Free PDF: The 3 worst online course mistakes (and how to fix them)

4 Simple Steps to High Online Course Completion Rates

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If you want to learn how to improve your online course completion rates, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll show you a few foolproof ways to do exactly that in this guide.

Want to learn more? Let’s get started.

What is a good course completion rate?

What does “online course completion rate” mean?

Online course completion rates reflect the number of students who finish an online course in its entirety. 

What counts as “complete” varies by course and platform. 

Some require students to complete each module and assignment, while others look for certain engagement levels or grades.

Despite the popularity of online courses, completion rates are low – on average, just 5% to 15% of students finish any given course.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are free online courses often offered by universities, have an even lower completion rate of 3% to 6%.

But why are online course completion rates so low? We’ll talk about that next.

The top reasons students don’t complete your course 

Why aren’t students completing online courses?

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

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Here are some reasons that online course completion rates are so low:

  • Lack of motivation: No personalized feedback, obvious progress markers, or answers to questions reduce motivation.
  • No time: Students often underestimate the time commitment of course lectures and assignments.
  • Fear: Fear of failure or being overwhelmed causes students to quit early.
  • Expectation vs. reality: If the course experience is different from what they expected, students might be disappointed and abandon it.
  • Boredom: Your content or teaching style might not be engaging enough.

It is possible to improve your online course completion rates. Keep reading to find out how!

4 steps to improve your course completion rate 

Before I show you the top four ways to improve your online course completion rates, I want to note that I approach online course completion rates differently from most course creators.

Completion rates do matter.

But to me, what’s more important is the value your course offers.

When I buy a course, I do it because I want to learn something specific. As long as I learn that one thing, the course is worth the price I paid, regardless of whether or not I finish it. 

If your student gets even one “Aha!” from your course, it doesn’t matter if they complete it.

You’ve already provided them the value they were looking for.

So for most courses, your course completion rate can be a “vanity metric” versus a metric that actually helps your students achieve their goal. 

I talk more about it in this video:

But, even if course completion rates aren’t the best metric on how effective a course is, you do want to build a course that serves the right people in the best way. 

And that’s what you can do by improving your completion rates. 

Here are four ways: 

Set expectations 

Setting expectations clearly and early is crucial for your students’ success and improving your online course completion rates.

That’s why I always recommend that you clearly map out the student journey before you launch your course

Doing so reduces confusion, helps students set more realistic goals, and lessens potential disappointment. 

Take time to outline what matters most to students, like course structure, learning outcomes, assignments, and technology requirements.

By setting clear expectations and consistently upholding them, you create a structured and supportive learning environment.

And that sort of environment builds student confidence, fosters motivation, and ultimately leads to better online course completion rates.

Use feedback to improve your course 

The truth is, an online course isn’t a “set it and forget it” product – because it’s impossible to create the best online course on your first try.

Even though a lot of people dread feedback, it’s a good thing. 

In fact, it’s crucial to the success of your course.

How else will you create a course that really resonates with your audience?

Even the most successful online course creators have to make adjustments. 

I’m constantly finding new ways to improve my online courses.

For example, my Employee to Entrepreneur course is made up of five modules. Each module is filled with lessons, videos, and bonus content like PDFs, videos, and how-to guides.

But it didn’t start that way! I spent more than three years finalizing the course based on the feedback I got from my students.

And because I did, I’m now confident that I’m offering the highest-value course possible.

You can hear more about that in this video:

Target the right audience

Part of improving your online course completion rates is being sure that you’re getting in front of your ideal audience.

First and foremost, you have to really get to know who you’re targeting. What are they hoping to learn from and get out of your course? Figure out their needs and tailor your content to them. 

Once you’ve done that, be sure to clearly explain what they’ll get out of your course. 

Doing so will attract the kind of students who appreciate what you’re offering and get them more involved. That kind of investment is what really helps improve your online course completion rates.

But be careful to do more than just explain and market your course

Instead, focus on creating targeted messaging that resonates and be transparent about content, difficulty, and expectations.

Finally, it’s essential to make sure you’ve priced your online course fairly and correctly.

And sometimes, that means increasing your course price.

I know course creators are often hesitant to do it, but the truth is that higher prices are actually a highly effective way to attract the right audience.

Why?

Because according to studies, a higher price tag sends a message that your course is valuable, which will pique audience interest. 

Plus, people value a product more when they pay a higher price for it.

When someone decides to pay more for your course, it means that they see and appreciate its value and will be committed to seeing it through.

That kind of self-selection will improve your online course completion rates dramatically.

Add on a community or coaching 

Lastly, offering additional support or coaching is a great way to improve your online course completion rates.

This is especially true for courses that are more than just self-study.

By adding a community or coaching option to existing material, you’ll increase student engagement and, in turn, motivation – both of which are essential in improving your online course completion rates.

Take it from me.

While most of the online courses I offer are self-study, my flagship courses include some extra support from me or my coaching team.

I’ve found that this simple offer has increased student retention, engagement, satisfaction, and, yes, my online course completion rates.

The kind of support you can offer varies and really depends on the course. 

It could be access to a forum where students can get support and answers to their questions, group learning calls, or even one-on-one calls with you. 

At the end of the day, adding another line of support isn’t just a strategy to improve your online course completion rates.

It’s a way to create a supportive and empowering learning environment that provides a meaningful learning experience and offers even more value to students.

You can learn more about this strategy in this quick video:

Next steps

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

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There you have it! Four foolproof strategies to improve your online course completion rates.

But before you can improve your online course creation rates, you need to know how to create the most impactful course possible.

That’s why I’ve created my free PDF on the three biggest mistakes people make when they launch their first course.

In it, I’ll show you the secrets of creating a successful course and help you avoid the same mistakes I see others make.

Get it below!

Read more:

How to Create a 6-Figure Online Course

How to Start an Online Course Business

How to Create a Successful Course Outline

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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