Why So Much Work?

I get a variation on the following several times each semester in blog posts:

Professors assign too much work. We have families and jobs and lives.

Well, this blog post is designed to clear up some of the questions you may (not) have about college workload!

  1. Professors have families and lives, too. Plus, everything that students do they typically grade. More work assigned = more grading.
  2. Federal credit hour definitions specifically state that for every 1 hour in class, there must be 2 hours of work outside of class, whether in reading, writing, problem sets, group meetings, building a full-scale model of the Taj Mahal, etc. To quote directly from the Dept. of Education, “The requirement is that the institution determine that there is an amount of student work for a credit hour that reasonably approximates not less than one hour of class and two hours of out-of-class student work per week over a semester for a semester hour.”
  3. Did I mention that this is the minimum?

Let’s do the math. Most college classes are 3 credit hours, which means an additional 6 hours of outside work per week. Each class therefore requires 9 hours total. If a student is taking 5 typical classes, that’s around 45 hours per week. Students who take 6 classes, or 18 hours, are looking at 54 hours per week. And the work only has to average out to that. Professors can have light weeks as long as there are heavy ones at some point in the semester.

So there’s a reason the workload feels so heavy. It IS heavy. Add a full-time job, family, activities, and fun on top of that, and there’s not much time for sleep.

CC licensed content from UBC Commons on Flickr

CC licensed content from UBC Learning Commons on Flickr

Professors could assign less work, but then they would be violating federal policy and potentially invalidating your courses (and your degree). 

Should federal definitions change in the face of the reality of today’s working college student? I would happily vote YES on that one. Until then, I do my best to come up with 6 hours of relevant, useful, outside-of-class work.



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