Defining and measuring task complexity in major requirements
Graduating from college requires understanding major curricular requirements and making several complex interdependent choices to fulfill them. In this paper, we create measures to describe and quantify complexity in major requirements. We then compare complexity across disciplines and universities. We find wide variation in our measures of complexity within and across departments and campuses. To assess how well our measures of complexity match students’ experiences, we perform a laboratory experiment on student course-planning. Students in our experiment were 20 percentage points more likely to graduate with the least-complex set of requirements than the most-complex. Creating universal and broadly applicable measures of complexity gives policy makers and administrators better models for simplification, which could lead to meaningful and effective policy reforms.