Why do international students “break” the link between LMS activity and student grades? What does it mean?

One of the established patterns or trends in LMS evaluation can be coarsely summarised as

The more activity within an LMS the student has, the better the grade.

We have some support for that view, but we also have found a difference. Discovering the reasons for that difference might prove to be an interesting research project.

At CQUNi there are three types of students:

  1. Rok and regional – these are on-campus students attending at CQUni’s Central Queensland campuses.
  2. FLEX – these are distance education students, spread throughout the world and most don’t attend a campus.
  3. AIC – international students studying on-campus at one of CQUni’s metropolitan campuses.

Does the trend hold for FLEX students?

The following graph shows the average number of hits (visits) made by FLEX students to the course site (blue line) and the discussion forum (red line). The students are grouped by grade (HD the highest, F the lowest). In this graph the trend holds. (Click on the graph to see a bigger version).

Average hits on course site and discussion forum for FLEX students

The following graph shows the average number of posts (the red line) and replies (blue line) by FLEX students. Again grouped by grade. A post starts a thread, a reply responds to an existing thread. Again, the trend holds for FLEX students.

Average posts & replies for FLEX students

Does the trend hold for AIC students?

First, let’s look at the average hits on course site and discussion forum for the AIC students. It’s not there for hits on course site, but still a bit on the hits on discussion forum. But a much flatter line.

Average hits on course site and discussion forum for AIC students

What about posts/replies to the discussion forum.

Average posts & replies for AIC students

Certainly not there for posts. Similarly for replies.

Why?

The question now is what do these things mean? We’ll be doing some more statistically analysis on this first. But assuming that there’s a significant relationship here, why? Some possibilities:

  • AIC students are primarily on-campus. Is this why they don’t rely on the discussion forums as much?
  • The trouble with the observation is that the average posts/replies for FLEX and AIC students are around the same. If AIC students were relying less on the forums, wouldn’t posts/replies be much less?
  • Interestingly, the average number of hits on the course sites/discussion forums is much less for AIC students than FLEX. Are AIC students using the forums more to post, and the site less for information distribution?

After answering some of these questions, the obvious next questions are what impact does this have on their learning experience. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Indifferent?

What, if anything, can/should be done to improve?

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