As an online educator, your probably are used to tracking a lot of metrics: how many sales you made, how many emails you’ve sent, what the open rate on those emails looks like, how well your learners are performing in your course, what your course completion rate is, etc. Tracking metrics is an important way for you to gauge how well your course is doing—both in terms of marketing and sales, and in teaching learners the information they came to you to learn.

However, one metric that has haunted online educators for years is that of learner burnout. One courses often struggle with completion rates, as it’s far too easy for learners to become disengaged. But burnout goes beyond lack of engagement. It indicates a learner who’s not just bored or apathetic, but actively exhausted, frustrated, and discouraged.

Burnout has many factors, some of which are beyond an educator’s reach. But educators who want to help their learners through a period of difficulty do well to keep their eyes open for early warning signs, so that they can step in and help before a learner drops their course.

If you’re worried about learner burnout, here are the top six warning signs you should look out for.

1. Learners aren’t signing in as frequently, or their progression is slowing down.

Learners are always most enthusiastic at the beginning of a course, when their reasons for signing up are front-of-mind, and when everything is new and exciting. As a course goes on, however, material typically becomes more difficult. The reality of balancing course work against their other obligations sinks in, and their active time begins to dwindle.

In LearnDash, you can set automated triggers to reach out to learners if they don’t sign in for a set number of days. Use these triggers to offer personalized help, perhaps by offering a one-on-one session or a practice quiz to re-engage their interest.

2. Learners aren’t as engaged as they used to be.

Maybe you have a learner who is deeply engaged with your course. You’ve been able to count on them to leave thoughtful comments on your lessons, and to engage with their peers in your forum. However, over the past few weeks, you’ve noticed they aren’t as active as they used to be. What’s going on?

Burnout is an obvious culprit, but responding to it in a situation such as this can be more delicate than with other situations. A learner who isn’t commenting may be busy, or may simply have less to say that week. Nevertheless, if you do reach out, it may be way to show a learner that you’ve noticed and appreciated their participation in the past. This is usually appreciated, even if the learner isn’t actually burnt out.

3. Learners are struggling with course material.

Burnout and course difficulty are related, but that relationship can run both ways. Sometimes learners begin to burn out because the material is too difficult, but just as often, the material becomes difficult because learners are burnt out. Either way, if you see that a learner is repeatedly failing a check-in quiz, or scoring lower on an assessment than they had been earlier in the course, it’s a sign they need help.

Much like the automated triggers based on sign-ins, LearnDash can also send emails based on quiz results. If a learner fails a quiz, you can send an automated email with encouragement, or with some additional notes to help them review. You can also monitor failed quizzes and contact a learner if you see they’re in difficulty to offer direct feedback.

4. Learners appear to be procrastinating.

Procrastination is a common sign of burnout, given that it’s linked most closely with feelings of apathy and boredom. It can also be a result of a learner avoiding material because it’s too difficult, or because they don’t know what to do next.

Keep an eye out for learners who are consistently overdue, or else turning assignments in at the deadline. If you think they may be struggling with procrastination, check in with them to see if they’re understanding assignments correctly.

5. Learners are more negative or irritable in course interactions.

Most of us hope never to have a learner who is a consistent troublemaker. However, a negative attitude isn’t just about someone’s irritability. It can also be a sign that someone is feeling a lot of stress. If the stress is caused by their frustration in the course, they may being expressing it more openly in comments or in class discussions.

Because a learner’s negativity has a direct impact on the experience of other learners in the course, it’s essential to address this problem as quickly as possible. Speak directly with the learner to see how you can help, and focus on finding a resolution to their difficulty.

6. Learner complaints are on the rise.

Finally, a truly disgruntled learner may take their frustrations public, either by leaving negative reviews on your course or by complaining on social media. Moments such as this can be extremely discouraging to you, the educator, especially if they happen with any degree of regularity.

Of course, you can’t ever please everyone, and it’s good to have some detachment from bad reviews so that you can handle them effectively. However, if you’re noticing an uptick, see if you can trace it back to a root cause. Is there a quiz that learners are struggling to pass, or a number of weeks they go before they drop out? Are learners voicing anything specific in their complaints that you could address? Even a negative review can be a learning experience.

Addressing burnout early can help learners recover and have a positive experience.

The most important thing to bear in mind with learner burnout is that the sooner you notice it, the faster you can address it, and the less serious it will become. If you can catch it in its early stages, often all a learner needs is a minor course correction to get them back on track. But if left untended, it’s more likely to spiral out of control, leaving learners feeling upset and abandoned.

The most important thing to remember is that you aren’t powerless to address this issue. Keep an eye out for the signs, and you can support your learners when it still counts.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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