Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Estimating Student Workload

I find it challenging to identify a suitable student workload for some of my courses in particular because some students are very keen to learn a lot about a particular topic/s while others are just trying to do whatever it takes to get through, what seems to be a ‘c’s get degree’s’ type attitude. So, in some instances I may be guilty of giving particular students too much information.

Perhaps I need to make it absolutely clear to students what is expected of them so as to cater for those motivated to ‘get by’ while also providing suitable information, links, resources etc for those who ‘want to know everything’.

I need to take heed of
Lockwood’s suggestion that “more is not better”
and take more of a quality approach in regards to the sources of information I would like students to review.


Readability of resources is another important factor which can enhance or hinder the learning of my students. At the OISA we have an often challenging intake of students in terms of their level of academic experience. For example, in one of my courses I’ve had former Masters level students studying alongside students who have not completed high school. How can I challenge each of these sets of students while at the same time keep them interested in the material?

One way to cater to the needs of such a diverse array of students is to make students aware of a variety of learning resources enabling them to use those that are best suited to their level of understanding. Such resources will…hopefully, enable students to push their own boundaries, while feeling competent and confident in the learning environment.


  1. Hi Gary
    I agree with your comments on offering a range of resources to students especially when working with group whose individual abilities are so diverse, this way each student feels valued and able to move forward at their own level.
    I’m a keen supporter of Lockwood’s philosophy that “more is not better”. There has to be enough to trigger interest and enthusiasm but too much just becomes overwhelming and learners want to file the course in the too hard basket.
    cheers Heather

  2. Hi Heather

    Nice to hear from you!

    This is something I think you do really well in the courses I've done with you. You seem to have a real knack for developing interest in topics without leading the learner into that sense of, "this is just too much"!

    Thanks for your comments Heather.

  3. I have this problem too.. knowing the balance between what is enough to complete, and what is more than enough for those with extra motivations. ANd then I make it harder for myself by relying on so much technology, as a kind of attempt to slip some extra (not so hidden) curriculum in there to try and address some info literacy issues in the Poly. And then again.. trying to find that sweet spot where participants can start and finish when they like, self pace or group pace as they like, and learn for free or 'get a degree' as they like.. all while trying to operate the course on the smell of an oily rag. Its a harsh learning circut sometimes ...

  4. Yes it is always tempting to provide too much information. Your idea is logical: " I need to make it absolutely clear to students what is expected of them so as to cater for those motivated to ‘get by’ while also providing suitable information, links, resources etc for those who ‘want to know everything’."

    Keep the must know stuff specific and give students a choice of things to explore in topics which might interest them The danger of course is that they will still think they might miss something if they don't look at everything. So perhaps the way to go is to ask students to contribute one or two resources to the class to share. Do you think that would work with your groups?

  5. That's a good idea Bronwyn and it could work. I think in order to get them to do that though, with my group of students, I'd have to throw some marks on it as an incentive to ensure that they all contribute. As always there will be those that jump right in and those that slide by. Myself and my students would also need some clear direction as to what are "appropriate" resources.

  6. Gary to work out what are appropriate resources, you could use a tutorial to start the class off and give them some direction on how to go about it, and what to look for. For example, the rubric you develop as a checklist for your students to use to critique the suitability of the resource/information they find, could have things on it such as:
    What information is provided?
    Is the information relevant to the topic?
    What key points does it provide?
    Is the source reliable? (currency - when was the website last updated; status of the author - known in the field/discipline; accuracy of the information - you might have to scan it to make sure)

    How does the resource improve their subject knowledge? (Provides facts, stimulates thinking, extends the subject matter etc.)
    How interactive is the resource? (on the basis of visual, audio, presentation, text - chunks which are easy to read, use of questions, quizzes, discussion topics)
    How does it help them to learn? How would they use it?

    Just a start and I am happy to help further with this.

  7. HI Gary - from a student buddy perspective - inspiring to read thanks and see the simple yet in depth display of your model - so thanks for that. My two thoughts - and I guess this is what I am trying to achieve in my presentation shoudl I ever get it done - is the possibility of opening up the transition divide between what the student is there for and where they have come from..
    so maybe in the first session instead of saying this is what Sports Psychology is - maybe they coud define what Sports Psychology means to them? This way they can head off to establish a deep and personal relationship with the course? - at the same time defining their interest measures/ continuum?/scaffold - motivation (motivation probably means something reasonably specific in a Sports Psychology course so may not be the first word to learn? although it seems obvious?)
    Just questions really. The other thought - its a time issue which you have brought up alot..so what if the students had update evaluations of technology usage - its wierd - youth seem to absorb technology.. do they dont they is a bit moot I know - my point is that maybe your course could have markers for use of technology? Not so much a review of the technology skills levels but assignments which demonstrate deeper levels of expertise in their skills as sports psychologists? I am finding this quite interesting in the marking of students blogged work - dont know if it will work in Moodle and Elluminate seems to be more of a platform for knowledge dissemination? Hmm _ I guess Im sorting out some of my own problematics here.. Q. How can you use your selected techno bases as an interweave function for embedded learning - I think thats the question - I have found this in the time it takes to mark student work with technology - takes a lot of time but seems to be a valuable site for deep learning?
    Hope this is not too long...Kindest and good wishes Felicity