OWL Blog

Adjusting Assignments for Daylight Saving Time

If you are creating your OWL Test Management System (TMS) assignments this summer for the upcoming Fall and Winter terms, you may need to make an accommodation for daylight saving time changes. This article provides those instructions.

When we talk about an assignment in the OWL TMS, we are referring to the instructions for delivering your online activity to your test takers. You are telling the system, who can have access to the activity, and importantly for this article, you are indicating WHEN they may complete your online activity. Specifically, we are talking about completing the Begins (local) and Ends (local) fields.

OWL assignment builder screen

In most cases, you need not think about making adjustments for time zones. OWL will automatically adjust the start based upon the location of the user when they log in. The OWL TMS does this by storing times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and then adjusting by the test taker’s UTC offset. The UTC offset is provided by the test taker’s browser when they log in to the OWL TMS. There is, however, this one exception for daylight saving time. Because daylight saving is not observed uniformly throughout the world, the assignment’s creator must manually make the adjustment.

Adjusting for Daylight Saving Time

Later in this article you will find a more detailed account of how the OWL TMS handles time differences. But, if your only concern is how to enter the desired assignment times, you can do this in three simple steps using the table below:

Step 1: Find the row that represents your current time zone.
Step 2: Find the column that represents your time zone when the assignment begins.
Step 3: Determine the adjustment from the intersecting cell in the table.

Expanded Explanation

Below are some examples of how time differences are handled by the OWL TMS. If you are like me and talking about time zones makes your head spin, try this resource: https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/. This free world clock converter is an easy way to visualize your time relative to others and can be an essential tool for calculating time differences.

Standard Case:
OWL automatically determines assignment availability based on the begin and end times that you set and the UTC offset of the examinee. This makes it simple for assignment creators. You simply establish your begin and end times based on when your want your examinee to see the assignment, regardless of time zone.

Let’s look at the simplest case. An instructor in London is observing British Summer Time (BST) when they create an assignment scheduled to begin 8/1/1/2018 8:00 AM. An examinee in New York City has a time zone of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). The examinee can start that assignment 5 hours later at 8:00 AM EDT. The time difference between BST and EDT is 5 hours.

 Daylight Saving Time Case:
When a region observes daylight saving time, they are forcing their UTC offset to change by one hour. This means that if you are creating an assignment in the Summer that will begin after the Fall time change, you will also need to force your UTC offset by one hour. And the converse situation requires an adjustment in the opposite direction.

Let’s take a common example. An instructor in New York City is preparing for the school year in late August for an assignment in December. The desired assignment begin time is: 12/1/2018 @ 6:00 AM EST.

  • Assignment Created in August (EDT):
    • Begins (local) entered by user:  12/1/2018 @ 6:00 AM
    • Conversion from EDT to UTC:  EDT + 4 hours = UTC
    • Calculated/Stored Time (+ 4 hours):  12/1/2018 @ 10:00 AM UTC
  • Assignment Begins in December: (EST)
    • Conversion from UTC to EST:  UTC - 5 hours = EST
    • Begins (local) Calculated (- 5 hours):  12/1/2018 @ 5:00 AM EST
    • Result:  Assignment will be Available 1 Hour Early
  • Adjustment: (from EDT to EST)
    • Time Entered in August:  12/1/2018 @ 7:00 AM EDT
    • Stored in OWL (+ 4 hours):  12/1/2018 @ 11:00 AM UTC
    • Assignment Available (- 5 hours):  12/1/2018 @ 6:00 AM EST
    • Result:  Assignment will begin at desired time

If you need more information on Creating OWL Assignments, including the daylight saving time conversion table, please visit the OWL Assignments Help Documentation.