Estimating student workload during the learning design of online courses : Creating a student workload calculator

Beer, N. (2019) Estimating student workload during the learning design of online courses : Creating a student workload calculator. In: Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on e-Learning ECEL 2019 :. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, Reading, pp. 629-638. ISBN 9781912764426

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UK university students are expected to undertake 10 hours of work for each Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) credit. With face-to-face learning, this is relatively easy to quantify as x hours of contact time and the remainder made up of independent study. For online and distance learning, this is more complex. Study materials are provided for students to work through independently, but unlike face-to-face where the class ends after an hour or two, online students could continue working indefinitely. Some students will inevitably take longer than others to complete tasks, and it is therefore more difficult to ensure student workload in online courses is proportionate to the credits awarded. This paper provides a means to calculate student workload in online courses via a workload calculator, derived from a review of the literature and available at It uses Laurillard’s (2009, 2013) conversational framework activity types to categorise online course materials into task types, and provides a means of estimating the time it would take an average student to complete each task, for use in informing the design of online courses. For those task types that cannot be accurately estimated it is recommended to provide guidance on how long a student should spend on the task within the learning materials.

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26 Feb 2020 10:00
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16 Jul 2024 04:52