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The time that design students spend on in- and out-of-class learning activities at a higher education institution in Cape Town
Student workload is measured by the time it takes to complete the learning activities. This study determines the workload of Design students by determining the time spent on in- and out-of-class learning activities of a Design course at a higher education institution in Cape Town. The Design learning process typically engages students in several of the following learning activities: problem solving; research and development of ideas; and the mastering of various skills relating to visual communication. These afore-mentioned activities span the duration of a design project crossing the boundaries between subjects. The teaching of Design occurs in various locations such as the design studio and site visits. It therefore becomes difficult to unpack the time spent on in- and out-of-class learning activities for the purposes of workload calculations as prescribed and defined by higher education institutions and educational policies worldwide. Workload is a significant variable in the curriculum and is of importance in the quality of the teaching and learning process in higher education. An analysis of the literature determined that student workload could be viewed as objective workload (notional hours), the perceived/estimated hours worked (as highlighted in student course experience surveys) or the actual hours reported over a period of time. The resulting discussions focused on the comparability of students‟ workload to the expected notional hours and grades. Thus far none of the previous studies considered time allocation or the workload of the Design student or Design education. Can it be assumed that notional hours apply to all subject fields and therefore, the time allocated to in- and out-of-class learning activities should be equal as well? A timesheet diary was used to determine the time spent on learning activities. The population consisted of Interior Design students. Participants indicated what they were doing in the class as well as the amount of time spent on learning activities outside of timetabled hours. This study determined that the time reported for text-based subjects aligned with the notional hours and timetabled hours. On the other hand, a drawing-related subject – because of project-based learning and individual crits – is allocated more timetable hours, which does not align with the notional hours. The contact time thus appears to be high in comparison to the notional hours and results in an overloaded timetable (28hrs). However, it was found that the individual average for in-class time (14hrs 54min) reported by the participants aligns with the notional hours. Further analysis of the reported time revealed that class duration should be considered in the light of the teaching methods. In addition the average workload in this study of 53hrs 7 min per week exceeds the notional 40 hours per week. The average workload was compared to the participant‟s term results, the notional 40-hours, and the 50% required for passing a subject. This revealed that participants whose workload exceeded 40 hours were likely to pass. This supports the notion that provision should be made in the curriculum to afford students the time to meet the learning outcomes. However, due to the small sample available the impact of workload on student retention and student success could not be determined.