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Course Design Blueprint

How do we balance an appropriately demanding, but manageable assessment workload?

Consideration should be given to the planning and scheduling of assessments in order to provide balanced workloads across the students' study time and to avoid over-assessment. Assessment workload is impacted by the size of the artefact being submitted (such as the word length of an essay or the duration of a presentation), by the amount of time students are expected to spend preparing for the assessment components, and by the complexity of the assessment tasks. The University expects all courses to adopt a consistent approach to assessment loadings, but also aligned with subject based expectations and practices.  Course teams should seek to balance the assessment loads across their course modules in proportion to the credits and weighting associated with the assessment components.


Rather than simply considering the size (word count, duration) of a planned assessment component, the overall assessment load of a single assessment component should also take into consideration:
  • The amount of background research students will need to engage with in order to enable them to complete the assessment.
  • The number of different components that the students will need to gain an understanding of.
  • The ‘thinking’ time that is involved in problem solving and critical analysis
  • Time to design, plan and complete practical work, including allowing for mistakes and experimentation where pertinent.
While it is simplest to think of a module's assessment load as the total of the assessment component workloads, in reality there may be many other aspects to consider:
  • Where students are tackling a type of assessment component for the first time, there may be significant learning and development that will be required in acquiring the requisite skills and developing confidence.
Many courses involve further demands on students' time and effort that need to be recognised when determining the appropriate assessment workloads that should be set. In particular:
  • Courses with significant periods in placement, particularly those where students are required to complete zero credited competency workbooks or portfolios, are likely to set lower overall assessment workloads within any levels including such placement requirements.
  • Courses which require students to spend considerable time developing and practicing technical, constructive, practical or creative skills will need to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for this key learning activity, and to avoid creating situations where students feel the need to start engaging with summative assessments before they have had sufficient time to develop their abilities in preparation for their engagement with the tasks involved.