Learning Journal with Soft Commitment in Higher Education

Last registered on October 03, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Learning Journal with Soft Commitment in Higher Education
Initial registration date
September 29, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
October 03, 2022, 5:33 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

ifo Institute

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Erfurt
PI Affiliation
Nuremberg Institute of Technology
PI Affiliation
University of Erfurt

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
There is an overwhelming consensus that procrastination is prevalent among people, and university students in particular. Studies estimate that over 80% of college students engage in procrastination and up to 50% do it consistently and in a way that handicaps their efforts. It is thus unsurprising that a well-established body of literature links procrastination to poorer academic performance and academic failure. Given the high prevalence of procrastination and its negative consequences for academic success, this research project investigates whether a learning journal that features elements of interventions that have been successful at facilitating self-regulated learning and a soft commitment device can increase students’ academic performance. Specifically, our first treatment arm offers students the opportunity to use a semester long online learning journal in which they reflect on their study behavior and set goals. In the second treatment arm, the learning journal additionally features a soft commitment device that allows students to commit to the goals that they set for themselves in the learning journal.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Brade, Raphael et al. 2022. "Learning Journal with Soft Commitment in Higher Education." AEA RCT Registry. October 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10147-1.0
Experimental Details


The intervention is conducted with an incoming cohort of first-year university students studying towards 21 different degrees. In all experimental groups, students receive a welcome letter and a corresponding email that introduces the program “Study with a Plan”. For the two treatment groups this program includes the offer to use an online learning journal and weekly reminders to use the journal. As part of the program, during the semester, all experimental groups are invited to participate in two online surveys about their studies. About a month before the exam period starts, all students receive a second letter and email that repeats the (updated) information that was provided to them at the beginning of the semester and reminds them about the upcoming exam period.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We consider the following set of outcomes at the end of the first semester: usage of the learning journal (take-up and frequency) as well as academic achievements in terms of persistence, the number of passed course credits, students’ GPA, and a summary index of those three measures.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
To investigate whether our intervention affects students’ engagement with their studies, we will study the effect of the intervention on course credits signed up for and attempted as well as students study behavior as measured in the two online surveys.

To investigate how students’ well-being is affected by the intervention, we study effects on non-cognitive outcomes that we measure in the two online surveys and a summary index of those outcomes.

We will study the usage of the learning journal in more detail by considering students’ goal setting behavior, their reported study time, and their goal achievement.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Students were randomly allocated to a control and two treatment groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Stratified randomization using Stata.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,221 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
2,221 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Group 1: 740
Group 2: 740
Group 3: 741
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics Committee of the University of Erfurt
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials