Almost every year, a discussion between students, academic advisers and department heads crops up about how to properly evaluate what constitutes an appropriate workload for a class with a designated number of credits.
The official University of Minnesota policy on assessing workload for a given course is that a student will have, on average, three hours of academic work per week for every credit that the class is worth. This policy represents the number of hours a student is expected to put in for a class per week in order to receive an average grade in the course. But students know this policy is not applicable across all departments, and standardization of workloads in a sequence of classes in the same department is rare.
A Minnesota Daily article published April 24 reported several online institutions’ switch to competency-based models of learning evaluation instead of the seemingly archaic credit-hour system. Competency-based programs, according to the Daily, associate credits with “skills gained rather than seat time in class, allowing for accelerated, less expensive education.”
While these models may be successful for online institutions and technical degrees, the University should not look to this type of learning evaluation as a means of evolving the “credit-hour” system we have in place. Instead, the University needs a revamp of its credit-workload policies to more honestly reflect the rigor of academic work both inter- and intra-departmentally.
Faculty and department heads should consult with students before changing the number of credits for core classes, and student credit-to-workload evaluations should be included in class descriptions during registration so other students can be more informed when scheduling for upcoming semesters.