Helping Students Win the Battle with Procrastination

It’s Monday morning again and as usual I arrive at my office a half hour ahead of the rest of the Academic Affairs team.  I do this not necessarily because I am an extreme go-getter, but because I know that every Monday I am going to have a deep pool of emails to wade through before my work week can actually begin. Sadly, at least 90% of the messages are notifications of student work completed. Yes, I said sadly.

Most of us have been there at least once in our lives and if you are at all like me you’ve been there at least once this week. The tasks of our daily lives become so consuming they drag our determination to see those tasks through to completion to a grinding halt.  There are procedures to document, new students to enroll, instructors to train, and reports to run among countless other projects vying for our attention. It’s easy to become overwhelmed to the point that we don’t know where to begin and so, well, we don’t begin anything – except maybe composing a status update or breaking out our mobile devices and wiping out a few green pigs.

If you haven’t already figured it out; I’m talking about procrastination.  It’s a bad habit and like any other bad habit it doesn’t develop overnight but in small instances over time until one day we look back and realize just how frequently it happens. Procrastination is the reason I have an inbox full from notifications of late-night, deadline-hugging assignment submissions.

Most of our online courses are adaptations of our sixteen week seated courses that have been accelerated to eight weeks in length. With such a truncated timetable, if a student procrastinates by as little as a few days they can find themselves far enough behind that it can quickly become overwhelming, opening the door for procrastination. I don’t believe my students intentionally put themselves in this position; they are just like me and sometimes become inundated to the point of exasperation.  As a wise professor friend reminded me recently, “Those moments [when I feel overwhelmed and end up procrastinating] help me realize what some of our students go through, who have a lot on their plates and sometimes don’t get to things they really intended to.”

My coming to the understanding that many of my online students have as much load in their daily lives as I do has prompted me to take a more proactive approach in helping them to succeed in their classes. In future posts I will share some of the methods we are implementing to combat procrastination but for now I think I’ll take a break…and maybe wipe out a few green pigs.

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 Lisa M. Menke is the Associate Dean for Online Instruction at York College of Nebraska. Lisa is an avid fan innovation in learning design and transmedia storytelling. Lisa holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in  online course development. Lisa and her family live in York, Nebraska.

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