Reducing Procrastination with Frequent Engagement

overdue task list

Photo by AJ Gulyas. Creative Commons Attribution License.

Lately I’ve been thinking about procrastination in online courses. Procrastination can be caused by so many things – feeling inadequate for the task, a sense that the task is hard, deciding that other things are more important.

Have you noticed in your email habits that you tend to answer the easy questions, but if someone asks a hard question, you put it off?

It’s easy to procrastinate on just about anything, but doesn’t it seem like online learning exaggerates our procrastination? We get done what’s in front of us, what’s staring us in the face. But our distance learning is online, in the cloud, on our app. Easily ignored. Easily put off for another day.

What does it take to keep our distance learning right in our students’ faces?

Combating Procrastination in Distance Learning Industries

It’s an issue in all different kinds of distance learning, and there are a variety of ways to combat procrastination:

  • In mobile learning, apps like DuoLingo notify the user daily with a reminder to practice their learning.
  • In online courses, for both K12 or higher education, teachers can design frequent, low-stakes grading, using quizzes, practice quizzes, or short assignments.
  • In corporate training modules, content could be broken up into smaller, micro-lessons, with content and an engagement activity included in lesson.
  • In healthcare, remote patient monitoring can be embedded with regular tips and mentoring to assist patients with improving their health, such as Tactio Health, an app that provides digital coaching along with self-monitoring and/or remote monitoring.
  • In videoconference learning, such as courses or enrichment by content providers, learners probably don’t procrastinate during the live lesson. That’s the beauty of live, synchronous learning. However, there may be assignments or pre-work that is easily put off. Small, easy to manage, learning bites and activities can reduce procrastination or disengagement.

Examples of Frequent Engagement

So how do we design frequent engagement, and low-stakes grading into our distance learning experiences? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Feedback and monitoring. Tullis and Benjamin (2011) suggest that students need frequent feedback to help them learn to monitor their learning. If they have a clear understanding of which concepts they understand, and which need more study, learners can adjust their study time to spend more time on the concepts and skills that need to improve. So design frequent assessments that inform learners on their progress.
  • Daily quizzing. Wesp (1986) suggests for personalized instruction (isn’t all distance learning personalized learning at some level?) that daily quizzes can help students keep on track with making progress on their studies, particularly if the quizzes are designed in such a way that they don’t have a negative effect on poorer students’ grades.
  • Informal writing. Besides regular quizzing, informal writing can engage students regularly with the content, and keep them focused on their learning. In addition, Warnock (2013) suggests that frequent grading gives student confidence and keeps the communication flow between teacher and student. Informal writing can include journals, reading responses, one minute responses, or muddiest point paragraphs.

Now that you’ve considered ways to reduce procrastination in distance learning, what are you going to do about it? Don’t procrastinate! Pick one small idea and add it to the learning design you are working on today! Or this weekend. Or next week. …

Comment Invitation

Please feel free to comment below. What other suggestions would you give for reducing procrastination? What do you see as the benefits of frequent engagement? Are there any examples where you believe these ideas don’t work? Please share.

References

Tullis, J. G., & Benjamin, A. S. (2011). On the effectiveness of self-paced learning. Journal of Memory and Language, 64(2), 109-118. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2010.11.002

Warnock, S. (2013). Frequent, low-stakes grading: Assessment for communication, confidenceFaculy Focus.

Wesp, R. (1986). Reducing procrastination through required course involvement. Teaching of Psychology, 13(3), 128-130. doi: 10.1207/s15328023top1303_6

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