Student Workload

23 November 2022

Helping students manage the workload in your course is part of ensuring a successful learning experience.

When reflecting on your course and the course improvements you will make in the next offering, take some time to consider how students should allocate their time.

As per the course outline template, “the student workload hours represent the amount of time that an average or B grade student might be expected to spend to receive a passing grade”. Preparing the indicative student workload table helps you to plan a manageable course workload for your students and helps your students to allocate their time across the various components of your course.

When developing your indicative student workload, we recommend you start from a zero-base and consider:

  • The learning activities that make up the contact hours (i.e. what class sessions you have)
  • The learning activities that make up the non-contact hours (i.e. what students should do with their time outside of class sessions)
  • The total time involved in field trips and field tours (including travel)
  • The average reading speed (see more on this below)
  • The time required to complete each assessment item
  • The balance between contact hours and non-contact hours

Have a look at the example below for a 15-credit course, which has an indicative student workload higher than 150 hours with approximately 50% of the workload as contact hours. Changes that could be made to reduce the course workload include moving some of the content online and reducing the number of lectures each week, reducing the number of readings assigned each week, reducing the preparation expectations, reducing the number of assessment items, or modifying the assessment.

Contact Hours (including recorded/online classes)

Total hours (over semester)



Computer laboratory sessions


Field Trips (3 full-day trips)




Final Exam


Non-contact Hours


Reading and Class Preparation


Report 1


Report 2


Test Preparation


Final Exam Preparation


Work Experience Hours


Total Student Workload



Reading speed is an important aspect to consider when determining preparation and assessment workload hours. An average student can be expected to read 19 pages per hour if they are reading textbooks. However, if they are reading advanced, scientific, and/or technical material, this reading speed reduces to 11 pages per hour (Reading Speed Charts, n.d.). More guidance on reading speeds can be found here.

The course outline template also acknowledges that “the total student workload for a course is not spread evenly from week to week and students are expected to proactively manage their workload throughout the semester”. You can assist students with this by reviewing the timing of your assessment items. Some questions you can reflect on include:

  • Are assessments evenly spread throughout the semester?
  • Are assessments scheduled at a quiet or busy time for students in the programme/s the course contributes to?
  • Are the assessment instructions made available at the start of the semester or only days before the assessment is due?
  • When is the relevant content for the assessment item covered?


If you would like more guidance on determining your indicative student workload or redesigning aspects of your course to make it more manageable for students, have a look at our upcoming Teaching Quality Workshops. You can also contact a member of the Teaching Quality team ( for an individual consultation.