Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Procrastination in Online Courses

In the comments section of my April 11 entry, Don Gregory posted some interesting things he learned at New Horizons about procrastination and how often our students are actually telling the truth when they give us excuses about why they have not, or cannot, complete their work. Based on your experiences and observations, do you think the information the New Horizons speaker gave us accurate? If so, what should we do about it?

This research finding is particularly salient to me, since as a young and female instructor, I have at least two of the three characterstics this research shows will leads students to be more likely to lie to me. I have always taken the approach, though, that although I know some students will lie to me, I'd rather give students the benefit of the doubt (when it seems reasonable) and allow a student or two to squeak through on a lie, than to be really strict and fail to accommodate someone who really needs it. This reseach may indicate that my students can read me like a book and are taking advantage of this approach. What's your philosophy on striking a balance between lenience and strictness?

And on the subjecct of procrastination, which is also importantly related to our discussion of deadlines begun in my April 15 post, you might be interested in this article:


It's a graduate student's reflections on her online learning experiences, focused on why she procrastinated so much more in her online courses than her face-to-face ones, and what she suggests online teachers do about it. Does the article give you any insight into what your students are thinking, or into what you might do to help them avoid procrastination?


Laura Shulman said...

Jennifer asked: >What's your philosophy on striking a balance between lenience and strictness?<

I put a note in my syllabus that if a student needs an alternative schedule for submission (order or deadlines) than I expect, they need only let me know IN ADVANCE and I will usually be happy to accomodate their special needs.
But, as with much of the information regarding my many course policies, this line seems to go unread as I have had many more excuses after the fact than requests before hand.

Anonymous said...

I too have clear deadlines stated in my syllabus, but I am also very proactive and remind students, persistently, so that even if they miss these dates in the syllabus, they have no excuses.
I am pretty strict about deadlines and I am happy say that most of my students meet them. However, there are always the slackers.
I would say that instead striking a general balance, I consider the situation case by case.
If I see a student has been quite diligent with work and falls behind because of circumstances, I am more than happy to accommodate him/her. In fact, in such cases, I might even contact the student myself to see what is going on.
However, if a student shows signs slacking from the very beginning, I cut no slack. In fact, for this student, I have a warning system (not stated in the syllabus, because then they will take advantage of it.) I will accept the first late assignment and let him/her know in no uncertain terms that I am making an exception. For the second late assignment, I deduct points and let his/her know that this is the last late paper I will accept. Normally the deduction of points does the trick. And of course, if another paper is late, I don’t accept it. Nine times out of then the student gets the message. But, of course, there is always the small percentage that just doesn’t care, in which care.

I completely agree though that as distance learning educators we need to be a bit more sensitive to student circumstances. After off, many of them are taking online course, because of certain circumstances.

Meena said...

Sorry, the last post in mine. I didn't mean to keep it anonymous.

Laura said...

I LIKE Meena's approach to accepting late papers: first time warning, 2nd time penalty, 3rd time don't accept at all. I may just give this a try (I currently will forgive the first late penalty if it is the only one but perhaps giving a warning without a late penalty would be a better approach - more kind as well as bringing to the student's attention that there IS a deadline and late penalty they may not have been aware of (but should have been had they read the "fine print" in my syllabus).
MEENA: what KIND of late penalty do you give for that second time and how late would you accept it? (I increase the penalty with each additional week that goes by). I might modify the third time by giving a "fair F" of half credit rather than a zero.

Laura said...

I really appreciate this blog. I have gotten a number of good ideas from colleques that I've incorporated into my own course.

I have begun using Meena's suggestion regarding late papers - the first one receives a warning (via e-mail) but NO grade penalty. I've already had a few students I've given this warning to. I feel SOOO much better about this new approach and I suspect my students will find it much more fair than my previous approach.

In fact, for students who were late with the first assignment, I sent them an e-mail (bcc to all involved) bringing to their attention that they were now in the "grace" period and had one more week before this assignment would be late. In the process, I also added a note reminding them to complete the requred sign-in process if they'd not already done so. In the past I had a practice of sending a "getting started" message to all students but last semester found I was too busy to do that. The "getting started" message does not seem necessary for students who do get started on their own in the first week. So the week 2 "nudge" to select students seems a good compromise.

I have also taken someone else's suggestion to provide a section specific calendar that highlights important deadline dates. Rather than put specific dates in the course site, I made the calendar an attachment and created a separate one for each section. I put this attachment in the syllabus and can also attach it to e-mail when I send out my "warning" notice in response to the first late submission.

I can't imagine why I did not think of these ideas on my own, a lot sooner. I guess many heads ARE better than one!