Online Content Calculator. User Guide

        Online  Content  Calculator     User  Guide     Introduction     How  much  time  do  you  spend  lecturing  in  your  online  class?  Th...
Author: Melvyn Burke
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  Online  Content  Calculator     User  Guide  

  Introduction     How  much  time  do  you  spend  lecturing  in  your  online  class?  That  question  can  be  a   difficult  one  to  answer.  Since  many  online  courses  are  asynchronous,  students  may   speed  up  a  one-­‐hour  lecture  (I  wouldn’t  recommend  lecture  for  one  hour  under  any   circumstances  but  more  about  that  below)  and  watch  it  in  30  minutes.  Or  the  lecture   may  be  difficult  and  students  may  need  two  hours  to  understand  it.  So  how  do  you   measure  the  actual  contact  time?     That  is  not  a  rhetorical  question.  Instructors  of  online  courses  are  required  to  report   their  contact  hours,  which  must  meet  the  standards  set  forth  by  the  Carnegie   Foundation.  In  fact  the  credit  units  that  we  are  all  familiar  with,  i.e.  3-­‐credit  courses,  is   based  on  what  is  referred  to  as  the  Carnegie  Unit.  For  a  15  week,  3-­‐credit  course,  the   requirement  is  for  45  contact—that  is  classroom—hours  and  a  total  of  90  hours  of   homework  or  lab  work  in  the  course.     A  Carnegie  unit  defines  a  semester  unit  of  credit  as  equal  to  a  minimum  of   three  hours  of  work  per  week  for  a  semester.  A  16-­‐week  course  equates  to   three  hours  of  student  work  per  week  (1  hour  lecture  plus  2  hours  of   homework  or  3  hours  of  lab)  for  16  weeks.       Although  this  unit  of  measure  is  well  established  having  been  developed  by  the   Carnegie  Foundation  in  1907,  it  has  come  under  increasing  fire  with  the  recent  push   toward  competency-­‐based  education.  But  I’m  not  going  to  tackle  that  issue  here.  For   now,  we  live  with  the  Carnegie  unit,  so  how  can  an  instructor  account  for  the  work  in   an  online  course  given  the  mostly  asynchronous  nature  of  online  vs.  in-­‐class  courses?   Measuring  contact  hours  by  traditional  standards  seems  like  comparing  apples  and   oranges.     The  Carnegie  Commission  created  the  infamous  Carnegie   unit  in  an  effort  to  standardize  learning  to  support   professors.     Recently,  The  American  Public  University  System   developed  a  rather  elaborate  content  calculator  that   includes  myriad  items  like  writing,  reading,  and  web   surfing,  among  others  and  it  asks  the  instructor  to  account   for  50  minutes  of  “weekly  lecture  notes,”  as  they  put  it.   Personally  I  cannot  imagine  lecturing  for  50  minutes   weekly  in  my  online  courses.  Sitting  in  front  of  one’s   computer  screen  watching  50  minutes  worth  of  lecturing  doesn’t  seem  conducive  to   effective  learning  in  an  online  environment.  Even  in  my  in-­‐class  courses,  I  try  to  limit   my  lectures  to  20  minutes,  if  I  can  even  keep  students’  attention  for  that  long.   And,  while  one  can  certainly  routinely  utilize  Adobe  Connect  or  some  other  online   webinar  system  in  which  the  instructor  gives  a  presentation  and  then  fields  questions  



