How Many Online Study Hours Should Your Learners Plan For
For learners intending to take your course, knowing how much time to set aside is key.
Online certification learners often approach courses under the impression that online courses are easier than their in-class equivalents. As such, it is all too easy for them to underestimate the time it will take them to complete their certification. Once they realize the unexpected demands the course will take on their time, many grow discouraged and drop out.
Because of this, providing your learners with an accurate time estimate for completing your course is important to aiding them in the successful completion of your certification program.
Of course, every certification program will take a different amount of time to complete depending on what it covers. Some programs can be completed in an afternoon, others take weeks. However, you can help your students plan the time it will take them to complete your certification program by providing reasonable estimates for the time it will take your learners to finish certain course components.
How long will it take your learners to review your online certification materials?
Probably the easiest part of your certification program study hours to calculate is the time it will take to finish your online course material. If you have a dozen videos and each are twenty minutes long, then you know it will take your learners four hours to watch them all. The same goes for written materials and tests. If each module of your course includes a ten-minute quiz and an hour's worth of reading material, all you have to do is add everything together.
Some courses are designed to space material over several weeks. If this is the case, it's helpful to talk about time requirements in terms of the weekly commitment. On the other hand, if your course isn't drip-fed (a more common option for micro certifications), it's better to talk about the time requirements for the full course.
How much time should learners budget a week for completing course work?
One of the old rules-of-thumb for in-person classes was that most students should plan on two hours of study per hour spent in class. For online courses, the study time can be even greater.
This is often because educators often make up for the lack of face-to-face contact with additional content. Instead of participating in a class discussion, learners take extra time to participate in forums or search for online articles to share in discussion threads.
There's nothing wrong with this, but it can add unexpected time to the certification workload. If you expect online assignments to take extra time, help your learners understand how much—and why that extra commitment is important.
Will there be an assignment, and how long will that take?
Does your certification include any submitted coursework, and how much time should your learners plan to spend on it in order to do well? For instance, do you have a course paper planned, or a research project, or some other creative assignment?
No matter what project you come up with, your learners will need to know how much time it will take. The difference between a 5-hour assignment and a 20-hour project is huge, and it can affect more than just your learner's study schedule. If your learner only plans on a brief report rather than an in-depth analysis, they could end up turning in an assignment well below their capabilities.
What about community-building activities with other classmates?
As we said earlier, many online courses include extra class discussion time and group project activities. These can sometimes be the hardest to estimate, because when a good discussion starts learners can easily find themselves committing extra time that they didn't expect to that week's coursework.
Group projects can also be hard to plan for. Some teams communicate efficiently and get their work done in good time. Others struggle to pull together and assign project responsibilities. The complications involved in group projects mean that many educators avoid them altogether.
That said, when group projects do work out, they can be a very positive experience for learners. One way to help the projects go more smoothly is to give learners clear guidelines about how much time their group—and the individuals in it—should spend on the assignment. That way, each learner has a better understanding of their own responsibilities and how much to expect from their classmates.
Are there any practical requirements?
Some certification programs include a certain amount of time spent on hands-on experience. Online nursing certifications, for instance, usually partner with local hospitals for practical training. Other programs have similar requirements for students, expecting learners to log a certain number of hours before they can receive qualification.
While these kind of requirements are more rare for online certification programs (because they take extra time to arrange), when they are a part of the course, learners need to know as soon as possible. This is especially key if the practical requirements take a certain amount of time to complete, or if learners are responsible for arranging their own training.
Providing your learners with accurate time estimates can increase your completion rate.
Time requirements for online courses can be hard to estimate, because everyone has different study habits. Some learners can easily finish a paper assignment in a few hours, while others struggle with it for days. People read at different speeds, absorb information differently, and are more or less distracted by other life engagements (or the Internet).
Nevertheless, having a reasonable time estimate when going into an online course is a great help to learners, because it helps them set more reasonable expectations. There will always be learners who convince themselves that they can complete a course faster, or who don't realize how a course will fit into their lifestyle.
But the more you can help learners plan their online study hours, the better you prepare them for success with your online certification program.
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