Inspired by Michael Holquist’s challenge to the MLA to dialogue about the CCSI, what it means for us, and our relationship to secondary education, this is a space for discussion of standards, assessment, and our role in this process.

Concerned about a new federal regulation

2 replies, 2 voices Last updated by  N. S. Boone 7 years, 2 months ago
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  • #1626

    N. S. Boone
    Participant
    @nsboone

    I am writing to ask if anyone knows anything more specific about a supposed new federal regulation that demands instructors at the college level to calculate the amount of hours it will take students to complete their assignments for every class.  From what I understand of this regulation, it will lead to little more than an extreme waste of our time as teachers of literature.  We will need to figure up the average amount of time it will take students to read assignments, write papers, do any particular homework or activity, etc.  The idea, I think, behind this regulation is that college’s need to show that their courses are demanding enough work from students.

    I think this is unnecessary on many counts, the first being that I, as a highly trained, experienced teacher, know what is or isn’t enough work for a 3 or 2 or 4 hour class.  Secondly, I have a department chair that reviews my syllabus every semester, as well as a dean who supposedly does as well.  In other words, there is already a local bureaucracy in place to determine whether or not my work-load on students is too much or too little.  We shouldn’t be required to submit to a Washington D.C.-generated calculator to determine if we are doing are jobs correctly.

    #1633

    Ingeborg Walther
    Participant
    @waltheri

    I am not (yet) aware of any new federal regulations requiring instructors to calculate the amount of hours it will take students to complete their assignments for every class, but I do know that with the rise of online courses, the issue of “credit hours” is becoming more complex. It used to be that a 3 credit course required 3 “contact hours” per week for a period of roughly 15 weeks, but in an online course, what constitutes a “contact hour” is difficult to determine. I thought it might be useful to post our accrediting body’s policy statement on “credit hours” (see file: SACS/COC policy statement on credit hour). It includes the federal definition of the credit hour, as well as the SACS/COC guidelines for flexibility in interpretation.

    I agree that the idea behind any proposed new regulation is probably the need to show that courses are demanding enough work from students, and that this should be unnecessary, but we should also keep in mind that not all college instructors are highly trained and experienced, and not all department chairs review syllabi, nor do all deans. I also know that at my (private, research I university) there are courses that appear to require very little work from students, at least according to student self-reports. I was told by my chair when I arrived that each course should require a total of approximately 10 hours of work (in class and out of class combined) per week (for a total of 40 hours per week for a full course load of 4 courses in a semester system) from students, and I’ve tried to prepare assignments accordingly. Now, as an administrator, I’ve had access to student course evaluation data that show that on many courses students spend fewer than 5 hours per week total. It’s of course unclear whether this is because they are not doing what has been assigned, or because the instructor has not assigned enough. It is also likely that in many courses, students coast along week to week doing not much, but then spend masses of hours at midterm and end-of-term studying for exams and writing papers.

    Some of the studies that have been done on for-credit online courses show that they require more “time-on-task” from students, and thus students do better, overall. That of course also depends on how the course is set up and structured. In any case, I think the issue of time-on-task and credit hours is going to be more closely scrutinized, and it may not be an entirely bad thing if it leads to better pedagogy. I would hope that discussions around this could happen internally, as part of the normal assessment process, and not externally imposed by some new federal law.

    #1640

    N. S. Boone
    Participant
    @nsboone

    Thank you very much for the SACS information and for your own insights.  At a recent faculty meeting, faculty were led to believe that each course was required, by dint of federal injunction, to have its total number of student-work hours measured–each reading assignment, paper, etc. had to be assigned a particular amount of “credit hour time.”  After reading the SACS policy you sent me, and then looking at what my institution has posted on its website, I see that this credit hour calculation scheme is not a federal regulation per se, but only the way our institution has decided to abide by the new credit hour definition.  As I wrote, I don’t think requiring each instructor to calculate the time he or she thinks each student will work on each assignment is a good use of teacher time.  I would rather department chairs or deans look at overall course requirements and meet with faculty to make sure that each course is basically meeting the standards set forth by the federal credit hour definition.  But, then again, I’m speaking from a faculty, not administrative, perspective.  Just for fun, I’m going to try to attach my university’s policy on credit hour calculation.  I wouldn’t suggest you implement it, but maybe you’ll find something useful in it (if only in a negative way).  Thanks again for all your help.

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