Online Course Workload for Students and Faculty

Dear Colleagues, 

As we progress through the semester, some CoE undergraduate and graduate students are reporting increased stress and difficulty due to perceived excessive workload in some of their online courses. As we are learning, the online context is completely different than in-person learning. Even an identical set of expectations may seem greater due to navigating new platforms and modes of interaction, and may be compounded by external pressures. If you are able, please consider making adjustments that may alleviate the online course workload for both you and your students. 

Here are some resources to help: 


Hybrid and online courses require an equivalent amount of instruction and student work as required by in-person courses. However, it is important to estimate how long it will take the average student to complete all of the unsupervised course assignments for each week, including homework, reading assignments, videos, quizzes, discussions, group work, and additional lectures or recordings.

  • It is generally accepted that a 50-minute pre-recorded lecture satisfies the requirement for students of one contact hour of faculty-led instruction.

  • Faculty who have pre-recorded their lectures are not required to conduct additional course activities during the regularly scheduled class time. Instead, they may choose to use this time for office hours, 1:1 appointments, or other work related to the course.

  • Students are expected to perform at least 2-3 hours of work outside of class each week per credit hour. Therefore, 6-9 hours of work outside of class each week would be an appropriate workload for a 3 credit course. Work outside of class would include additional lectures or recordings beyond the 50-minute pre-recorded lecture. 

Guidance on defining the academic credit hour is available here. More information related to the CoE credit hour policy can be found in the CoE Bulletin, on the CoE Curriculum Committee site, and outlined at the bottom of this email. The online tools available here and here may also be helpful as you estimate the appropriate workload for your courses. 


This post from the Nexus Faculty Resources Blog discusses the benefits, use cases, and considerations of incorporating pre-recorded lectures into online courses — including alleviating schedule constraints.

  • Incorporating the strengths of both synchronous and asynchronous methods makes it possible to manage course workloads while incorporating learner engagement.
  • Faculty who are interested in pre-recording their lectures and other course content should take advantage of Nexus’ recording studios by submitting this short form.  


As always, faculty and students who are seeking support are encouraged to take advantage of one of the many resources available to them, including Nexus, CRLT-E, and the C.A.R.E. Center

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have. Thank you for your continued commitment to our students.

Best regards, 

Mary-Ann Mycek, Associate Dean for Graduate & Professional Education
Joanna Millunchick, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education 


  • Course credit is based on contact hours (time spent by students engaged with the course instructor) for all Engineering courses. This means one contact hour per credit hour in a week for Lectures, Discussions, and Recitations. 
  • For each credit earned per full academic term, students are expected to receive at least one contact hour of instruction and perform at least two to three hours of work outside of class each week.  
  • Independent Study, Special Topics, Experiential and Seminar courses have the same total engagement requirements (contact hours plus hours of additional work) as listed above with the understanding that engagement may not be scheduled on a weekly basis as determined at the department level. 
  • Laboratory sections are expected to meet for at least two hours for each credit earned.
  • Hybrid and Online courses require an equivalent amount of instruction and student work as required by in-person courses.