afterwards,  that  environment  is  not  most  conducive  to  online  learning.  I  don’t  know   about  you,  but  I’ve  attended  lots  of  webinars  and  find  myself  doing  what  students  tend   to  do  in  in-­‐class  courses  –  multitask  by  checking  email  or  engaging  in  other  distracting   behavior.  In  other  words,  online  lectures  really  don’t  work  well.  I,  for  one,  opt  for  video   presentations  that  average  approximately  6  minutes  in  length,  and  if  I  can  embed  a   quiz  to  assure  that  students  are  attending  to  the  material,  all  the  better.  And,  those   presentations  can  be  viewed  at  my  students’  leisure  taking  advantage  of  the   asynchronous  nature  of  online  education.  Presentations  in  smaller  increments,  in  my   opinion,  are  more  likely  to  be  viewed  all  the  way  through  without  disruption.   That  doesn’t  mean  that  I  don’t  interact  with  my  students  in  other  ways,  through  Skype   or  other  means,  and  it  doesn’t  mean  that  students  don’t  interact  with  each  other,  as   they  do  through  discussion  boards  and  collaborative  assignments.  The  point  is  that  we   need  a  different  measure  than  contact  hours  that  are  based  on  45  hours  of  classroom   lecture  during  a  15-­‐week  course  to  measure  online  courses.  Rather,  a  content  hour   programming  calculation,  I  think,  is  a  better  way  to  account  for  time  spent  in  an  online   course.  Here  are  three  reasons:     1. Developing  a  calculation  that  includes  all  of  the  activities  that  are  likely  to  be   included  in  an  online  class  can  be  eye  opening,  especially  when  you  consider  the   use  of  blogs,  wikis,  websites,  and  various  social  media  platforms  that  really   open  up  the  course.  One  needs  to  develop  equivalents  regarding  how  much  time   it  takes  not  only  to  write  a  traditional  assignment  i.e.  the  essay  or  research   paper,  but  also  how  much  time  it  takes  to  write  a  discussion  post  or  a  blog  post   or  a  wiki  assignment,  among  others.  By  including  all  of  the  activities  that  are   likely  to  be  going  on  in  an  online  class  that  extend  beyond  those  of  a  traditional   classroom,  you  can  paint  a  broader  picture  for  administrators  and  accrediting   bodies  that  are  monitoring  or  perhaps  auditing  your  program.     2. By  counting  content,  you  can  get  a  better  idea  of  the  educational  mix  in  your   class.  Do  you  have  too  many  videos  and  not  enough  writing  in  your  online   course?  How  do  you  know  if  you  don’t  measure  the  time  it  takes  to  watch  a   presentation,  read  an  article  or  write  an  assignment.  Courses  can  become   unbalanced  in  one  direction  or  another.  Calculating  the  percentage  of  time  for   all  activities  provides  the  instructor  with  a  greater  sensibility  of  where  their   course  is  more  heavily  weighted.  Knowing  this  information  provides  an   opportunity  for  the  instructor  to  re-­‐balance  the  course  should  it  be  weighted   more  heavily  in  one  direction  or  another.  In  other  words,  the  content  hour   calculation  can  also  become  an  excellent  course-­‐planning  tool.     3. You  can  give  students  guidance  about  how  much  time  they  should  be  spending   on  each  assignment.  Because  the  online  learning  environment  is  new,  students   have  little  clue  if  it  should  take  them  two  minutes  to  compose  a  blog  post  or  two   hours.  Even  if  you  provide  a  target  word  count  some  will  overwrite  or  under   write.  As  the  instructor  having  calculated  the  time  it  takes  to  complete  all  the   activities  in  the  course,  you  can  post  on  the  course  learning  management  system   the  expected  amount  of  time  that  students  will  spend  composing  a  discussion  



post,  reading  a  book,  or  doing  research  for  a  writing  assignment,  among  other   activities.  Such  calculations  provide  online  students  with  a  guideline  regarding   how  much  time  they  should  invest  in  the  activity.  Therefore,  if  you  identify  an   assignment  for  which  students  are  expected  to  spend  two-­‐hours  doing  research,   students  will  have  a  clear  expectation  and  can  measure  their  own  engagement   with  the  activity  against  the  suggested  time  frame.     Contact  hours  or  content  hours.  Reporting  hours  in  a  course  is  still  status  quo  for  both   online  and  in-­‐class  courses.  But  the  calculations  can  serve  more  than  a  bureaucratic   purpose,  as  calculating  content  hours  is  a  useful  planning  device  for  online  instructors   and  those  calculations  can  provide  students  with  clear  and  understandable   expectations  regarding  the  time  it  takes  to  accomplish  various  tasks  and  activities  in  an   online  course.       What  can  this  calculator  do?     This  calculator  is  concerned  with  content  hours,  not  contact  hours.  Content  hours  are  a   useful  measure,  as  described  above,  for  reporting  purposes  and  for  planning  purposes.   The  number  of  content  hours  in  your  online  course  can  also  be  helpful  for  students   who  want  to  plan  out  their  own  time  and  level  of  engagement  in  your  online  course.         What  information  do  you  need  to  have  available?     The  calculator  is  based  on  an  interactive  PDF  form.  You  will  fill  in  the  blanks  based  on   the  content  of  your  course.  The  form  will  do  the  calculations  for  you  and  provide  you   with  a  total  number  of  content  hours  in  your  online  course.  A  15-­‐week  course  will  have   approximately  135  content  hours.  If  your  course  has  many  more  hours,  it  may  behoove   you  to  change  the  amount  of  work—that  is  content—in  the  course.  If  too  few  hours  are   in  the  course  content,  you  may  want  to  consider  additional  work.  Every  course  in  the   Emerging  Media  program  does  not  have  to  meet  the  135-­‐hour  mark.  It  is  expected  that   some  courses  will  have  more  hours  and  some  fewer;  however,  all  of  the  courses  in  the   program  should  average  out  to  that  amount.         What  criteria  are  the  calculations  based  upon?       The  basic  assumptions  upon  which  the  calculations  are  based  have  been  derived  from   the  work  of  the  American  Public  University,  an  online  program.  Those  basic   assumptions  are  discussed  under  the  label  of  each  form  of  content.  However,  in   general,  the  following  calculations  were  utilized:          




