Contact Hours and Workload

All Emory College courses adhere to the same contact hour standards, whether offered in-person or online.

Visit the links on the right or read below for more information on contact hour requirements and how to balance workload in online courses.

Emory University Contact Time Policy

According to university policy, "Emory University defines contact time as 50 minutes of engaged instruction [per credit hour] per week over the course of a 15-week semester."

In a typical in-person course, engaged instruction is synonymous with class meeting times. In online courses, both synchronous meetings and certain asynchronous activities are considered engaged instruction. 

From Emory University Policy 10.5:

Activities considered as engaged instruction must be required of all students, structured, and must contribute significantly to student learning and course performance. Examples of activities that do not count toward engaged instruction include readings, homework and other preparation or activities (e.g., practicing calculations). Simply logging on to the computer constitutes neither active faculty instruction nor active student learning. Active participation in online discussion boards, chats, wikis, etc., can serve as engaged instruction.

Regardless of whether a course is taught online or in-person, Emory College courses are also expected to have 100 minutes of outside work per week per credit hour over the course of a 15-week semester.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Content

If an online course meets synchronously for less than the allotted contact time per week, then asynchronous course content should account for the remainder of the contact time. Asychronous engaged instruction could include, but is not limited to, the following types of activities:

  • Students view and interact with recorded lectures, videos, podcasts, etc.
  • Small groups of students meet or interact outside of synchronous session to discuss content or create projects or presentations
  • Online labs, virtual field trips, simulations, interviews, etc.
  • Asynchronous discussion boards where students interact with course content as directed by the instructor
  • Asynchronous student presentations
  • Asynchronous quizzes, exams, short responses, etc.

This additional content should require only the additional engaged instruction time that is not covered by synchronous meetings.

Outside work in an online class encompasses the same activities as in an in-person course and may include assigned readings, writing assignments, homework, etc. For a more complete explanation of these distinctions, please see this Emory College Online Contact Hour Standards PDF.

Workload in Online Courses

Students often report a perception that online courses are more work than in-person courses. Several factors may contribute to that impression:

  • If an online course has less synchronous contact than an in-person course, then it will also contain more asynchronous content than the norm to which students may be accustomed. Independent work may be perceived as more demanding than classroom time.
  • Many online courses follow a 'flipped' classroom format, whereby synchronous time is devoted to discussion and engagement with content, and students first encounter new content asynchronously. As with in-person flipped classes, students report that online flipped classes are both more challenging and, oftentimes, more effective.
  • Finally, the online environment can lend itself to the inclusion of more content than indicated by the credit hour standards.

All online faculty are encouraged to review their asynchronous course content and outside-of-class work to ensure that the required workload does not exceed contact hour standards. This course workload estimator may be helpful in determining the time required by your assignments and content.

Course review suggestions for asynchronous workload:

  • Limit asynchronous content to the amount required by contact hour standards. For example, if a course should have 75 minutes of asynchronous content/week, do not assign lectures, videos, etc. in excess of that amount.
  • Consider the total workload of your assigned asynchronous and outside-of-class content.
  • Lower the "technical burden" of asynchronous work by streamlining and simplifying the tools and technologies with which students must engage during the semester.
  • Organize content clearly and consistently within Canvas. Stick to a regular weekly schedule for asynchronous engagement.
  • Break asynchronous content into smaller segments. When possible, lectures and other videos should be broken into segments of around 10 minutes or less in order to account for known attention spans.