I’ll Get There Tomorrow: Procrastination in Online Learning

Procrastination is a way of dealing with difficult emotions and dispositions brought on by certain tasks. These feelings often arise when we are faced with a task that we consider to be ‘aversive’ (i.e. boring, frustrating, meaningless and / or disorganized), which in turn leads to unpleasant or disorganized feelings. to a negative mood. These negative moods lead to procrastination.

I can just do it tomorrow

Because procrastination is a “class killer” and because we always have procrastinators in our online courses, it’s worth exploring some of the prevailing negative moods that lead to procrastination.

  • Anxiety
    Learners can be confused and unsure of a task. They may not have the confidence to complete the academic task, or they may not know where to start.
  • Precision
    Unrealistic expectations or standards (i.e. feeling overwhelmed by the amount of energy it will take to excel).
  • Contrariety
    Learners are annoyed that they have been given a task, so they delay completing the task.
  • Low self-esteem
    Learners may downplay their skills because they think they won’t be able to do a great job, so they keep putting off the task. They start to believe that they really can’t do it.
  • Frustration
    Learners are overwhelmed by the circumstances, so they find the situation unfair and intolerable and cannot overcome these negative emotions.
  • Embarrassment
    Learners can feel so bad about not working that they end up marinating in that guilt instead of getting down to work, further exacerbating that feeling of guilt or shame.

Since procrastination is a predictor of not completing an online course, we need to address how we create our classes and how we prepare teachers to teach those classes. It is also essential that we educate learners on how to overcome procrastination.

For course designers

  • Develop a module on procrastination
    I recently started incorporating information into my online courses to make learners aware of what procrastination is and why they procrastinate. Part of such a module could include mindfulness and time orientation activities to reduce negative feelings associated with class.
  • Include shorter deadlines
    Online courses that are too open invite procrastination because the simple ambition of homework associated with a lack of organization pushes learners to fall behind. As class designers, we can set shorter deadlines and break up large projects into subtasks to provide the learner with more structure and make activities less overwhelming. However, as online teachers, we must meet these deadlines. If learners see that there is no consequence in submitting an assignment late, many will continue to procrastinate.
  • Develop projects
    We tend to procrastinate when faced with tasks that we find boring or irrelevant. Thus, the courses could encompass a real-world project conducted online that taps into the aspirations or professional interests of the learners. Certainly, we can sacrifice a few readings, online quizzes, or animations to create a well-designed and interesting project.
  • Develop more group activities
    Procrastination is increased when online learners work alone. Classroom activities should organize online learners into teams or pairs with defined roles and responsibilities so that team members need each other to complete tasks and interact regularly. We may be less likely to procrastinate when others are counting on us to do our part.

For course instructors

  • Praise
    Online teachers should recognize the excellent work of the learners. This encouragement can inspire learners to complete online activities on time and increase their self-confidence and personal effectiveness.
  • Give encouragement
    Many online learners, especially those new to online courses, may suffer from the anxiety that comes with working alone, working remotely, and working through technology. It is essential that the teacher communicates confidence and reassurance to the learners and that he believes in their effectiveness.
  • Maintain weekly online office hours
    Offer weekly office hours via chat, VoIP, video or phone calls. In doing so, learners know that they are not alone and that there is a mechanism for getting help when needed.
  • Give in to struggling learners
    Stopping procrastination is essential before online learners dig a hole so deep that they will never escape it.

For online learners

  • Understand when you procrastinate and what prompts you to procrastinate
    Recognize that you are delaying something unnecessarily, and consider the reasons for your inability to act. Find out why you are procrastinating so that you can deal with negative feelings and begin classroom tasks.
  • Use positive self-talk
    Tell yourself, “It’s not that hard, it won’t take long, and I’m sure I know how to do it or learn while I’m doing it. Procrastination is often the fear of doing a bad job, so telling yourself that what you’re doing is great enough makes the tasks smaller and easier.
  • Start
    Once you get started, the task becomes so much easier. Researchers have found that soon after a person starts working on something they don’t like, the neurological discomfort goes away.
  • Change the environment
    If you can’t work from home, find a place where you can work (“your own room”) such as a coffee shop, your office after regular business hours, or at home after everyone has gone to bed.
  • Mitigate distractions
    Cut the internet for parts of the classroom, leave your phone at home, work in a library rather than a cafe.
  • Acknowledge your frustration
    You may be angry that you have been given a difficult task, but if you don’t, it will hurt you. So, don’t hurt yourself, let’s get started!
  • Keep working
    Research also shows that the more we get better at something, the more enjoyable it can become.
  • Seek advice from colleagues that help you build a schedule and feel confident. Use online or offline “classmates” as a support / study partner.
  • Implement time management strategies
    Set a timer for 15 minutes, so that you work in 15 minute increments. After each increment, give yourself a break or a reward.

Concluding thoughts

So there you have it, a preview of how procrastination manifests in online learning and strategies to overcome it. Do you have any other tips, techniques or strategies that you would like to share with our readers? If so, leave them in the comment section below.


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