Time On Task Guidelines for Learning Activities

So, you’re sitting in front of an E-Learning Pre-Approval Form wondering how on Earth you can accurately estimate the time your students will spend completing the tasks outlined in your syllabus. You start to make assumptions regarding the speed at which student read, write, analyze, etc. but you feel very uncertain because, after all, the time it takes you to read, write, and analyze is not the same as your students.

You’re not alone.

The following guidelines should serve as a starting point in determining how much time your students will spend on course-related tasks that take place outside of the classroom. These numbers could vary quite a bit, depending on your expectations for quality, the level of the course, and any number of other factors. If in doubt, discuss this issue with your department colleagues in order to develop guidelines that better reflect your curriculum and expectations.

How much time does it take to…?

Task Time Example
Read for comprehension 100-200 words/minute Reading a 6,000-word textbook chapter
= 30-60 minutes
Write (informally) 10-20 words/minute
(5-10 minutes/100 words)
Writing a 250-word reflective discussion post
= 12-25 minutes
Write (formally, without research time) 30-60 minutes/page of 250 word/page Writing a 15-page cited paper (without research time)
= 450-900 minutes (7.5-15 hours)
Prepare for exams 2x or 3x the testing time A 60-minute test
= 2-3 hours of study time


ITS Online Learning Services is happy to discuss how to structure your “Time On Task” reporting in a way that adequately demonstrates that the credit earned is credit deserved. Additionally, we’re happy to discuss ways to structure a task so that expectations and quality are consistent and understood by your students.