What Does Seat Time Serve?

Rethinking Seat Time Requirements for Online Exams. 

What purpose does “waiting” serve (a.k.a. known as “seat time”)? 

It was a rainy weekend, so I thought I’d take online classes to meet my continuing education requirements. I’ve always been a fast test taker, often trying to be the first person in the classroom to bring my answers to the proctor first. I’m one of those annoying people, but if I pass the test, should I be penalized for taking the test fast? For my first appraisal licensing exam years ago, I finished it in around 40 minutes, but we were given 2 hours to take it. Should I have been forced to sit at my desk and wait until the two hours were up? New York State didn’t think so.

Yet New York State thinks so for taking online classes. I took a three-hour course in 52 minutes and am not allowed to take the final exam yet. The following dialog box says it all.

The New York Department of State requires that all students participating in distance (online) learning spend a minimum amount of seat time engaged in the course content. The course system will track your participation time as well as count down the minimum time required. Seat time is calculated at 50 minutes per clock hour. This 3 hour course requires a total of 2 hours, 30 minutes of seat time.

You have completed 0 hours, 52 minutes.

To comply with state requirements, you will be logged out after 15 minutes of inactivity, and your progress will be saved.

I have to log on and click around until I have accumulated 2.5 hours of “seat” time. In other words, they are punishing people that can take a class faster than average. Why? Presumably, a professional had rated the course as three hours, and the state agreed. If someone can prove they understood the material by passing all the chapter quizzes, why should they be forced to waste 98 additional minutes? I can’t ever get back those 98 minutes.

Are appraisers children? Wait, don’t answer that.

What purpose does “waiting” serve (a.k.a. known as “seat time”)?

  • I pay the same course fee as everyone else.
  • I must pass the same chapter quizzes as everyone else to take the final.
  • Some people take tests faster than others, right?

Is the purpose of a continuing education learning experience only to sit in a chair for a designated period? If I went through the materials and passed all the chapter quizzes in 52 minutes, why do I have to waste another 98 minutes?

The lack of waiting required for online classes has always been a breath of fresh air to me. Now that benefit seems to be over.

As much as I’d love to blame McKissock, this is a NY state requirement and common across the US. It is time for the 55 states and territories to rethink licensing requirements. A time calculation should not be part of math if a student takes a class and can pass the test on the materials presented. Since there is zero empirical evidence that those additional 98 minutes will make me understand the course materials any better, taking away 98 minutes of my potential livelihood is wrong.

Hopefully, state regulators will look at this lack of fairness in the CE licensing process.

Jonathan Miller
Image credit flickr - Richard-G
Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller is President and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal and consulting firm he co-founded in 1986. He is a state-certified real estate appraiser in New York and Connecticut, performing court testimony as an expert witness in various local, state and federal courts.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Dana O'Hara Smith says:


  2. Same here! Pretty annoying and a waste of time

  3. Avatar Diana Nytko says:

    Absolutely ridiculous requirement, one of the reasons why I’m considering retirement after 54 years

  4. Avatar Rick D says:

    I agree as well. All of it has wasted countless hours for me even though I passed all of the required quizzes and/or exam. Sometimes I get to the quizzes too quick and the on-line seminar/course will make me wait!

    • Avatar Bryan says:

      Let’s think about this. It takes the same exact amount of hours to gain a college Bachelor’s Degree. Gym teacher, Mechanical Engineer, Marine Biologist, Art appreciation, general studies, Physics, Hotel management and so on. How can it be possible that it takes the exact same amount of hours to learn any topic? Nonsensical.

  5. Baggins Baggins says:

    Use firefox with various trace blockers and other about:config manipulations to defeat rudimentary software oversight. The technical question becomes; does the time in active screen session clock even function with various trace blockers on, and does the software purveyor allow a browser pass through before implementing the clock adherence counter? When these online schools start getting too strict with the controls, students move along to the next outlet which lets us keep our preferred browser settings.

    It’s like that all over the net, get off of MS products as the first step to mitigate online control tools. Lately I’ve been tooling around with anti fingerprinting toggling which is really quite exceptional. That and privacy badger, it’s super fun and easy to use. If you knew how to code you could write a simple script to auto click the ‘I’m still here’ session timer pop up until the timer ticks out. All they did to comply with that reg was force a time clock adherence, presuming your browser accepted that informational packet exchange in the first place.

    It’s not a perfect science, lag, latency, script communications within the browser, all of that. Right click the element, investigate, see if anything can be done with a simple scripting peramiter change. It’s all such a waste of time and energy. So I looked at extensions for you on this one. Session Alive might be useful, and there are probably a dozen other indy sourced add ons like that. Sometimes you have to install and test, try a few out, but quite often, there is someone out there who’s dealt with it before, who knows how to code, and has written simple scripts to assist. Keyword; Session Timer. It’s the notion that tech is a tool of control rather than an empowering item, that some tech nerd far away can control our lives, our speech, how we spend our time, which is simply not the case. In the end, it’s just tech. Orwells Revenge.

  6. Agree! I guess they figure if you go to an actual class, you cannot get out earlier than the 3 hour time period instructors need to educate you in that amount of time. This is one reason I went to online education years ago. Oh well, we shall see how it all goes.

    • Avatar don says:

      All I know is that when I took Course One it took me all the time California gave me. Am I happy I’m in California?
      been here a long time?


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What Does Seat Time Serve?

by Jonathan Miller time to read: 2 min