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OU research highlights impact of early lectures on college and university students

Research by the OU and the University of Nevada has discovered that productivity in students is much greater between the hours of 11:00am and 9:30pm than at other times of day.

The study of 190 undergraduate students, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, analysed individual study patterns to determine when cognitive ability is expected to be at its peak. The study also focused on the preferred sleeping times of the participants and asked them to rate their ability to complete cognitive activities every hour over a 24 hour period.

It showed that much later starting times, for example after 11:00am, result in the best study performance. Individuals considering themselves “evening” persons outnumbered the “morning” persons by 2:1.

OU Honorary Associate in Sleep, Circadian and Memory Neuroscience, Dr Paul Kelley, collaborated with Dr Maria Evans at the University of Nevada on the research; he said:

It raises the question as to why conventional universities start lectures at 9:00am when our research shows that this limits the performance of their students.

One of the benefits of distance learning is that it enables students to target their study time to align with their personal rhythm and at the time of day when they know they are most effective.

A short sample of the survey is available for those interested in what students were asked. If you want to read the article in full, this is available on the journal website.

About Author

Christine is a manager in the Media Relations team within the Marcomms Unit at the OU. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University; she focuses on STEM stories and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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