I've spent much of the day reading evaluations so that I can do yearly reviews for my departmental colleagues, and I'm weirdly fascinated by one of the questions and the responses.
The question asks students to estimate how many hours per week they spend outside of class on the course. And it gives them several options, ranging from under one hour to two hours or more.
By way of background, we teach three and five credit hour courses in my department, mostly (where each hour in class is one credit, and . When I was in college, I was told I should plan to work outside of class about 3 hours for each hour inside of class, except for labs, where you'd work about an hour or an hour and a half outside for each hour in lab. Or so we were told. (I'm not sure I ever did; I wasn't the best undergrad student. But by the time I went back to school, I did at least that. And my grades reflected the change.)
Most students choose the fewer than two hours a week option. (Though in my one course last semester, 8/10 students who responded said more than two hours a week.)
Does this mean our students are smarter than before?
That we aren't demanding as much work as when I was a student?
That we may be assigning work, but it's not getting done?
Are they responding to more honest expectations? (ie. maybe the people who told me to study 3 hours outside for every hour inside were wishful thinking?)
That students work more efficiently than we did? (This HAS to be part of it. Just being able to type things up on a computer and make changes easily is SO much faster than painstakingly typing on a typewriter and having to make corrections with wite-out or whatever. Also looking stuff up is MUCH faster now.)
How should I think about those responses? I tend to think that students spending more time working outside of class reflects the course's rigor. But maybe that's wrong?
In the end, it's an interesting, but sort of useless question for me, I guess, in reviewing colleagues.