How  to  Work  with  the  Content  Calculator  

  Step-­‐By-­‐Step  Guide     You  want  to  begin  working  with  the  form  by  filling  out  the  top  portion.  The  example   here  is  from  ME601,  Exploring  Digital  Culture.  It’s  important  that  you  fill  in  the  number   of  students  in  the  course,  as  that  number  will  affect  the  total  content  hours.      

  The  first  section  is  for  the  discussion  boards.    You  only  need  to  fill  in  the  first  column,   and  the  calculator  will  do  the  rest  of  the  work  for  you.    This  is  what  the  blank  for  looks   like:      


    This  second  image  of  the  form  provides  an  example  of  fields  that  have  been  filled  in.  In   this  particular  course  there  are  five  discussion  boards.  You  may  require  a  discussion   post  smaller  or  larger  than  500  words.  For  this  course,  the  number  of  words  in  a  post   has  been  pegged  at  500.  Over  time  you  may  determine  a  better  average  number  of   words  to  determine  the  number  for  this  section.       As  there  are  give  discussion  forums  in  the  course,  and  the  instructor  has  determined   that  each  student  will  post  to  the  discussion  board  2  times  for  each  discussion,  the   “initial  posting  by  student”  column  will  read  10  or  2  x  the  number  of  discussions,  which   equals  5.        


It  has  been  pre-­‐determined  that  reading  the  discussion  board  will  take  twenty  five   minutes,  and  a  calculation  will  automatically  be  filled  in  determining  the  amount  of   time  allotted  to  reading  a  discussion  post.     Students,  in  the  example,  are  required  to  comment  or  reply  to  at  least  two  discussion   posts.  And,  the  instructor  has  made  the  determination  that  those  replies  will  be   approximately  250  words  each.  Again,  this  figure  regarding  the  length  of  the  comment   or  reply,  as  well  as  the  length  of  the  posts,  will  vary  among  instructors.      

  You  can  begin  to  fill  out  this  section  for  writing  assignments  by  identifying  the   number  of  writing  assignment  you  have  in  the  course.  Please  fill  in  that  number,  as  it   will  determine  the  rest  of  the  calculations.  Where  you  see  a  zero  in  the  form  there  is  no   need  for  you  to  fill  in  a  number.  This  will  be  a  calculated  number  based  on  the  number   of  assignments  and  the  number  of  pages.  For  a  final  paper,  you  need  to  indicate  the   number  of  pages  assigned.      

  VoiceThread  is  a  tool  whose  use  can  vary.  In  some  instances,  instructors  may  use   VoiceThread  as  a  space  to  create  short  video  reflections  to  which  an  entire  class  will   contribute.  In  other  instances,  individual  students  may  create  their  own  VoiceThread   for  the  class  to  view.  And,  in  other  instances  faculty  may  use  VoiceThread  to  give  a  





short  presentation.  In  this  part  of  the  calculator,  you  will  need  to  identify  the  number   of  VoiceThreads  required  during  the  course  and  the  expected  length  of  the  thread.      

    In  this  space,  you  will  identify  the  titles  of  the  books  being  read  for  the  entire  course,   and  you  will  need  to  determine  the  number  of  pages  in  each  book.  If  your  students  are   reading  part  of  a  book,  then  indicate  the  number  of  pages  they  will  be  required  to  read.      

  In  addition  to  reading  books,  you  may  have  uploaded  PDF  files  to  Moodle  or  you  may   include  links  to  articles  that  are  accessible  on  the  web.  Similar  to  books,  identify  the   articles  or  PDF  files  and  the  number  of  pages  in  each.    




