MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are extremely popular. People use these to learn about a variety of subjects and connect with a variety of learning resources. This includes ivy league schools and world class speakers and instructors. In spite of this popularity, the completion rate of these courses is less than 10%.
Now, many MOOCs are also free or very low cost. It could be argued that the low completion rates can be attributed to the fact that neither students (nor their employers) have any financial investment. This makes it a bit easier for interest to fizzle.
So, for arguments sake, let’s say that your e course has triple the completion rate. That means 30% of your students are completing your course. Those numbers still aren’t very good.
The following paragraphs will explore three topics. The first is, why it’s important for students to complete your course. Next, we’ll explore why students drop out. Finally, we’ll look at ways you can tweak your courses to get as close to a 100% completion rate as possible.
Why Should Course Completion Rates Matter to You?
If you’re an employer, and you’ve designed an e course, you know why completion rates matter. You need to know that students have gone over your material, completed the course, and proven their mastery.
But, what if you are designing training courses to be sold to others? Why should it matter if students complete your course? After all, you get paid either way.
There are two reasons it matters. These are recommendations and reviews. Think about it. The majority of people don't leave reviews or pass on your course to others regardless. People who don’t finish your course certainly won’t. Even if they do, they won’t likely be positive. When was the last time you read a positive review of anything that mentioned not finishing it? High completion rates are important!
Why do Students Drop Out?
This happens for several reasons. For one thing, with self paced courses, students often get busy and simply don’t get back to finish. Some may get bored. Others realize too late that the course doesn’t meet their needs. Keep reading for ways to improve your courses and get more students to finish them.
Foster Discussion Among Students
One issue with many ecourses is that students often feel isolated. It’s just them, their computer, and your course. Even the most engaging, well designed class can become a bit dreary after a while.
Think back to your favorite college and high school classes. Chances are, many of them involved lively exchanges, debates, and discussions. Keep students learning by providing them with opportunities to engage one another.
If your course is designed for classroom use, take an opportunity at the end of each unit or natural stopping point to get some discussion going. Throw out a debate topic or encourage students to share relevant experiences with one another.
If your course is designed for independent study, you can still foster discussion. Consider starting an ongoing discussion on Twitter, or inviting students to participate in a private, Facebook discussion group.
Send Reminders to Students Who Haven’t Finished
Your course may be perfectly fine as it is. You are still going to have students who don’t finish it. This is simply because life happens. People get busy. They intend to go back and finish your course. Then, it slips their mind.
There’s a simple solution to this! Remind them. Send a friendly email or text message, not too often, and let them know that they are welcome to come finish the class at any time.
This is also a good time to check in with students who have abandoned your course. Reach out to them and ask for feedback. Offer help so that they can get back to your class and finish it. The issue could be something as simple as needing a password reset or having another technical difficulty.
Vincent Piana, creator of “The Website Formula To Success” has strong feelings about reaching out to customers, “We aim to over deliver and include a wide range of topics to the course ranging from UX to SEO, Copywriting and CRO. Some students may feel overwhelmed with the material intensity, hence we often reach out to them to ensure they have all they need to complete our course, ask for feedback and help them deal with the bottlenecks. That’s a win-win for everyone. Students get great ROI from investing the time and efforts into the program and we find new ways to improve the course”.
Keep Things Short
When designing courses, plan for a low attention span audience. Not only will this keep your students engaged, you will improve retention as well. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow:
- There should be a one to one relationship between each concept and it’s accompanying video or other instructional material.
- Video length should be between three and five minutes. You can go as short as two minutes. If you go as long as seven, you may be losing people.
- A mixed media approach can also help with attention span issues. For example, you can present a video to demonstrate one concept, switch to a slide show for the next, and guide students through an interactive worksheet for the third.
Here’s an example of a way that you could space out videos or other units for a course on dealing with customer complaints over the phone.
- Unit 1: Customer Service Scripts to Memorize: (Video of customer service agents in action: five minutes long)
- Unit 2: Using The Language of Empathy: (Audio of a CSR failing to use empathy and of one using empathy: three minutes long)
- Unit 3: Ways in Which Good Telephone Customer Service Benefits The Organization: (Slideshare Presentation with lots of data: six minutes long)
- Unit 4: When Policy And Customer Service Clash: (Animated video describing best practices regarding going outside of policy to provide great customer service: four minutes long)
Use Certifications to Motivate And Market
Offer a certificatification of some sort to people who finish your course. It’s a great incentive. Not only do your students have something that they can share on social media and hang on their office wall, it’s a great way to employ a gamification strategy to keep students on board until they have finished your course.
If it helps, think of your course like a video game. Earning a certificate is a bit like rescuing Princess Peach. You use gamification throughout your course to keep students motivated as well. One option is to use a leader board to encourage competition among people taking your class. You can also award stars, badges, or stickers. Even a simple progress bar letting people know how close they are to finishing your e course.
There’s a secondary benefit to all of this. As your students earn rewards and ultimately complete your course, they’re going to want to let others know. As a result, more people get to know about your course.
Break Things up With Tests Surveys And Quizzes
Interactivity is key. If you’ve ever sought to break up a long work day by sneaking in a chat with friends or taking a social media quiz, you know this is true. Include quizzes, tests, and surveys between your units, and you will have a better chance of keeping students engaged.
These also provide you with a good opportunity to collect information on the progress students are making at any given time. You can also measure whether or not students are getting what they expect from your class.
If you aren’t keeping stats on your course completion rates, consider giving it a try. The information could be quite enlightening. Then, try some of the techniques above to increase your completion rates.
Independant inbound marketing consultant with 5+ years in the industry, including coaching and developing e-learning courses. Bylines at the Huffington Post, Tech Cocktail, Hackerspace by Lifehacker among others.