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Course Workload Estimator: A beginning of the course assignment

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In 2017, I wrote a blog post about the federal law that mandates that at every institution of higher education in the United States that receives federal funding that students spend a minimum of two hours outside of class working on the course for every hour in class—or equivalent for online/hybrid courses. For example, if at your institution a fully face-to-face course meets 3 hours a week, students should be spending an average of 6 hours each week working on that course for a total of 9 hours. If that same course is offered online, all 9 hours of work would happen outside the classroom.

The challenge for faculty is calculating how much work is in their course. In that same blog post, I wrote about the Course Workload Estimator created by the Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University. The Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Wake Forest University adapted the code and created a new and improved estimator: Workload Estimator 2.0/Enhanced Course Workload Estimator.


Below is an assignment designed to get students to review the syllabus and think about the course from a broader perspective through the use of this Estimator. I encourage you to use the Estimator yourself to estimate the workload in your course before asking students to do it.  

Assignment instructions


When taking a road trip, it is a good idea to zoom out on the map to see where you are going and how you are going to get there. Having the big picture makes it less likely that you will encounter unexpected turns along the way. Zooming out allows you to better plan your trip. Where are you going to spend the night? What attractions are you going to stop at?

The purpose of this assignment is to help you zoom out on our course, see what you’ll be doing this term, and create a road map for how you’re going to get to the end.


Visit the Course Workload Estimator 2.0.

Use your syllabus and textbook to determine what values to enter into the Estimator.

[Note to instructor: Include any information that cannot be found in your syllabus here. For example, “For each discussion post, you are expected to write a minimum of 350 words.”]

Take a screenshot of your completed Estimator, and paste it into a document. Directly above your screenshot, please write a paragraph describing when during the week you plan on working on this course. For example, if the estimate for how much time you will need to work on this course outside of class—independently—is 6 hours, you may decide that you will work on the class one hour a day Monday through Saturday.


This assignment is worth 10 points. Eight points will be assigned for accurate completion of the Estimator—one point for each section. Two points will be assigned for a weekly work plan that matches the independent hours calculated by the Estimator.

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.