How much time in a college degree?

I’ve been going through some university lectures recently (Stanford SEE, iTunes U, and MIT OpenCourseWare) and, of course, I’ve created a spreadsheet to allow me to track completeness and prioritize.

Currently, I have 13 courses setup in my Excel spreadsheet, for a total of 308 lectures and 319 hours.

I wasn’t sure how to contextualize that number, so I did a rough check on lecture hours during my college years (something, oddly enough, I never did in college).

If you assume 18 credits per semester– where each credit is meant to map to one hour per week of lecture time – and have 8 semesters, which each averaging 13 weeks, that gives us 1,872 hours of lecture-time (the recommended 15-credits per semester works out to 1,560 hours)

That’s pretty inexact – for instance, many of my 4-credit courses at Skidmore had only two 1:20 classes per week, for under 3 hours per week. Others were spot-on (two 1:50 minute lessons/week) and others were more (e.g. with a lab).

If we round that number up and assume 2,000 hours of work – well, for starters, that’s close to the number of working hours in a year. It’s interesting to compare the learning value from one year of work with the learning value of all classes you attended in college. I understand that (i) it’s not directly comparable (building skills vs. knowledge) and (ii) work at college includes homework (5 hours per week? 10 hours? 20?).

Still, it’s a helpful benchmark in my mind, particularly when moving into a new domain that you’re unfamiliar with.

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