…credit points. This is a usual request from students, in particular in connection with the “Konstruktionsübungen”, i.e. the practical parts of our courses.
Actually, what these students usually mean is the following: They argue that the ECTS credits they got for a particular course were too few for the workload they have done.
Could well be.
ECTS credit points for a course state the average workload for successfully passing the course. If one thinks of a Gaussian normal distribution of the real workload over a larger set of students, one clearly sees that maybe half of the students in this set need to work more than what is stated with credit points. Some of them might even need to work a lot more. In capital letters: A LOT MORE.
The “European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System” (ECTS) states that a student should have a workload of 60 ECTS credit points per academic year. This amounts to 1500 to 1800 working hours, each hour consisting of 60 minutes.
In Austria, we have decided that this amounts to approximately 1500 hours.
Here, I already get a big smile. According to this, we must be a lot smarter in Austria than the rest around. To be precise: We think that we are 10% smarter than all others.
Let me summarize: If a single student feels that a course required more workload than it yielded in ECTS credit points, it does not say anything. Assuming a normal distribution, almost half of the students need to have these feelings if the ECTS credit points are set correctly for this particular course.
It is hardly ever the case that a student states that the workload for a course was less than it yielded in terms of ECTS credit points. Therefore, we typically have no basis for discussing the issue at all.
How could we solve this?
First of all, we would need to start measuring. This would require students to record their workload. This is something which most employed people are used to do on daily basis. This is why I am asking students to record working time in all of my courses. I also explicitly state why I want them to do this: I need to collect sufficiently many workloads in order to get a fair picture of how much work the requirements of a particular course produces.
I must say that many students kind of refuse to do this measuring. They think that it is not my business to know about their workload. Can you see the principle problem with this attitude? If too many students refuse to tell me about their workload, I need to guess. We teachers are usually not good in guessing. 🙂 Sorry guys: Start recording your workload. Report your workload to the teachers. Publish your workloads. Then we can start talking in real about not getting enough ECTS credits for a particular course.
Then we would also start talking about those other courses where you get ECTS credits virtually “for free”.
Here comes the bullet:
In case you are “an average European student” according to ECTS, you need to work 1650 times 60 minutes per academic year. At an Austrian university, an academic year consists of 2 semesters, each lasting for 15 weeks. Let’s assume that our “average European student” works only for these 30 weeks in an academic year. Under this assumption, our “average European student” needs to work for 1650/30 hours per week. This amounts to 55 working hours per week. 9 hours per day, 6 days a week.
Life is cruel, isn’t it? Even for an “average European student”. Assuming a normal distribution, half of the European students are slower than average. Guess, how much more they would need to work per week in order to finish in time?
Other European universities have more like 40 weeks of contact time per academic year. Thus, they can divide the 1650 average hours of work by 40. With this, they are getting 41,25 working
hours per week. Why don’t we go for more weeks per semester? Wouldn’t this be a smart move. Check out KTH Stockholm as an example for good practice.
A final note:
To my mind, it is wise to consider the workload for a lecture always together with the workload for the corresponding practical. Only togetherness makes sense here. Even if you find “Vorlesung” and “Konstruktionsübung” separated in the curriculum, think of them as “one thing”. If you do not think of these two as one thing, you create a distorted picture.
Apropos “picture”: The first one who is able to tell me details about where I took the photo on the top of this posting from gets a box of chocolates from me. This offer lasts until end of April, 2014, only.