Last week, I was catching up on episodes of Bonni Stachowiak’s Teaching in Higher Ed podcast (highly recommended!), and listened to a fascinating discussion with guest Angela Jenks during the Syllabus Resources episode. They were chatting about their own experiences realizing they had assigned too much reading, or too-difficult texts, in the past. They discovered this initially by listening to their students, but verified it using a tool listed in the episode resources: the Course Workload Estimator from Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence.
The Course Workload Estimator is an online calculator that allows you to consider reading, writing, exams, and other assignments as related to the number of weeks of your course. The estimator considers the weekly page count, page density, difficulty, and purpose to estimate how many pages students can read per hour. For writing, in addition to page count and page density, the estimator considers the genre or purpose of the writing as well as the amount of revision expected, to come up with an amount of time it takes students to write one page. Beneath the calculator, the tool authors explain their assumptions and the research behind those assumptions. The estimator allows manual adjustments so you can compensate if you disagree with how the estimates are calculated. Try it out and you will receive an estimate for the number of hours students will have to work outside of class to complete your assignments. You can then compare that to your Instructional Contact Hours & Out-of-Class Student Work Hours and see whether you are assigning enough work, too much work, or just the right amount.