Teaching online for the last 14 years has revealed many common challenges among students. The three main elements included (a) procrastination, (b) time and energy management, and (c) confusion about the difference of a good intention and an action plan. Identifying these challenges offered me the opportunity to present students with specific guidance and to assess the outcomes.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Some recent research by Piers Steel (2007) found that nearly 85 percent of all college students procrastinate to some extent. Moreover, nearly 50 percent of college students procrastinate consistently and the phenomenon is problematic in their lives. There is not an easy answer to why this happens and some medical professionals even consider procrastination a disease. That is, the tendency to put things off until sometime “later” is considered part of a functional deficiency in human behavior. In other words, many of us abuse this tendency and cannot seem to hold it under control. Procrastination relates to laziness with respect to action. In other words, we have rationalized some good intentions, but as the old adage goes “actions speak stronger than words.”
Time and Energy Management
In general, students know very little about the importance of time and energy management. In the simplest form, we need to organize the “what and when” we do with our time. For instance, if taking a course in accounting requires a major focus, it is probably best not to work on an assignment after working all day. In addition, if we are full of energy in the morning and right after doing our regular exercises, it is probably best to allot some time to do schoolwork. Planning is the key and a schedule on a visible calendar is necessary.
Action Plan vs. a Good Intention
Finally, an action plan sets a goal up for success and provides a timeline to review progress. An example of a good intention without a measurable set of achievable steps is the desire to lose weight. Transforming that goal into an action plan happens by choosing to eat foods that contain less saturated fat. Similarly, the good intention of finishing a bachelor’s degree online requires concrete steps.
Tips for Success
Start drafts of assignments to overcome the tendency to procrastinate. In my classes, students who heeded this advice were twice as likely to complete the course successfully. Use your limited time wisely by following a schedule. Attend to schoolwork when you have the most energy and include “by” statements in your action plans.