Self-regulated spacing in a massive open online course is related to better learning

Paulo F. Carvalho, Faria Sana, Veronica X. Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we examined students’ natural studying behaviors in massive, open, online course (MOOC) on introductory psychology. We found that, overall, distributing study across multiple sessions—increasing spacing—was related to increased performance on end-of-unit quizzes, even when comparing the same student across different time-points in the course. Moreover, we found important variation on who is more likely to engage in spaced study and benefit from it. Students with higher ability and students who were more likely to complete course activities were more likely to space their study. Spacing benefits, however, were largest for the lower-ability students and for those students who were less likely to complete activities. These results suggest that spaced study might work as a buffer, improving performance for low ability students and those who do not engage in active practices. This study highlights the positive impact of spacing in real-world learning situations, but more importantly, the role of self-regulated learning decisions in shaping the impact of spaced practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Journalnpj Science of Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec. 2020


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