Don’t procrastinate! Being proactive in completing an online study tool leads to better test scores

Submitted by Erica Wager on

For this CATS, I wanted to look at if there is any difference in test scores between students who quickly complete an online study tool prior to the exam and students who take hours or days to complete the same study tool. I gave my introductory Psychology students over a week to complete the online study tool (a Collaborate Learning Unit or “CLU,” name courtesy of Dr. Coleman) for each exam (data from 3 exams included in this analysis) and categorized them based on if they took less than an hour, from an hour to a day or more than one day to complete the study tool. I found a significant main effect of time spent on CLU and test grade, students who took less than an hour to complete the CLU had the lowest scores on the exam (M=64.38, SD=16.67), followed by the students who took less than a day (M=75.13, SD=11.88) and the students who took more than a day had the highest test scores (M=76.57, SD=10.12), F (2, 78) = 6.33, p<.01. I will show my students this finding and encourage them to take lots of time to study for the next two exams we have in our course, it could increase their score by an entire letter grade!

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Average: 5 (7 votes)


Norma Jimenez Hernandez Fri, 04/15/2016 - 10:15pm

Great assessment, Erica.  Was the amount of time that they spent studying self-reported?

Peter Turner Sun, 04/17/2016 - 10:05am

I love your findings from this, Erica! It certainly gives me cause for thought as I modify my online courses. Would it be possible to get a copy of your online study tool exam? You could post it to CATS.

Pamela Meeks-Schall Sun, 04/17/2016 - 3:53pm

I would also be interested in obtaining a copy of your online study tool exam.  Great idea!

Olga Tsoudis Sun, 04/17/2016 - 4:04pm


This is a powerful study to show students how to be successful in all courses!

Thank you for the detailed stats on the study!



Bronwen Steele Tue, 04/19/2016 - 7:20am

This is very interesting. I have wondered, does Canvas record time if the student starts, then stops and starts again? I know eventually one must re log in but didn't know if some of the time was actually idle time. This is excellent Erica.

Erica Wager Tue, 04/19/2016 - 7:46am

In reply to by Bronwen Steele

Yes, that's a good point! I believe it does record the entire time (includeing idle time). That is certainly a flaw in this analysis, but I do think even knowing when students opened it and even started looking at it is a good indicator for "study time" in some ways, as many students did not open it until the day of the exam (they are due before exams on exam day).

Sarah Lockhart Wed, 04/27/2016 - 3:17pm

When I started reading, I was going to assume that the students that took less time would do better.  My reasoning is that they know it well so they could go through it quicker.  Do you know the average time spent in the "less than a day" category?  

Erica Wager Thu, 04/28/2016 - 4:28pm

In reply to by Sarah Lockhart

Great question! I would have to go back and look at the original data again (I recorded it from CANVAS). From memory, most of the people in the less than a day category were taking 2-3 hours. And it's important to note, there is not necessarily a difference between people who took less than a day and people who took more than a day (75% on the test vs. 76% on the test), I would actually predict there is no difference between those two. So you're right that maybe many people who know the material well only needed an hour or two on it and they would still be put into the less than a day but more than an hour category. 

Norma Jimenez Hernandez Fri, 04/29/2016 - 9:48pm

Thank you for posting this, Erica.  A next step might be to require students to complete the CLU a day before the exam and for a certain amount of time.  What do you think?