Whether we develop a traditional or online training, optimizing the learners’ workload is a delicate, but essential, process. It is necessary that the theoretical, as well as the practical content, allow the learners to achieve the objectives of the course without overloading them, at the risk of demotivating them. But how can we succeed in this tightrope-walk exercise, which cannot be based on any exact science?

Here are 3 strategies to consider when your training is denser than expected…

1. Cut

This is an easy to apply solution if some of the content is not necessary for achieving the course objectives. In this case, the material removed can be presented as resources or optional exercises.

2. Substitute

If everything is important in substance, it is necessary to consider summarizing, explaining or putting certain passages in another form without losing the essential. Time-consuming activities can be rethought into shorter but formative activities: replace reading a chapter with watching a video of authors discussing the subject under study, or do a group reading where each learner reads one section and summarizes it to the others.

3. Clarify

Ensuring that the material taught and the instructions in the exercises are clear can avoid many questions and false starts for learners. By providing examples and detailed explanations of the work required, they will likely have fewer drafts to make before they start on the right track. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the solution to reduce learners’ workload is sometimes to give them access to more content!

Benchmarks for an adequate estimate

Based on university-level learning, it can be estimated that an hour of class requires an average of two hours of personal study. Some calculation tools developed to assess the workload of a course, such as the Rice University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence, may be useful. However, it should be noted that they are not complete: group work or discussion activities, for example, are not taken into account.

Authors:

Catherine Meilleur
Stefan Krueger