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:Marketing / Marketing best practices

Course completion rates can triple when students have an incentive

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There are countless reasons why people sign up to take an online course. However, online course completion rates can be very low. It takes a lot of drive to complete a course without any accountability or incentive. This is why students are more likely to achieve their goals if there is an enticing incentive waiting for them.

What motivates people?

The human attention span has drastically decreased over the past decade to about eight seconds—less than a goldfish. As easily distracted as we are, the typical online course takes 15 weeks to complete. So how can you motivate your audience to complete your online courses

There are many theories about what motivates people, but it can boiled down into two main categories. First, intrinsic motivation is when people find motivation from within. Meanwhile, extrinsic motivation is when motivation comes from something outside of them. For example, intrinsically motivated people might be motivated by challenge or enjoyment of learning a new subject. In contrast, extrinsically motivated people might be more apt to complete a project if there was free pizza involved. 

Tips to help boost course completion rates

Organic learning in a face-to-face environment is much more simple than remote learning. This is why online learning requires a different approach to help your students achieve their goals. Coming up with new ideas to keep your audience focused on completing your course can be challenging. So to get you started, here are three tips that can help triple your course completion rates.

1. Grab their attention

Learners stop caring about completing courses when they lose interest and get bored—even if there are incentives they want to achieve. 

In addition to creating high quality video content, the best way to keep students engaged is to break courses down into bite sized pieces. Each lecture should be no longer than fifteen minutes so that your audience can process the information that you share with them without becoming overwhelmed or disinterested. 

2. Provide support

Online courses often provide students with the ability to learn at their own pace. But without someone to answer questions or give feedback, many don’t see the point in submitting assignments or completing projects. Pay attention to your students and take notice when they start falling behind. This can be through one-on-one feedback, an online community, social media, or emails.

Some online teachers and coaches are able to hire assistants to respond to emails. But even if you don’t have that kind of budget, it’s still possible to give personalized attention to your students using automated email triggers. This software can send out an email automatically when a student hasn’t been active for a week or two, failed a quiz, or reached a positive milestone.

An ultimate guide to reach your ultimate goals

Teach and motivate your students with ease. We have a free “ultimate guide to course creation” so you can get started on the right foot.

Use our 22-day email roadmap to launch your course

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3. Offer a reward

Offering awards, bonuses, and other incentives to those who complete courses can also help boost completion rates. 

For example, Acumen teamed up with Unilever to create an online course in order to educate people about plastic waste in impoverished areas. At the end of the course, students were able to contribute their own ideas on how to address these issues and the best submissions were awarded $75,000 in seed funding. With this added incentive, the usual 8% completion rate for this course was tripled to 24%. 

The reward doesn’t have to be monetary in order to be effective. A bonus product or PDF guide, recognition on social media, or something else that your audience finds valuable (access to an alumni community, perhaps) would make an excellent incentive for them to finish your course. 

Goal oriented

Online learners take courses with the intention of achieving their goals. The fact they signed up for the course in the first place shows how they are interested in learning more about a subject. They just might lack the motivation to follow through. To help them reach their goals remotely, use a combination of engaging content, incentives, and support to help motivate your audience to stick with it until the very end. 



Author: Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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