What follows is an example of a very simple investigation into student engagement with e-assessment. At the Open University, students come with a wide-range of previous entry qualifications – and none. Partly because of this range of previous study, students have a choice of modules with which to start their study of science – and it is very important that they start in the right place. We do not require students to start with a particular module, but we do give quite strong advice. Part of this advice is a diagnostic quiz, which is extremely heavily used (with more than 3000 users each month).
Our simplest measure of student engagement with interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) of all sorts is a record of the total number of transactions in a given time period. The graph below shows the number of transactions each day over a year-long period for the diagnostic quiz ‘Are you ready for Level a science?’ Careful inspection shows a cyclical pattern – prospective students engage less with the diagnostic quiz on Saturdays than any other day of the week. Given that OU students are frequently in employment during the week, this result was a bit of a surprise.
Further investigation has shown that overall use of iCMAs also drops on Saturdays and that the number of students using the virtual learning environment (VLE) is greatest on a Monday, falls steadily during the week, drops more markedly on Saturdays then rises slightly on Sundays. We do not yet understand the reasons for this behaviour, but it might have profound implications (for example informing the choice of best time for tutorials).
The overall activity during a typical day is fairly constant from 9am to 9pm, dropping overnight. This result is more in line with expectations, though likely to alter as we move increasingly into global markets.