Instructional Time Analyses

  • When analyzing the difference in instructional time in a distance learning model versus the instructional time during in-person learning, there are several considerations to keep in mind. First, there is no quantifiable way to evaluate the effectiveness of learning in synchronous, asynchronous, and in-person classroom time. One may be twice as efficient for some students and half as efficient for others. In-person learning may be especially distracting for some students, while asynchronous lessons may be painfully lonely for another. Even collectively, there is no measure of “learning efficiency” for synchronous sessions versus in-person class time, nor is there an equation to evaluate a “quality quotient” of asynchronous lessons. There is no multiplier that would give us an apples-to-apples comparison. We have only our experience and observations to guide this analysis.

    In the absence of an equation that would guide how we might balance the scale, the analyses that have been completed to date are based on the same basic assumptions: 

    1. In distance learning, synchronous time plus asynchronous time equals instructional time.
    2. In distance learning, there is no homework, in a traditional sense. Asynchronous lessons may include homework-like tasks, but are calculated as instructional time because they are more guided and digitized than traditional homework would be.
    3. During in-person learning, homework is not considered to be instructional time.
    4. All in-person time is instructional time that is efficient. (In other words, there are no classroom distractions or downtime to address discipline issues, distribution of materials, or disruptions for fire drills, assemblies, early release days, etc.)
    5. All synchronous time is equally efficient and without distraction. (In other words, there are no technical issues, no frozen screens, no internet outages, etc.)
    6. All asynchronous work is completed in an equal amount of time by all students. (In other words, every student in the class takes exactly the same amount of time to complete the same exact assignment.)


    As an example at the secondary level, just examining the first quarter of this school year as it compares to last school year, for an odd class period: 

    Fall 2020 Distance Learning
    during the 1st Quarter
    Fall 2019 In-Person Learning
    during the 1st Semester
    Number of Contact Days 
    18: 1st & 3rd Period Days
    7: Flex Days
    12: 8-period days
    28: Odd Block Days
    5: Shortened Block Days
    Number of In-Person Instructional Hours per Class Period
    12 days * .75 hr/day = 9 hrs
    28 days * 1.5 hrs/day = 42 hrs
    5 days * 1.17 hrs/day = 6 hrs
    For a total of 57 hours
    Number of Synchronous Instructional Hours per Class Period 
    18 days * 1 hrs/day = 
    18 hours
    Number of Asynchronous Instructional Hours per Class Period
    18 days * 1.75 hrs/day = 
    31.5 hours
    Number of Asynchronous Instructional Hours on Flex Days per Class Period
    7 Flex Days * 1 hr/day = 
    7 hours
    56.5 hours of 
    Instructional Time
    57 hours of 
    Instructional Time

    At the elementary level, the analysis is slightly different due to the nature of the daily schedule and the use of instructional minutes for comparison, instead of hours. During in-person learning, a Language Arts lesson at 2nd grade is 90 minutes, while at 5th grade it is 55 minutes. In our distance learning model, Language Arts lessons average approximately 60 minutes across all grade levels. To conduct an analysis, which is also not apples-to-apples, the average instructional minutes are taken across days and grade levels, where the specifics may differ on any given day. At elementary, focusing on core instruction (math, reading, writing, etc.), the 4 hours per day distance learning target (including Mondays) results in a comparison that does not deviate far from a standard in-person learning day when recess, lunch, and transition times are factored out. There is still a marked difference between asynchronous work that students are completing on their own versus the in-person independent work in a classroom that we do acknowledge. We fully acknowledge that instruction for specials (art, music, pe, and library) in addition to World Language instruction are significantly reduced. Those instructional minutes are not included in the table below for in-person or distance learning.


    Fall 2020
    Distance Learning
    Fall 2019
    In-Person Learning
    First Quarter
    Core Minutes
    9,430 minutes
    9,600 minutes
    170 fewer minutes=
    2.8 hours
    Contact Days
    41 days
    39 days
    2.5 additional days*
    Professional Development Days
    2 days
    Early Release Days
    2 days
    Second Quarter
    Core Minutes
    8,280 minutes
    8,380 minutes
    100 fewer minutes=
    1.7 hours
    Contact Days
    36 days
    35 days
    2 additional days*
    Professional Development Days
    1 day
    Early Release Days
    2 days

    *The calculation for additional days is not a “straight across” comparison due to early release time and the varied schedule on those days. What is shown here is an approximation.