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Real-time Monitoring of Student Procrastination in a PSI First-year Programming Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD VII: Research on First-year Programs Part II

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1099.1 - 25.1099.14

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Paper Authors


Mitchell Pryor University of Texas, Austin

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Mitch Pryor graduated with his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2002 with an emphasis on robotics. He is currently a Research Scientist/Lecturer at UT, Austin, where he has taught since 2002. He has taught a variety of courses from first-year introductory programming to a graduate course in robot dynamics. His research has focused on applied robotics with an emphasis on hazardous, uncertain environments. In 2008, he co-created a graduate interdisciplinary program for developing automation solutions for nuclear applications.

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Real-time monitoring of student procrastination in a PSI first- year programming courseAbstractProcrastination is the intentional deferment of a scheduled task and is most often attributed (bythe procrastinator) to a lack of available time prior to a deadline. Although the impact ofprocrastination on student learning is widely debated, it has been correlated with a lack ofexternal (or self) regulation, motivation, and performance anxiety. These contributors stand incontrast to the commonly asserted issue. A lecture-centric course provides limited observationsfor evaluating actual student procrastination. Evidence is often subjective or anecdotal. In self-paced Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) courses, observational opportunities can befurther limited.Yet PSI can be an effective teaching strategy for course material such as that in a first-year, web-based, computer and programming course. Students (particularly first-year students) have diversebackgrounds and a varied technical literacy. In this particular course, students complete 18 unitsfollowing a traditional PSI s-curve in terms of content difficulty over the course of one semester.The content introduces students to 2 programming syntaxes and three programming paradigms(compiled, interpreted, and object-oriented languages). The PSI format allows individuals toinvest the appropriate amount of time without overwhelming new programmers orunderwhelming the more experienced. Most importantly, a well-designed PSI course may instilltime management skills (though often as a hard lesson learned), thus countering procrastinationhabits.In this paper, we present a system developed to monitor and succinctly quantify studentprocrastination in real-time and evaluate its use for evaluating new course implementations,material, and instructor strategies. The web-based system uses formulated procrastination metricsto succinctly visualize student progress. Real-time monitoring of procrastination in tandem withstudent profile data (previous programming experience, etc.) are examined to correlate theimpact of instructor encouragement, unit difficulty, external events (mid-terms, sporting events,etc.), and other activities. The system can be used to examine the collective procrastination of theclass as well as individual students or demographic categories. If effective, real-timeprocrastination monitoring becomes another tool for objectively evaluating new strategies in agiven semester also allowing for immediate adjustments benefitting current instead of just futurestudents.

Pryor, M. (2012, June), Real-time Monitoring of Student Procrastination in a PSI First-year Programming Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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