Mad isn’t it, Ted

I’ve just been writing a few of those irritating module descriptors that I know are necessary and, by and large, a good thing, but it got me thinking about how we do things in this country.  I was splitting my module into contact time and independent learning time, as required, and I did what most people do. I simply substracted the timetabled time (36 hours) from the required module time (125 hours) and got 89 hours.  Done.

The problem is that when you look at the figures, you see that the students are expected to engage in a level of study that I know is not happening. For example, our second years were expected to do a total of 516 hours independent learning last semester. Allowing say 18 weeks from semester start to exam end, this amounts to more than 4 hours independent learning per day. If this is what we are genuinely expecting, we need to get that message across to students. If not, there is no point in just saying “Mad isn’t it Ted” and doing nothing about it.

I think we need to have a realistic discussion of what is expected of students at third level.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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One Response to Mad isn’t it, Ted

  1. cora stack says:

    I think large surveys should be done across institutes to find out exactly how much time the majority of students are spending studying in the manner suggested by this.
    Talking to many of them they simply say they are too tired or too busy for one reason or another and unable to engage in this volume of expected indepdendent work.
    Is students do not have the capabilities to do this type of work at a young age then this type of this type of syllabus/curriculum design will result in failure no question.
    A way around this is to assign suitable what I call miniprojects for students on the various topics on the curriculum to ensure that suitable independent learning is actually done outside the classroom. Idea would be to start off with very doable projects and then gradually when confidence has been gained move on to harder ones.
    Otherwise most of the students will not engage in independent learning outside the classroom. This would be my view anyway.Of course assigning homeworks etc is another one but there can be a lot of plagarism in these.
    Students in the IOT sector in particulular need a lot of support.
    Staff should be given hours to assist independent learning – this way 18 hours currently imposed on them could be reduced into a more managable workload.


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