Editor’s Picks

I Am Learning to Code: Week 5, Binge Learning

By Henry Kronk
February 21, 2018

After making up some ground last week in my Codeacademy course on website design, I’ve again fallen slightly behind. At this point, I’m somewhere between three and six days back. I’m still struggling to keep my divs in line, and I certainly do not feel comfortable with the formatting methods of the box model and flexbox. But I also haven’t gotten stuck or cried any tears of frustration. At this point, it’s less stabbing in the dark and more stabbing in the dusk.

An instructor described it like this:

On the course schedule, each day is allotted its own lesson, article, quiz, and/or project. When I began, I would generally do one to three days at a time, and come back a few days later. With my current schedule, however, I’m only able to continue to study on given days (usually weekends or Friday afternoons). As a result, I’ve started doing entire weeks at a time in periods that can last 8+ hours.

Binge Learning In Action

This is a phenomenon known in the world of online education as binge learning. Binging educational content and coursework, like TV shows on Netflix, involves consuming module after module without diverting one’s attention for any given period of time.

A lot of research and conventional wisdom states that this is probably not a good idea. Many educators believe that effective study habits include only focusing on a given subject for, say, an hour or two at a time. After that, take a break, move to a different subject, go for a walk, cook a meal and then resume.

But last fall, a study came to a different conclusion. Professors at the Wharton School of Business Eric Bradlow and Wesley Hutchinson, along with doctoral candidate Tong Lu, produced evidence that students who binged parts of their courses actually did better than their peers.

binge learningFor the study, the researchers looked at a marketing class offered by Coursera. They analyzed the study habits of its learners, how long they took to complete the course, and then compared their grades.

One big distinction with their findings was discerning between types of binge learning and binging in general. The authors distinguish between temporal binging—consuming content repeatedly over an extended period of time—and content binge learning. The latter refers to the habit of focusing entirely on one thing until it is done before moving on to the next task at hand.

Benefiting from a Solid Binge

While the authors found that learners who binged more performed better, content binging was found to have positive secondary effects. The more a learner content binged, the more likely they were to complete and excel in other classes.

True, the study imagines more of a full-time student enrolled in several courses as its subject. But it does seem that I’m currently performing both types of binge learning.

I can’t say that this is my typical go-to strategy. I personally like to break things up. But that also takes more time, and when push comes to shove, I’m willing to string up a bulging feedbag of education and get to work.

A few aspects of my course really facilitates this. For one, all of the course material has been released in advance. We can get as far forward or behind as we wish.

Second, each unit is comprised of various different aspects. There are several simple readings and quizzes. But from there, we are brought through the material again, but asked to implement it ourselves in text editor that sits on the page to the right of the instruction. Next, we are often asked to do more project-ish work with less instruction. Finally, in each unit we are given a project to care of with very little to no instruction at all. There are also some complementary videos every now and then.

In other words, even though spending many hours learning one subject in one course, I’m actually doing a lot of different things. And I consider that a really great aspect of this program.