According to novoed, online course completion rates are extremely low at just 13%.
This is a major problem for online course creators and online instructors. If our students do not complete our courses, they cannot benefit from everything that it has to offer.
If they don’t receive the full value of their training program, then it is less likely to have a transformational effect on their life. Without transformation and positive learning experiences, satisfaction rates decrease and we will lose out on the greatest online course marketing of all – word of mouth referrals.
Completing our courses means that our students will get their full value from them, and this means that we are far more likely to leave a positive, lasting impression on our students, which in turn gets us excellent feedback and reviews that will keep our courses filled with students long into the future.
But how can we increase the completion rates of online learning when we have significantly less control and influence over the learning experience than we do in face to face training?
Here are 9 ways that you can increase your online course completion rates:
- The ‘Paint by Numbers’ Approach
We’ve all seen the stunning paintings that even a complete novice can create, simply by matching the right colours to the matching numbers step by step.
Similarly, by breaking down your course into small manageable chunks, even the most complex of topics can easily be digested by the most ‘newbie’ of students.
Importantly, the ‘painting by numbers’ approach also promises a completed, tangible product that can be seen and admired at the end of the work. When students know that they will have a clearly defined result that they can see, touch and be proud of at the end of your training program, they will be far more likely to strive to complete it.
To increase completion rates of your online course ensure that your course is broken down into it’s ‘easiest’ form; and that you very clearly show them how much closer they are getting to completing that final ‘picture’ as regularly as possible.
- Create a Learning Community
One study showed that where there were online learning communities or virtual teams as part of an online course, students were 5x more engaged and 16x more likely to finish it.
Humans like to feel ‘part of something’ and naturally avoid situations (especially unfamiliar situations) in which they feel alone. When people feel like they ‘belong’ and are ‘part of something’ with like minded people, engagement will increase.Therefore, the more you can create an online community as part of your course, the more likely you will be you increase your course completion rates.
You can do this by using Facebook groups, discussion areas inside the course and Google+ communities, as examples.
- The ‘FOMO’ method
FOMO – The fear of missing out. This is a great technique to use to ensure higher completion rates of your online course. If students who are falling behind can see the results that their peers are getting from sticking with the program, then they are more likely to be motivated to progress through the course themselves so that they too can have the same results that they are seeing everyone else getting.
Encourage students to share their results that they are getting from the program as you go along. You could do this by getting them to showcase their work in community areas, or you can create ‘celebrity’ students by publishing case studies on the results they are having and send those out as messages and updates to your entire student base.
Nobody likes to miss out and get left behind, so using the FOMO method is a great way to increase your online course completion rates.
- Have an Accountability Mentor
This involves having a real person who regularly ‘checks in’ with the learners to ensure that they are progressing at the right pace, asks them how they are feeling about their learning and if there are any areas where they require further support and guidance.
The same study referenced earlier in this article showed that where students were working individually only 2% completed their course; whereas when there was a mentor present a massive 44% completed their course.
If you are an online course instructor you can increase your completion rates by ensuring that you regularly contact your learners and provide them with LIVE advice and support that is as personal and one-on-one as possible. This could be yourself, or you could nominate an ambassador within your learning group.
- Let Them Taste Success
There is nothing that breeds success quite like success itself. Create a course that is challenging enough to push your students boundaries a little, but not too challenging they are at a high risk of failure. When students achieve something that they perceived to be a little hard, the feeling of success created by by that achievement actually fuels further activity – it’s what I call the development of ‘educational efficacy’.
When people start to see that they can achieve something, it naturally motivates them to want to achieve more and therefore increases the completion rates of self directed study.
If you want to increase completion rates in your online course, then ensure your training is designed in a way that gives your students the opportunity to experience many small wins throughout your program.
- Shorten and Minimise
In this digital age, where information comes thick and fast, our attention spans are reducing rapidly. This means that we need to place careful consideration on not only the length of our course, but also the length of each piece of content presented to the student.
Generally, online course videos have higher completion rates when they are under 10 minutes long. Any longer and viewing rates drop.
To increase the completion rates of your online courses, make your courses shorter (it’s better to have 10 x one hour courses than 1 x ten hour course), keep each video under 10 minutes and ensure documents are less than 10 pages each.
- Go Back to Basics
If you have done all of the above and still have low completion rates, then it will be wise to revisit your course content and delivery.
Can you remember what made you ‘disengage’ when you were sat in class at school? Perhaps the teacher was boring? The content didn’t interest you? You didn’t like the teacher’s style? The teacher waffled on too long? You didn’t like the silly games?
All educators hate to think about this, but if we have a high dropout rate we must check in on our teaching style and content. Can we have a talking head video instead of a voice-over powerpoint? Can we have a screencast video instead of a PDF? Can we have an activity instead of an audio?
To increase completion rates, we must increase our engagement rates – and the best way to do that is to have engaging content and to be an engaging presenter!
- To Get Honey, Recruit Bees
As an online instructor, your goal is to make happy students. Happy students complete your courses and often tell their friends to go and do the same.
A great way to increase our online course completion rates is to make sure that we are only attracting the people who really really really want and NEED our course. Finding those who desperately want and need your content means that your content is highly likely to help them and therefore they will be extremely likely to finish it. If you are attracting people to your course who don’t really need or want your content, then they are less likely to like and finish it.
To increase your online course completion rates, refine your course descriptions, learning outcomes and marketing language to ensure that only the right people are enrolling in your course from the outset.
- The Carrot Method
Ok, this one is a bit ‘bribey’, but when people have a strong incentive to do something, they are more likely to accomplish it. To increase completion rates of your online course, ensure you issue certification of attendance or completion. Secondly, ask yourself what else your learners would absolutely LOVE to have and offer a series of ‘prizes’ as a ‘carrot on a stick’. Maybe it could be free access to another course, a free consultation with you, coaching call credits, check lists, contact lists, a free eBook, an internship with your company, a goodie bag of physical products….. The list goes on. If people can see that they have lots to gain by completing your course, they are more likely to do so.
So there you have it, 9 ways to increase your online course completion rates!
I’d love to know if you use any other methods to increase your completion rates?
You can also take this free webinar on how to structure and plan out an engaging and profitable online course.