How to Meet the Contact Hour Requirement Without Overloading Students

November 17, 2020

Based on guidance from the Office of the Provost, it is generally accepted that a 50-minute pre-recorded lecture satisfies the requirement for students of one contact hour of faculty-led instruction. On paper, the time conversion from live to pre-recorded lectures may seem straightforward. In practice, it can be less so. As instructors, we may start recording a lecture only to realize that our material takes less time to cover without an audience. Devoid of natural pauses to answer questions or read faces for learning comprehension, one may find it difficult to meet the contact hour threshold using lecture time alone. By planning ahead and creating opportunities for student engagement, however, faculty can overcome these difficulties in a way that enhances the learning experience. Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful to meet the contact hour requirement.

Strategies and Approaches

In general, when pre-recording my lectures in a studio, I cover in 45-50 minutes what I would normally cover in 60 minutes of live/synchronous instruction. To help close the gap, I have learned over time to add open-ended questions and learning checks directly into my lecture slides. For example, I will add a question to my lecture slides to give me a cue to incorporate a natural pause for students to think about a question. Then, after a longer pause of 3-5 seconds, I typically will answer the question or write out assumed responses using an annotation tool over my slides. In some cases, I may even ask students to stop the recording and think about an answer before continuing with the lecture. Not only does this lengthen my lectures, it ensures students have opportunities to re-engage with content. 

Another great way to slow down the pace of the lecture while keeping students engaged is to write answers and work through problems directly on the slides themselves, which can be accomplished through digital annotation. This approach usually requires some advance planning to insert open white space on slides, insert blank slides, or switch to a whiteboard tool within the lecture. Again, I will occasionally ask students to pause the recording to reflect or solve a problem before restarting. By implementing these strategies, a lecture that may itself be 45-50 minutes can take up to 60 minutes for students to complete, assuming they take time to pause for learning checks. 

If there is a significant time gap that cannot be remedied by the above strategies, I may offer a supplemental lecture to fill the contact hour requirement. For example, in addition to a 45 minute lecture, I may include a short tutorial to help students better orient themselves with software we use in class. Before implementing this strategy, it’s important to consider whether the supplemental content will improve student learning and how it can be included without overburdening students. Conversely, some of my classes include recorded versions of live/synchronous lectures. For these, there is generally no need to supplement the lecture with additional material since the recordings include all of the natural pauses and questions noted above.

In addition to these approaches, faculty around the College are employing their own unique strategies aimed at meeting the contact hour requirement in a way that bolsters student engagement and minimizes overload. For example, one faculty member recently mentioned adding synchronous Q&A and small-group review sessions into his lecture time. To meet the contact hour requirement, he restructured 4 hours of weekly class time as follows for each student:

  • 2.5 hours of pre-recorded lectures to be watched on the student’s own time
  • 30 minutes of all-class meeting via Zoom during the designated class period for team project updates and a Q&A session
  • 50 minutes of small-group meetings with activities for lecture review during the class period via Zoom

Whether through learning checks, supplemental lectures, synchronous sessions, or a blend of activities, there are a number of different strategies you can employ to meet the lecture contact hour requirements. Whichever method you choose, the most important consideration to keep in mind is whether and how your strategy will keep students engaged and improve learning outcomes.


About The Author


Patrick Hammett, PhD is a Lecturer for the Division of Integrative Systems + Design (ISD) and the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE). Dr. Hammett is also Lead Faculty for the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s Six Sigma Programs, teaching numerous live and online training courses, including Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt, Master Black Belt, and Design for Six Sigma. In addition to his instructional role, Dr. Hammett serves as Director of Faculty Innovation for Nexus. Collectively, he has taught over 18,000 students and mentored hundreds of continuous improvement and student research projects.

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