Letter to the editor: Laboratory courses: More work than they’re worth

Ryan Purath, Guest Writer

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually think the experiences lab courses provide are invaluable, especially to a science major. 

However, it has to be said objectively: They are more work than they’re worth, at least when accounting for course credits. 

For those who are unaware, laboratory courses are generally only worth a single credit more than a normal class, but the reality is that they should be worth two. 

When considering the time commitment lab courses require, it simply doesn’t make sense to earn only one credit. Even across different disciplines, each lab period consists of more work than the three hours per week you spend in the lab. 

These include things like the pre-lab assignments and readings, as well as the post-lab work of writing a report on what you did and what you found. 

Assigning a generously low amount of time to this portion of the lab, this comes out to at least an additional three hours of coursework per week. 

Now, I’m sure we’ve all heard the adage that you should be spending 2-3 hours per week studying outside of class for each credit hour.

This means for a one-credit lab course, you should only be spending 3-4 hours per week earning that credit. By extension, a two-credit course would require a total of 6-8 hours per week to earn those credits. 

Interestingly, the three hours spent in the lab and the three hours spent outside the lab actually fall within the two-credit range, and yet most labs are only worth one. 

To make matters worse, science majors will often have multiple lab courses in a semester. 

This can lead to unnecessarily difficult semesters as students add extra courses just to maintain full-time status or reach enough credits for graduation.

This begs the question then, why are they more work than they’re worth?