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Module Workload Planning


As part of the Wellbeing Pedagogies Library, Alastair Smith has developed a customisable Excel spreadsheet that tutors can use when designing and proposing modules in order to ensure that their students will have a reasonable and manageable workload. Using the spreadsheet will also allow module designers to reflect on how they are constructing the course and pay attention to the percentage of time they expect their students to spend on self-led learning activities. With the help of the Module Workload Planning spreadsheet, tutors will be able to quickly fill in module proposal forms and verify that their students are not overburdened with study.


Alastair Smith, GSD

A photograph of Alastair Smith

Lesson plan

  1. Access the spreadsheet via this link and save a local copy of it on your computer so that you can edit and eventually save it for your own use. The green cells of the spreadsheet are to be edited; the orange ones will change their values according to your input.
  2. In the first section of the spreadsheet, input the information immediately available to you based on the CAT number of your module in the green cells, as well as the number of terms the course will be running in.
  3. In the second section, type in the assignments included in the course and the percentage of weighting allocated to them. The spreadsheet will then display a suggested workload time for the completion of each of these assignments by the student. You may choose to reject or alter the resulting number, so you should then type your chosen value into the 'actually allocated work time' field.
  4. In the 'Work Time Breakdown' section, type in the number of contact and non-contact hours you anticipate the students to have each week of the term and in the vacation/examination periods, as well as the number of hours you expect the students to spend on working on their assignments (which were calculated in the previous step). The spreadsheet will do three things: first, it will tell you the total amount of hours that the course requires as a result of your work allocation; second, it will quantify the amount of work hours a student will have in a given week should all of their courses require the same amount of work as yours; third, it will provide you with a percentage spread of your students' time allocation (on contact/non-contact learning; on assessments/general learning).
  5. Use the spreadsheet and allocate the work hours in such a way that, should all the other courses a student takes in a given term apply the same allocation, a student does not have to work for more than 40 hours a week (the equivalent of a full-time job).

Tutor's observations

As I have developed this tool as a way to help me reflect on how I planned student notional working time, I have become very concerned with my prior practices – which entirely failed to think reasonably about what I was implicitly and explicitly asking of my students. Using this tool as a starting point module design has also equipped me to complete the new MA1 form much more effectively and deliberatively than colleagues, and aggregating it in course design and approval has facilitated a significant improvement in my contributions to learning and student welfare.

As part of the initial curriculum planning and design, it's essential to have some active thought about how long it's going to take.

Explanatory video

The video below includes a step-by-step instruction on the use of the Module Workload Planning spreadsheet:

1_Module Workload Planning
2_first_Alastair Smith
5_second_Alastair Smith