It’s about time: an inside look at when students interact with their online course

FIU Online leveraged data available via the Blackboard Learn learning management system to figure out when students were interacting with their online course.

We engaged in research to analyze the specific dates of the week during which students in fully online courses interacted with and submitted work in their course.

With this research, we sought to understand if any changes should be made by faculty in terms of when they interact with the online course — such as posting announcements, setting assignment due dates and hosting live sessions.

The courses used in this research were fully online courses taught at Florida International University in the Spring 2016, Summer 2016, and Fall 2016 semesters.

Here’s what we found:

From this data, we found that students taking online courses were spending more hours inside their courses on the weekends. Overall, students were spending the least amount of time on Mondays navigating their online course. We saw this activity pick up as the week progressed.

Takeaway from the data: try posting announcements and scheduling live sessions later on in the week. Students taking online courses usually reserve the weekend to complete online work.

Interactions were defined as a user clicking into an item in Blackboard. Many types of student actions can lead to interactions being logged — such as accessing a course item, or submitting a discussion forum post.

The data showed that most of the interactions happened on Sundays. This would make sense, as many assignments are due on Sunday evenings. Students were least likely to interact with the course on Saturday.

Takeaway from the data: Students are less likely to be interacting with the class on Saturday mornings. Reserve this time to make edits and updates to content whenever needed.

A submission was defined as a student submitting an assignment, blog, discussion, journal, Safe Assignment, survey, or test.

Once again, we saw that the majority of online students are submitting work on Sunday. This was done more than twice as much as any other day!

Takeaway from the data: Consistency is important for online students. Try making all assignments due on the same day of the week (as you can see…Sunday is a very popular option!).

The data revealed what we’ve known to be true all along: online students generally dedicate Saturdays and Sundays to reading, interacting, and submitting work for their online courses. Keep this information in mind when making course development decisions, in order to foster an overall positive experience for both faculty and students online. However, every time the online course is offered brings with it new information that can change based on the group of students taking the course that term. To learn how to pull this type of data while the course is running, be sure to check out the Faculty Analytics page. As always, faculty can consult with their instructional designer for more best practices related to setting due dates on live sessions and assignments.

Note: All data was pulled from the Blackboard Learn learning management system (LMS). The courses used in this research were fully online courses taught at Florida International University in the 2015-2016 academic year.



Honors College Faculty and former FIU Online Educational Technology Manager.

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