The courses at my university are assigned a number "units" that basically correspond with the number of in-class hours per week, i.e. a 4 unit course is often two 110 minute sessions per week. Different types of courses require different amounts of time for the instructors. Professor teaching distributions are often set by simply stating something like "a regular faculty member must teach 1 four unit course per quarter". The courses in my department vary from 10 students to 300, we may get teaching assistants, and courses are traditional lecture styles, laboratories, project based, etc. It is likely not a good idea to say that 1 four unit course with 10 students requires equivalent time/resources as a 4 unit course with 300 students, but that is what we do. Instructors may not get fair teaching distributions due to this and it also has bearing on merit and promotion cases.

How do other institutions and departments compare courses in terms of instructor workload? I assume there may be ways other than simply the # of hours in class per week (credit/unit measure).

Edit: I'm particularly interested in precise definitions of this measure.

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    Not so much between instructors, but my university does compare departments by "credit hour production", which is roughly credits (units) times number of students enrolled, summed over all courses taught by the department in a particular term or time period. – Nate Eldredge Jan 29 '18 at 21:43
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    Distribution of teaching load—even the definition of "teaching load"—varies significantly between different universities, and even between different departments at the same university. (For example: The math department at my university gives faculty more "credit" for >200-student classes; in contrast, the CS department balances teaching mostly by social pressure. Berkeley's EECS dept—but only EECS—uses a complex "heaven points" formula whose parameters are not all public.) This site frowns on "big list" questions, but I'm afraid that's all this question can be. – JeffE Jan 30 '18 at 19:29
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    Yes, I am looking for a list but I don't think asking for the best or the most effective or the most thorough makes any sense. There is no one answer. I'm simply trying to get a sense of how other Universities might do this. Some combination of the resulting answers may be able to fit different University cultures. – moorepants Jan 31 '18 at 0:43

Actually, most universities I've heard about specify either courses or numbers of “contact hours” per week. It is the job of the department chair (or executive officer or equivalent) to make sure everything is properly distributed within the department, so that one faculty member isn’t teaching only 300-student lectures while another faculty is only teaching specialized seminars for 10 students.

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    On the other hand, it's far from clear whether the 300-student lecture would be more or less work than the 10-student seminar. – Nate Eldredge Jan 29 '18 at 21:42
  • How is "contact hours" any different that the "units" I describe above? For a 4 unit course my contact hours are two 110 minutes per week plus 2 office hours (that students may or may not come to). The "4 units" is assumed to be 4 contact hours in our case. – moorepants Jan 30 '18 at 16:39
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    Because "contact hours" at some universities do not include just in-class hours. In Germany, supervising undergraduate theses and research group seminars can contribute to the quota. – aeismail Jan 30 '18 at 16:51
  • Yes, true, but how precisely do they define contact hours? – moorepants Jan 30 '18 at 18:01
  • Basically 1 hour is equal to one hour per week for the length of a semester (14 hours or so). – aeismail Jan 30 '18 at 19:45

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