Data Analytics — Geographical Distribution

Project 2: Geographical Distribution in Distance Learning Courses

This project is part of the University wide Experimental Teaching and Learning Analytics group organized by Northwestern Information Technology.


  • Visualize the geographical distribution of Distance Learning students


Findings listed here are based on MSGH courses offered in Fall 2015:

  • MSGH 405 — Shannon Galvin
  • MSGH 408 — Chad Achenbach
  • MSGH 417 — Michael Diamond
  • MSGH 427 — Sharon DeJoy
  • MSGH 452 — Suzen Moeller

These courses were chosen in part because this small set represents a complete program.  We also knew beforehand that these courses included non-US students.


Geographical Distribution

Students access MSGH courses from all over the world. The darker the color of the country, the more hits came from that location. In this graph, the preponderance of United States participation is easy to see. The MSHG courses got 498,169 hits from the US. The second-highest number–10,132–came from Germany.

Students were also distributed across the United States.

US Distance Learning Students

It may be useful to view a map without students from Illinois, because the range of non-Illinois participation appears a little more clearly:

DL Students Without Illinois
The raw data for the top 10 states shows that MSGH students are distributed widely within the US:


State Hits
Illinois 165997
California 49954
Massachusetts 36151
Minnesota 22671
New York 22390
Kentucky 18887
Ohio 17347
Texas 15574
Indiana 13311
Maryland 12915


MSGH courses draw from a wide geographical range. This distribution–across the country and the globe–means that DL instructors must be aware of time zone differences in planning their courses. This is obviously the case for any synchronous online activity, but rhythms of comments and posting will also be affected by the geographical distribution of online students.

Student Mobility

There are 92 students in the MSGH courses we surveyed. Of these, 18 — almost 20% — accessed the courses from more than one country. The most mobile student is enrolled in four different MSGH courses — 417, 405, 408 and 452 — and had hits from 9 different countries during the fall quarter.

US Distance Learning Students

Next steps

  • Gather feedback from faculty and ID stakeholders on geographical distribution statistics
  • Examine differences in the distribution of students within courses
  • Examine differences in student behavior. For example, does the location of students affect the way they participate in discussions?