Contact Hours

Learning design at unit level within our modular structures has traditionally been conceptualised around notional student learning time and the relationship to credit in terms of volume.  A 20-credit point unit is equivalent to 200 hours of notional student learning time comprised broadly of teaching time, independent study, assessment and feedback.  These are nationally accepted norms and may be supplemented by norms established within a faculty or discipline. 

Rather than traditionally defined contact hours, “student contact time” refers to the tutor-mediated time allocated to teaching, provision of guidance and feedback to students. This time includes activities that take place in face-to-face contexts such as on-campus seminars, labs, studios and workshops, as well as tutor-mediated activities that take place in online environments.

Online contact time can be synchronous (using real-time environments such as Skype or Blackboard Collaborate) or asynchronous (using tools such as tutor-moderated discussion forums, blogs or wikis). Online contact time is always characterised by personalised tutor presence and input within a specified time-frame[1].

This is a helpful approach that allows for some breadth in terms of thinking about contact time for units offered in an online/blended way. 

The recognition that tasks may take longer and can be more complex to navigate in an online format needs to be translated to our expectations of our students.  When considering overall volume of activity within a unit, colleagues need to take into account that the blended/online offer will not be analogous with onsite activities and that this is understood and justifiable.

For further guidance on designing for online and blended learning and norms for teaching and learning in a blended environment please refer to the teaching and learning guidance SharePoint site.

[1] This paragraph is from the University of Northampton, Defining “Student Contact Time” project: