Here’s the truth: many people do not finish online courses
When I first started writing online courses, I was astonished that many people didn’t finish them. Then I realised, I often didn’t finish online courses myself. I now know that low completion rates is a fact and a common problem with online courses. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of a course; it’s a case of people remembering and finding time.
If you’re an organisation offering online courses, here are some methods I’ve found useful to motivate users.
- Get users to set their own goals: Doing a course from beginning to end, section by section, may not be the best way for people to learn. Not everyone will want to cover everything in a course. If people do the sections that interest them, that might be enough to get value out of the course. For instance, in my Grammar, Punctuation and Usage course, somebody might want to brush up on apostrophes and commas, but not need to learn about parts of speech. In the Business Writing course, they might be interested in sentences, but already have an excellent vocabulary and not need the words section.
- Ask users to set their own learning plan and completion dates: Once users have set their goals, encourage them to set their own realistic plan and completion date for a course or sections of a course. Many people find three months is realistic. They can always revisit the course again later and many courses offer material to download for future reference.
- Offer competitions: For example, some organisations offer a reward for the first three people to finish a course. If users were doing my Grammar, Punctuation and Usage course, you could run a competition to see who could spot the most grammar mistakes on social media for a week.
- Monitor progress and send reminder emails: Many courses will allow you to monitor people’s progress even if you can’t see their responses. This means you can talk to people who are falling behind their learning plans and encourage them to finish. Many courses have an inbuilt reminder email system, which users can often switch off. If you have chosen to turn this feature turned off, you may wish to send some individual reminder emails.
- Encourage users to ‘buddy up’: Some users find it helpful to ‘buddy up’ with someone else and work on a course at the same time. This allows them to discuss the subject matter.
- Offer an in-house workshop or seminar: Online learning often works best in combination with face-to-face learning. This is known as blended learning. A face-to-face session gives users a chance to ask questions or seek more information.
- Reward completion: Many courses offer certificates of completion that are automatically generated. This is good, but not personal. Sometimes a personal email acknowledging completion can make users feel appreciated and validate their efforts.
Motivating your users will also give you a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the online courses you offer. Users will offer valuable feedback that can be used to refine or update the courses.
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