Teaching in an in-person classroom is different than teaching in an online environment. Similarly, students in a live classroom are different than online students seeking a college degree.

For online students, procrastination takes different forms. For instance, a student may neglect to write a post for an online discussion forum about the topic for that week, forget to make the required forum replies to other students or neglect to turn in a final project on time. As a result, the student earns lower grades.

Online Students Must Be Self-Motivated

The big problem for college students in the online classroom is that their grades for forum posts, weekly writing assignments or final projects can suffer if the work is not done within the instructor’s deadline. Unlike an in-person classroom where a teacher constantly reminds students about classroom deadlines, students must be self-motivated and remind themselves to adhere to those deadlines.

Faculty members teaching online students also need to build up each student’s confidence. That strategy can help to prevent student procrastination.

Online Students Have Multiple Responsibilities

In the online university world, the age of adult learners ranges from 23 to 70. Most students are working full-time in a civilian career or are in the military, preparing for a civilian career.  Some even have children that require constant care.

Many online students work night shifts or travel, often for days or weeks, so they cannot log into class right on time. That is not necessarily procrastination on their part; they just have other responsibilities that impact their daily schedule.

When to Engage Students in the Online Classroom

As instructors, we need to explore other potential ways to use our technological tools to engage students and avoid procrastination. When should you engage your students in the online classroom and motivate them to work? There are multiple ways to meet and motivate online students:

  • Create an introduction during the first week as online students introduce themselves and meet other students in the online classroom
  • Give students an opportunity to ask questions about the learning objectives in the class syllabus
  • Send a group message or email individual students if possible
  • Set up a Zoom meeting for all students to hear and see you during the first week or the last week of class 

Online students are there with you and have a personal commitment to pass the course; many students are there for professional development. Your job as the professor is to work as hard as you can to become that caring partner with your students.

Guide each student through the scary waters of an online classroom – for some, it will be their first online classroom experience – and find innovative ways to help them engage with you. They’ll be more motivated to stop their procrastination and will have a more positive online classroom experience.



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