Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Instructional Technology

Major Professor

White, James


procrastination, content on demand, retention test scores, personalized system of instruction, massed versus distributed practice


Current learner-centered trends, such as supplying students with content on demand (CoD), coupled with research findings that indicate distributed practice is superior to massed practice in terms of increased memory function and that the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) is superior to traditional instruction in terms of academic achievement, content retention, and student satisfaction, prompted an investigation merging these two lines of research. Although PSI is more feasible today based on advances in technology and students prefer its self-paced component, they often procrastinate. In fact, this problem is resurfacing in distance education courses and is reflected in low completion rates as well as in the number of nonstarters. Numerous researchers have used deadline contingencies to reduce procrastination without adversely affecting student achievement and satisfaction, but few have considered the benefit of enhanced memory.

It was hypothesized that, by providing students with CoD, a lesser form of self-pacing, and by using contingencies to regulate the pace of assignment submissions, procrastination would be reduced and content retention subsequently increased without detriment to immediate achievement and student satisfaction. To quantify differences in procrastination level, a comprehensive, sensitive, and reliable measure of procrastination, called the rate of relative digression from a target response (RDTR), was proposed. Undergraduate, preservice teachers in an instructional technology course were randomly assigned to one of three treatments. All groups were given the same deadlines. For one treatment, the deadlines were recommended (R) with one absolute deadline at the end of the treatment interval. For another they were conditional (C) with opportunities to earn bonus and penalty points for early and late work.

For a third, they were all absolute (A) with no assignment accepted for credit after its due date. Although many problems experienced by students in A made findings for this group inconclusive, analysis of differences between students in R and C indicated that C was superior in reducing procrastination and enhancing memory function without detriment to immediate achievement, pacing preference, and course satisfaction. Although more research is needed to replicate, extend, and clarify findings, these results support using conditional deadlines for assignments when learners are supplied CoD.