    Instructors  will  vary  in  their  use  of  technologies  for  video  presentations.  Some  may   utilize  Camtasia  software  for  creating  video  presentations  that  may  be  accessible  on  or  via  Camtasia’s  server.  Other  instructors  may  utilize   Panopto  from  within  Moodle  in  order  to  record  presentations.  In  either  case,  use  this   section  to  provide  a  title  of  the  presentation  and  the  number  of  minutes  of  recorded   material.        

  In  some  instances  instructors  will  include  videos  from,  Ted  Talks,  or   other  long  or  short  form  videos.  In  this  section,  you  will  provide  the  title  of  each  video   included  in  the  course  and  the  length  of  the  video.      





  In  addition  to  Camtasia  and  Panopto  or  recorded  videos  available  on  the  web,   instructors  may  create  interactive  presentations  or  discussions  by  utilizing  Adobe   Connect  Sessions,  Google  Hangouts  or  perhaps  Skype/Facetime/Lync  conversations   with  students.  Here  you  will  want  give  such  presentations  or  discussions  a  title  and   indicate  the  number  of  minutes  in  the  session.      

  In  many  courses,  instructors  will  include  links  to  external  websites  they  want   students  to  peruse.    This  section  is  for  websites  to  which  students  will  pay  cursory   attention.  This  section  of  the  calculator  will  provide  a  generalized  estimation  of  time  a   student  will  likely  spend  on  such  a  website  viewing  content.  In  this  section  you  can   provide  a  label  or  URL  for  the  website,  the  number  1  should  be  included  in  the  first   column.    





    Other  research  websites  that  an  instructor  may  require  students  to  visit  may  have   interactive  features  that  require  Time  spent  on  interactive  web  sites,  performing   calculations  or  filling  out  forms,  among  other  activities.  Please  use  this  space  to  identify   the  website  and  indicate  a  1,  2,  or  3  depending  on  how  deeply  you  would  expect  a   student  to  go  into  the  site.  You  could  also  think  of  this  as  a  multiplying  of  the  value  of   time  spend  on  a  website.  In  the  calculator  the  basic  assumption  is  that  students  are   allotted  20  minutes  per  website.  If  you  indicate  a  2,  the  value  will  be  calculated  at   double.    

    This  final  section  is  concerned  with  quizzes  and  exams.  The  calculator  allots  for  study   time  as  well  as  time  to  take  an  exam.  Calculations  are  made  for  quizzes,  mid-­‐term  and   final  exams.    





Appendix*     The  calculations  utilized  in  constructing  the  calculator  are  based  on  the  following   assumptions.       Composition  speed  for  discussion  board  postings:  25  words  written  per  minute.       Time  provided  fro  composing  discussion  board  postings:  20  minutes  allotted  per   discussion  board.         Reading  peers’  discussion  board  posts:  read  at  180  words  per  minute.  The  assumption   is  also  made  that  students  read  all  of  their  peers’  posting  for  the  duration  of  the  course.       Reading  instructor’s  feedback:  10  minutes  allotted  per  graded  assignment  for  the   student  to  review  instructor’s  feedback.       Quizzes:  60  minutes  allotted  for  taking  a  quiz,  and  60  minutes  prep  time.       Weekly  lecture  notes:  this  would  refer  to  instructor  presentations  at  50  minutes   allotted  for  lecture.     Links  to  external  websites:  20  minutes  per  URL.     Midterm  Exam:  three  hours  allotted  for  taking  the  exam  and  10  hours  for   studying/prep.       Final  Exam:  three  hours  allotted  for  taking  the  exam,  10  hours  for  studying/prep,  or  20   hours  for  study  and  prep  when  no  mid-­‐term  is  given     General  reading  assumption:  250  words  per  double-­‐spaced,  typed  page.       Reading  course  materials:  200  words  read  per  miute  or  180  words  read  per  minute  for   electronic  materials.       Miscellaneous  assignments:  120  minutes  granted  per  miscellaneous  assignment.       Composing  a  formal  writing  assignment:  there  are  120  minutes  granted  for   preparation  time,  20  words  written  per  minute,  and  30  minutes  are  granted  for  each   page  of  writing.       Conducting  research  for  a  formal  writing  assignment:  120  minutes  granted  per  page  of   writing.      



*These  assumptions  are  taken  from  Administration  Issues  Journal:  Education,  Practice,   and  Research,  Vol.  2,  Issue  2,  “Quantifying  Online  Learning  Contact  Hours,”  Powell,  K.,  J.   Stephens-­‐Helm,  M.  Layne,  and  P.  Ice.