The online classroom is self-directed, where students decide when and how often they access their course material. Even in the traditional classroom, students have shown a propensity to shift their time allocation to the last minute, so it is not clear what happens when they have full control over their learning schedules. Our interest is whether this self-directed learning environment produces similar harmful binge behavior as observed with online television, where memory and satisfaction with the experience decrease over time. With access to clickstream data from an online e-educator, we found 62% of the sample binged their learning by concentrating their studies within the semester rather than distributing their online activity throughout. Two types of binge learning emerged as significant: Front-bingers, who accessed the majority of their education early, performed more similarly over time to those who spaced their learning activities. Back-bingers, who accessed the majority of their material late in the semester, did not perform as well. To help us better understand these findings, we used a relatively new measure of behavior called “clumpiness” to summarize their overall online activity. We discuss our findings and their implications for online education and marketing course design.
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