The Easy B

I posted a link to this on my Facebook account yesterday. It's about a report from a consumer watchdog group in the U.K. which found that a large proportion of university students there aren't really doing much to earn their degrees. This news comes after a nationwide deregulation of university fees, which saw many British universities massively increase the price tag for their services. Students, it should be noted, appear more than pleased with this state of affairs. Why not? They don't have to do all that much to earn a valuable degree, notwithstanding accumulating a large debt.

I also found that some of the numbers in that report jibe well with my own informal surveys of psychology students over the past 20 years. When I teach a course, I often ask students how much time they spend studying for all their courses in an average week--the total hours, that is. I was told back in the 1980s that a full-time student should expect to spend at least 40 hours a week to do well at university. In the 1990s, my students would report they were spending about 30 hours a week. In the 2000s, this dropped to 20 hours a week. In the past few years, it's now down to 10 hours a week.  Granted, in each decade I was at a different university, so that might influence some of these differences.  But, as I read the Telegraph article, I realised that this is very likely a real trend--students don't spend as much time outside of class on their studies as they used to.  Why might this be?  Well, partly I think it's because more students than ever are working at the same time they attend uni, although I had 2-3 jobs at any given time when I was at university, and still managed to reach the 40 hrs/week studying that was required of me back then.  But, what's more likely is that universities are demanding less from their students in a response to be more attractive to them. At my university, for example, many lecturers don't even require textbooks because students complain about having to buy them. If they don't have a book to read, what else is there left to do when you're not at lecture or a tutorial? Write a brief essay. Work on a powerpoint presentation. Maybe read an article. Revise lecture notes (which probably weren't written very well to begin with because the lecture was recorded for convenient viewing later).

I usually begin my own courses with a statement about how much I expect the typical student will need to study outside of my class to do well in the course.  I used to say 10 hours minimum. I've recently lowered that to 5-8 hours a week.  Some students drop the course right after hearing that. The ones who stay do often complain about the workload in the course evaluations. But I really don't plan to budge on this point. Call me Old School.