April 30th, 2019 Tips & Tricks

Understanding the factors that affect course completion rates can help you retain students.

When you first recruit students for your courses they are enthusiastic and committed. But over time that commitment wanes and some students end up dropping out without completing the course. How can you prevent drop outs and increase your online course completion rates?

That might seem like an impossible question to answer. After all, as an online course provider you never get to meet your students in person so it is difficult to guess what is going on in their heads. Failing to complete a course could mean that students find the material too difficult, not challenging enough, or simply that their lives are too busy for them to work through all the course material.

Still, there are some tried and tested methods you can use to improve completion rates for all your online courses. Here are some techniques you can try:

1. Make Lessons Shorter

Many people today struggle to concentrate on study materials for a long period of time. With emails, tweets, notifications, and calls all vying for their attention, students often find it difficult to commit to watching an hour-long video or reading several pages of information.

Students enjoy completing lessons of a course. Ticking off an item on a list is immensely satisfying. By splitting up your course into a large number of short lessons (or micro-content), you can deliver information in bite-sized chunks that your students find easy to digest. Keep videos to just a few minutes in length and focus on delivering a single concept in each one.

2. Invite Students to Apply Their Learning

Another good way to keep students engaged is to include quizzes and assessments in your course. These provide reassurance to students that their level of knowledge is increasing as a result of the course. As a result, students are more likely to see the course as worthwhile which keeps them motivated to continue.

3. Provide Certifications

Certifications allow students to prove that they have taken an online course to gain new skills and experiences. This provides an incentive for students to complete the course. If they do not complete all the material, students will miss out on a certificate or other kind of acknowledgment. The knowledge that all their hard work so far could go to waste if they drop out now can help to keep them logging on and working through the modules.

4. Connect Students

Social pressure is an excellent tool to leverage when you want to increase your online course completion rates. By connecting students to each other you can benefit from their ability to encourage and help each other out.

Create an online discussion forum for your group, where students can discuss the course material, ask questions, and help each other to digest and understand the material. If you do not want to host your own forum, a Facebook Group can be very effective.

When your students join a course Facebook Group, posts from the group will appear in their Facebook News Feeds. This will help to remind students that they need to log into the learning platform and continue their studies, reducing the risk that they will drift away from the course because their lives are busy with too many other distractions.

Students can continue to be members of the course Facebook Group even after they complete the course. This gives them a chance to explore the topic further and could encourage them to take more online courses in future.

5. Remind Students By Email

A lot of students drop out of online courses simply because they forget to log in and complete the lessons. If this goes on for too long then they begin to feel demotivated because they think they are too behind to catch up.

The solution to this problem is to email students as soon as they begin to disengage with your course. If students go for more than a couple of days without logging into the learning platform, send them a friendly reminder email to encourage them to restart their learning.

Continue to email students to let them know that it is not too late for them to catch up with their online course. Always keep the tone of the emails positive and encouraging to avoid demotivating students.

In the end it is all about trial and error to find what works best for you.

There isn’t a magic formula unfortunately. Your best bet is to test out each tip to see how your students respond and if it makes any meaningful impact. You may find that all of these strategies work, or maybe just one.

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter

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2 responses

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Hi, great points!
what do you recommend to apply point “5. Remind Students By Email”?
I have search for addons and plugins and the only thing I found is LearnDash Notifications addon, but it hasn’t been updated in 2 years and it doesn’t seem to send the notifications.

Do you have any other recommendations?

Avatar Carlos

an automatic solution for sending email reminders what really enhance LD. ex: if there is a one off course, it would be nice to send out auto-reminders about the course date and time….

Avatar Chris Bubny

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