Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Brian White

Second Advisor

Hannah Sevian

Third Advisor

Catherine McCusker


In the fall semesters of 2013-2016, General Biology I at UMass Boston was taught in a flipped format, in which students prepared for class by watching lecture videos and answering problems. Because these materials were hosted online as part of a Small Private Online Course (SPOC), log files were generated tracking all student click-level activity throughout the semesters. Though many flipped course studies have centered on in-class active learning and assessments, these log files provide new ways to track and quantify student pre-class strategies as they adjust to this pedagogy.

My research centers on understanding how students approach independent learning in a flipped course using learning analytics. I analyzed student interaction patterns with the SPOC, both in preparation for class and for review. On average, student pre-class engagement with required videos was moderate, indicating that individual approaches were not always aligned with course requirements. Overall, student online behavior varied and indicated selective use of provided resources, with a focus on those that were perceived to be connected to online problem success. Furthermore, online behaviors decreased as the semester progressed every year.

To better understand the role of course requirements in shaping student online behavioral patterns, I also compared student behaviors before and after a shift in course structure. After the first semester of this flipped course (Fall 2013), the SPOC comprehension problems became more difficult due to a new grading scheme. This increase in the expectations of online assessments coincided with an increase in pre-class video watching and problem preparation, support for the benefits of valuable pre-class assessments in a course dependent on independent learning. Online surveys in Fall 2016 provided further evidence that videos provided important information for answering pre-class problems.

Additionally, during Fall 2016, I characterized student use of self-regulated learning strategies through semi-structured student interviews, which characterized the development of out-of-class routines and gave support for explanations of student online interaction patterns. In general, interview participants described detailed approaches to pre-class online assignments. These patterns provide evidence that encourages us to reevaluate our expectations for student behavior in flipped courses and helps instructors in designing blended courses.


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