When procrastination leads to dropping out: analysing students at risk

Josep Grau, Julià Minguillon


Higher education is a very expensive process which creates highly qualified citizens, a key asset in our information society. Nevertheless, in some cases, the educational system fails to provide the appropriate support to all learners. Dropout rates are very high, resulting in frustration for both the learner and for institutional managers. This problem is even worse at distance/online universities, as students can take breaks for one or more semesters, procrastinating in what it is supposed to be their main goal for ensuring success: maintaining an adequate enrolment pace, which puts them in a risk situation.

In this paper we analyse the relationship between taking a break and dropping out for several undergraduate degrees at an online university. Results show that the risk of extending a break too long and finally dropping out is very high during the first few semesters, where most dropouts occur. By using the appropriate policies and strategies, higher education institutions can detect students at risk and try to improve retention through a better understanding of the dropping out drama.


procrastination, dropping out, breaks, enrolment, retention, time management, e-learning, higher education

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