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Calculate course time for online teaching

As per Concordia’s Calendar, “student academic activity is measured according to the credit system”, and “each credit represents a minimum of 45 hours of academic activity, including lectures, tutorials, laboratories, studio or practice periods, examinations, and personal work”. As such, a 3-credit course is equivalent to 135 hours.

Course type and estimated time

Course Type

Face-to-Face Time

Academic Activity Total Course Hours
Traditional face-to-face class 1.45 - 2.45 hours/week 7-8 hours/week 135 hours
Online course with synchronous meetings or labs 1 hour/week 9 hours/week
Online asynchronous course -- 10 hours/week

Manage student workload

With remote teaching, planning student workload takes on a new significance. Students, like faculty and staff, are experiencing extraordinary and challenging personal circumstances. The demands of trying to understand the organizational structure of each course within Zoom and Moodle, the digital literacy skills needed to learn remotely (that not all possess equally), the time management skills needed to stay on top of asynchronous course work (Moodle) are all contributing to increased student anxiety and stress.

For this reason, faculty are encouraged to be mindful of student workload and build in flexibility where possible. Most students are taking 4 or 5 courses per semester and therefore it is important to ensure that the total amount of course work reflects an appropriate student workload.

The following guidelines are intended to help faculty plan courses with a balanced workload and help reduce student anxiety.

1. Communicate course learning outcomes and expectations. Post your course syllabus on Moodle as early as possible and include a list of assignments, readings, deliverables, due dates, and expected workload to help students improve their workload management strategies. Some faculty conduct a survey at the beginning of the course to get student feedback on course workload and expectations.  

2. Calculate your course workload. Keep the expected workload for your course under 10 hours per week.

  • This workload estimator will help calculate the amount of time the average student will take to work through and complete all of the assignments, exams, and other learning tasks in your course. This includes face-to-face or virtual lectures, seminars, study, experiential learning activities, placements, labs, studios, simulations, preparation for projects, and examinations. If you determine that the student workload exceeds ten hours per week, a good approach is to prioritize course content that aligns directly with your learning outcomes.
  • The Proxy Method is another appproach to calculating student time. To use this method simply estimate how long it would take you to complete a particular task and then multiply that number by 3. Research indicates it takes the average student about 3x longer than it would take an expert to complete that same task. (Carnegie Mellon University, 2013).

3. Create a clear and consistent weekly structure. Create a user-friendly system to organize the content, tasks, and activities in yoru course Moodle page. This system should be consistent over the 13 weeks. For example, each week, students need to be clear about what they must do, what to review, what to watch, and what to post or submit. This way each section in your Moodle course becomes your student weekly learning guide.

4. Collect student feedback. Ask students how much time they are spending on course tasks per week. This will give you an idea of the workload and indicate if you need to adjust for the remainder of the course.

5. Prioritize assessment activities. If you are giving students an assignment in a given week, consider moving all other activities to a different week to help students manage time and workload across their courses.

6. Set flexible due dates. Set due dates for assignments as flexible as possible and consider waiving penalties or allowing a one-time only exemption for a late submission.

Task and time break-down for a single week

Task Time
Posting a response to an Instructor prompt .5 hour
Viewing three, 15-minute lectures (text or video), with web links  1 hour
Reviewing lectures and exploring links .5 hour
Posting a short “knowledge check” self-assessment statement to the drop box .5 hour
Reading assignments 1 hour
Completing a 10-item online quiz 1 hour
Live Zoom session (short lecture and Q & A) 1 hour
Posting to discussions (original post, responses to three classmates’ posts, responses to responses) 2 hour
Small group project meetings (web conference or asynchronous discussion) 1 hour
Work on final research paper and presentation 1.5 hour
Total 10 hours

Adapted from: Example tasks and completion times for one week of a 16-week, 3-credit online course (Turner, 2005)


McDaniel, E. A. (2011). Level of student effort should replace contact time in course design. Journal of Information Technology Education10(10).

Powell, K., Stephens‐Helm, J., Layne, M., & Ice, P. (2012). Quantifying Online Learning Contact Hours. Administration Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research, 2(2).

Starenko, M. (2017, February). Time on Task in Online Courses. Rochester Institute of Technology.

Turner, T. (2005). Student workload in the online course: Balancing on a rule-of-thumb. Educator’s Voice, 6(3).

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