, Oregon State University is on the quarter system and their policy states that one credit hour is equivalent to 3-4 hours of course work each week. If a course is worth 3 credit hours, then students should expect to dedicate 9-12 hours each week to their course. I use a workload estimator created by The Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University to help with the estimates. This tool provides a reasonable estimation of the workload expectations for students and can be used to verify whether the course meets the university’s guidelines for the assigned credit hours. (For more information on how the estimates are made, see the Rice University CTE blog post.)
While all of this information is useful to instructors, I also encourage them to share a weekly list of activities along with the calculations with students. Tour guides provide detailed schedules informing travelers where they are going, the order of the activities, and the time allotted to each activity, why not do that for students? Below, I’ve included a sample for how I do this in my courses. I create a weekly table on an introduction page at the beginning of each module within our LMS. This table includes a suggested order of the activities, the estimated time commitment to complete the activities, along with the official due dates. Anecdotally, students appreciate the schedule and use it to manage their time. I encourage you to consider using a detailed schedule with your future courses.
Barre, E. (2016, July 11). How much should we assign? Estimating out of class workload [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://cte.rice.edu/blogarchive/2016/07/11/workload.
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