Guest post: Jisc / OU Student Workload Tool

This guest post from Jitse van Ameijde of the Open University describes a micro-project which Jisc recently funded to develop a student workload tool.

Cartoon of workload tool

Student workload is an ever present concern in all higher education institutions for those designing, developing or delivering curriculum.

Student workload contributes to students’ decisions around withdrawing from study and is among the most important course-related factors influencing student drop-out (Bowyer, 2012). At the Open University (OU), Abbott (2003) reported that falling behind with course work was the most commonly cited reason for withdrawal with 41% of respondents indicating this as a reason. More recently, in the 2012/13 OU withdrawal survey 26% of students responding to the survey indicated the amount of study time required as a reason for withdrawal.

Initial investigations into student workload conducted at the Open University show that there is a negative correlation between student workload and completion and pass rates. Additionally, it has demonstrated that there is a correlation between the degree of spread in workload and student outcomes, where a more unevenly distributed workload (lots of peaks and troughs) is associated with more negative student workload.

The Jisc / OU Student Workload Tool aims to contribute to a curriculum which is evenly loaded and well-paced, meeting the needs of students studying alongside a busy work and home life. The workload tool allows users to record, visualise and evaluate student workload on courses.

Screenshot of workload tool

It provides a web-based interface which enables academic teams to capture not only the overall workload for students studying a particular course, but also how this workload is broken down according to different activity types. This enables the evaluation of different pedagogies and provides a visual overview of the nature of the student journey.

The web-based workload tool is user-friendly and provides drag and drop functionality and automated workload calculations. It has been found much more effective than Excel based tools previously used within the OU.

Jitse van Ameijde presented the Jisc/OU workload tool at the 5th UK Learning Analytics Network meeting organised by Jisc at the University of East London on 3 February 2016.

Jitse presenting at UEL

The tool is currently hosted on a demo server but we are in the process of implementing a more permanent hosting solution, which should be in place over the next month. Once available, a link to the tool will be communicated via this blog. Additionally, institutions will be able to download the source code and host it on their own servers or tailor the functionality to their particular needs.

Any questions or comments on the tool can be directed to Jitse van Ameijde (

By Niall Sclater

Niall Sclater is Consultant and Director at Sclater Digital Ltd and is currently carrying out work for Jisc in Learning Analytics.

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