I teach at a school where the department has a strong expectation that a graduate or undergraduate course should require 45 hours of work per credit hour. For example, a 3-hour course should take 135 hours; say, 45 hours of lecture and the rest for readings and assignments. (The formal requirement is that 75% of students should be able to complete the work in that amount of time.)

At another school, the expectation for a class was 60 hours of work per credit hour. Furthermore, some professors took that requirement very seriously (including a time budget in the syllabus), whereas others took quite a cavalier attitude (“Do you want to be in graduate school or don't you?”). Of course, some classes take less than the allotted time.

At another school, I don't think I ever heard about a particular expectation, except perhaps an estimate of two hours of homework for one hour of lecture.

Given the range of variation, I wondered if there was any consistency of expectations across universities (say, in the United States, at the graduate and undergraduate level). Alternately, is there any pedagogical research that would inform either an instructor's or a department's policy about such matters?

  • 12
    There is no consistency of anything across universities in the United States.
    – ff524
    Jun 28, 2016 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


The numbers you reported are exceedingly common in US higher Ed. What is strange is that you reported semester totals rather than weekly totals.

It is common in US higher ed that for every hour of class time a student will spend 2-3 hours studying and completing assignments outside of class. Therefore, if there is 45 hours of lecture in a course there would be anywhere of 45*2=90 to 45*3 = 135 hours of individual study time for the same course.

The first example in your question requires 2 hours of study for every hour of lecture (45 lecture hours + (45 * 2 individual study) = 135 total hours). The second example requires 180 hours of total time (45 lecture hours + (45 * 3 individual study) = 180 total)

  • Yeah, I put it in semester totals because the course load will never be evenly distributed across the semester. So, IMO better to keep things manageable in the course as a whole.
    – adam.baker
    Jun 29, 2016 at 11:49

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