Today she followed that up with an equally useful post on questions students should ask. It includes a question that I pose to all of my students at the beginning of the semester:
@jillrooney2 Single best question: do they have 135 hours to put into this course over the next semester? So few understand that.
— Jeffrey Alan Johnson (@the_other_jeff) August 27, 2012
Students frequently don't quite get the time required for a course; the refrain of "this isn't the only class I'm taking" is all too common. To help them understand that, I work out a detailed time budget for the course, using the three-to-one rule of thumb. That's 135 hours total for a standard three-credit course at my institution. For my Introduction to Comparative Politics course this fall, the budget looks like this:
|Number||Time Each||Total Time|
|Final Exam Meeting||1||2||2|
That forms the basis for a section on my syllabus:
According to the accreditation standards that validate your degree as a legitimate one, to receive three semester credit hours requires 135 hours of study, including not more than 45 hours in class. In this course, study hours are budgeted as follows: Class meetings (44 hours), Readings (41.5 hours), Assignments (48.5 hours), Office Hour Consultations (1 hour).When I go over the syllabus, I make clear that 135 hours is a non-negotiable standard, and students should expect to do poorly if they can't put in the required time. If their time commitments don't permit that, I suggest that they should consider cutting back on either their commitments or their expectations for performance.
Since I started doing that (back when I was a full-time faculty member rather than a bean counter—but they're such glorious beans that tell us so much!) I found that I receive fewer complaints about the workload, and when I did they were specific things that I needed to respond to, e.g., "We can't get this assignment done in the time you think it will take us." That's especially good to me, as I tend to think that most students who complain about seemingly trivial things usually either have a legitimate concern but can't articulate it in relation to legitimate standards, or they have unrealistic expectations. This solves both of those concerns.