In this post, I'm going to lift the lid a little on how we achieve online course completion rates of over 60% of students.
Seth Godin was recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast and stated that most online courses have a 97% drop-off rate and that his own courses on Udemy and Skillshare have an 80% drop-off rate. You can check out the episode here: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/02/10/seth-godin/ (skip to the 1-hour 38-minute mark to hear Seth talk about online courses).
I think that's a terrible experience for everyone involved. The students who drop out are not going to receive the benefits of the course and the teacher is not going to receive anywhere near the amount of goodwill and referrals that they should.
I wanted to chime in and offer some of the things I've learned over the last 8 years of selling digital information products and courses.
Online Course Completion Rates Matter
I think the reason is this: people by an online course hoping it's going to help them achieve some goal or solve some problem (usually achieve some aspirational goal in my experience) and then they get halfway through module 2 of the course and realise they actually have to roll their sleeves up and do some work.
At this very moment, they get distracted by the next shiny object, abort mission and go and start a new course full of new hope.
Before we relaunched WP Elevation in September 2015, we closed the doors and took six weeks to completely rebuild our offering. We had one goal in mind. To become THE #1 business community for WordPress consultants.
This is our “Why”.
We talked about the metrics we would use to measure success and it became obvious through this exploration that if a student actually completed our course, they were more likely to receive the benefits of our training and the relationships they develop through our community, and they were more likely to refer their friends.
So we set ourselves the target of an online course completion rate of 70%. Ambitious, I know.
We use a combination of the following:
- drip-fed content (one module per week over six weeks)
- automated email notifications to congratulate students when they complete a module and remind them when new modules are released (these emails are tailored for each student based on where they are up to in the course)
- badges for each module complete (incremental micro-rewards)
- a certificate for completing all six modules (overall macro reward)
- surprise bonuses when a module is completed
- in-app messages via Intercom to keep students engaged within the members' website
- a very active private Facebook group with rewards for engagement
- prizes for contributions and participation
- live coaching calls throughout the six-week course to keep students motivated
- a real sense of community through accountability partners, a world map of the members, a members directory you can sort by skill set and sometimes even real life meetups.
- lots of Zapier stuff to keep it all tied together.
All of this results in high engagement and high online course completion rates. We track all of this on a dashboard using Graphly and is based on tags in Infusionsoft.
Our September intake of 202 students had a target of 140 students (70%). You can see here how many students have completed each module:
So it's just the last 2 modules and the Exam itself where we've fallen a bit short, but I'm super happy that we have 127 currently who have completed the exam and printed out their certificate – that's 62%.
Our February intake of 170 students (we doubled the price of the course) had a target of 120 students to complete – or 70%.
You can see the progress here:
So again it's just the last 2 modules and the exam itself that we're still working students through.
104 have currently completed the exam – that's 61% – a far cry better than the 3% that most online courses get and the 20% that Seth Godin gets. Seth is undoubtedly one of the best teachers and mentors on the planet so it's insane that his courses don't perform better. It's not just about the content, it's about the community and the learning experience – and that's more than a sexy UI.
For me, it's all about providing an engaging, entertaining and fun experience for the students – and I know that community is a huge part of this.
I post this here in the hope that it helps someone in the planning stages of their online course, because the last thing the internet needs is another course that nobody completes.
I'd love to hear any questions or suggestions in the comments.
And yes, as usual, the affiliate links on this page help me pay for the $4K/mo in SaaS that it takes to run my business and occasionally indulge in a case of San Pellegrino mineral water.