Seat Time Does Not Guarantee Performance

I constantly have a question come across my desk: What is an adequate amount of content in an online class over a week?  What should a week’s worth of content look like? How much is too much? What is the minimal amount? Well, I believe what an instructor would do face-to-face is what should be done online. Why should an online class be any less or more? Yes, there is some transitioning involved because the experience is quite different.

I ponder this question once again because of something that has come up in the AECT/UGA ITForum. A participant is trying to calculate seat time in online courses based on the amount of reading involved. Does this mean that an online course is just reading? I hope not. This is certainly not the case of the courses I design.

So what does it mean is the average adult can read 300 words per minute? Does this really inform the design on an online course? Should I be counting up the number of words in every article? Lecture? Etc?

A mentor of mine once told me that the “mind can only absorb what the seat can endure.” I don’t think he was the coin-er of the phrase… but it makes a great deal of sense. Seat time puts the emphasis on the wrong end of the student. What we need to emphasize is the performance of the learner against some measurable objectives because seat time does not guarantee performance.

A poster on the forum reminds us that it does take time to learn, but the amount of time necessary is greatly dependent on the learner. To go from a state of not knowing something to knowing something involves more than a little something in-between.

I share in the opinions of others on the ITForum that making instructional decisions based on averages of seat time (or anything) often elicits mediocrity.

If you are interested, this post has 318 words…


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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