Shortened Penn State Distance Education Courses Help Students Stay Motivated

July 26, 2005

University Park, Pa.—Procrastination can be a notorious trait among students. If given a prolonged period of time to start a project, many students tend to put it off—possibly never even starting it. However, if they are given a shorter period of time to complete an assignment, students may feel a greater sense of urgency and have a better chance for completing it. For example, one study on distance learning found that students were more apt to complete a course if they submitted the first assignment within 40 days of the start of the course.

That’s why Penn State’s World Campus is shortening its Independent Learning courses from eight months to six months, effective Aug. 1. More than 150 courses are available through Independent Learning—a preference among students who are busy with work or family and need a flexible learning environment. Rather than work in the set schedule of a semester, these students can register for classes at any time.

“We’re hoping that the change will help students to become engaged with their courses right away, rather than delay them,” said Jean McGrath, senior director of World Campus Student Services. “An eight-month time frame can be overwhelming. If students complete their lessons sooner, they will get the positive reinforcement they need from their instructors to stay motivated, and Independent Learning is apt to be an even more positive experience.” Students can also complete more courses per year—and reach a degree sooner.

In addition, the Independent Learning Option change will allow Penn State to increase its portfolio of offerings in the U.S. Army’s online university program, eArmyU, which requires that students complete a course within six months. There are enlisted soldiers at bases around the world who take Penn State distance learning courses through eArmyU. For more information about the World Campus, visit

Editor contact: Amy Neil, 814-865-7600 or

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