Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Learning Technologies Division

First Advisor

Stephen Harmon

Second Advisor

Brendan Calandra

Third Advisor

Nannette Commander

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan Cohen


Previous research suggests that the optimal time of day (TOD) for cognitive function for young adults occurs in the afternoon and evening times (Allen, et al. 2008; May, et al. 1993). The implication is college students may be more successful if they schedule classes and tests in the afternoon and evening times, but in asynchronous learning environments, “class” and tests take place at any TOD (or night) a student might choose. The problem is that there may be a disadvantage for students choosing to take tests at certain TOD. As educators, we need to be aware of potential barriers to student success and be prepared to offer guidance to students.

This research study found a significant negative correlation between TOD and assessment scores on tests taken between 16:01 and 22:00 hours as measured in military time. While this study shows that academic performance on asynchronous assessments was high at 16:00 hours, student performance diminished significantly by 22:00 hours. When efforts were taken to mitigate the extraneous variables related to test complexity and individual academic achievement, the effect TOD had on assessment achievement during this time period was comparable to the effect of test complexity on that achievement. However, when analyzed using a small sub-set of the data neither GPA nor TOD could be used to predict student scores on tests taken between 16:01 and 22:00 hours. Finally, individual circadian arousal types (evening, morning and neutral) (Horne & Ostberg, 1976) and actual TOD students took tests were analyzed to determine if synchrony, the match between circadian arousal type and peak cognitive performance, existed. The synchrony effect could not be confirmed among morning type students taking this asynchronous online course, but evidence suggests that synchrony could have contributed to student success for evening types taking this asynchronous online courses.

The implication of this study is that online instructors, instructional designers and students should consider TOD as a factor affecting achievement in asynchronous online courses. Results of this research are intended to propose further research into TOD effects in asynchronous online settings, and to offer guidance to online students as well as online instructors and instructional designers faced with setting deadlines and advising students on how to be successful when learning online.