Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Clock Is Ticking-An Analysis of Time Spent on Online Assignments

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Clock Is Ticking-An Analysis of Time Spent on Online Assignments

Article excerpt


The amount of time students spend on coursework is of constant interest to educators and researchers because it is deemed to be an important measurement of student effort. It is a common belief that effort, along with other factors, is an important determinant of student performance. When a student comes to educators asking about how to improve course performance, the question normally asked is "how much time did you spend studying?" This popularly used proxy for effort has been extensively investigated in educational research.

Earlier research relies heavily on self-reported data that reflect students' perceptions of effort or time spent, rather than objectively-measured effort, in learning activities (Rich, 2006). Recent advances in instructional technology enable researchers to access data capturing the actual time students spend online. For instance, the tracking features of web-based learning platforms (e.g., Blackboard) have made it possible for instructors to retrieve the real time that students spent online during a specified period of time. Regardless of data collection methods, findings of previous literature indicate mixed results concerning the association between student performance and effort, measured by duration of time spent in studying. Thus whether extra time or effort from students enhances or harms performance remains unclear (Rich, 2006).

The objective of this paper is to examine the effect of time and time-related factors of online assignments on academic achievement in a face-to-face managerial accounting course offered in a regional public university in the Midwest. The instructor of this introductory managerial course adopted Connect, a web-based learning system offered by McGraw-Hill, as a required instrument for students to practice and submit homework assignments. The actual time points of a student's online activities (e.g., starting time and submission time) were extracted to construct different variables linked to the assignment grades earned by the student. In addition to the effect of the duration of time spent on online assignments, this paper also examines the effect of a student's behavior revealed by when online assignments are started and submitted.

This paper is an extension of a research project published by the same authors, which investigates the association between students' performance on Connect assignments and over all course grades. In the same course setting, the focus of this paper is on the impact of a student's behavior related to time consumption and duration. The study adds important dimensions and implications to the understanding of the time students spend on online assignments. First, objective rather than self-reported measurement of time was used, to address the self-selection bias associated with survey data. Second, the study empirically examines and provides a comprehensive view of the impact of multiple aspects of time factors on academic achievements. The third feature of this paper is that the availability of objective data to instructors provides a useful monitoring mechanism to identify students in need of assistance.


The data for empirical tests were collected from a regional campus of a public university in the Midwest. Motivated by educational research, the instructor incorporated McGraw-Hill Connect, a web-based homework system, as a required assignment platform in the course "Introduction to Managerial Accounting" (MGMT 201). The students used the textbook "Introduction to Managerial Accounting", 5th edition. Published by McGraw-Hill, the text book was written by Brewer, Garrison, and Noreen. Other than online reading and homework assignments, the course followed the format of a traditional lecture class, and used in-class exams to assess learning objectives. All of the exams in this course were closed-booked and pen-paper based.

The Connect assignments include two parts, reading assignments to prepare students for subsequent lectures and homework assignments to improve students' problem-solving skills. …

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