Best practices

7 Ways to Improve Completion Rates for eLearning

Imagine you’re teaching a class. Now image that more than 9 out of 10 students walk out before the end. That’s what it’s like when learners don’t complete their eLearning courses.

When it comes to eLearning, even the big and famous want to know how to increase completion rates for online courses. In fact, Harvard reports completion rates of only 6% across their EdX courses. That’s the kind of statistic that makes it tempting to hang up your training hat altogether.

But don’t give up just yet. We’ve got 7 ways to boost your completion rates.

 7 Ways to Improve Completion Rates

From perfecting your communication around training goals to using emails and rewards to keep learners on track, the following tips will get your completion rates climbing.

1. Help learners understand the purpose of the training

Do you like to commit your time to something you don’t care about? Of course not. Learners are no different: they need to know why training is important, and how it will benefit them, in order to commit to it.

Many online courses don’t make their purpose clear. So, when learners ask “what do I stand to gain from this?” there really isn’t an obvious answer. Get past this obstacle by stating your learning outcomes, and how they connect to employees’ roles, clearly from the start of training.

2. Recognize and reward learners who complete courses

A sense of accomplishment can significantly increase completion rates for online courses. For example, when learners who complete a course are able to share their certificate on LinkedIn, they often feel that the training has contributed to their career growth. Prompts can also be used to encourage learners to share their progress and achievements on other social networks, like Facebook.

Learners are also motivated by the progress of their peers. So, consider using leaderboards to track the whole group’s momentum. Many learners pick up their pace to keep up with the superstars at the head of the class.

Finally, consider appropriate rewards for reaching the top of the leaderboard, like meal vouchers, a special training opportunity, or an extra day off.

3. Keep courses short and focused

Let’s not beat around the bush: your employees are busy and would prefer not to add another thing to their to-do lists. This means you need to design lean, tight, courses that don’t include any floofy content.

Use microlearning to get the most out of every moment, and cater to short attention spans with chunked content that doesn’t take more than a few minutes to work through. Even when you’re not using microlearning content, keep videos shorter than 10 minutes, and documents under 10 pages. Finally, split course and modules into smaller chunks if they cover too many ideas.

4. Quiz regularly, not only at the end

You wouldn’t expect that more testing would be the key to improve course completion rates. But positive feedback loops, like a short quiz every 2 or 3 lessons (even if they’re not very difficult), give learners a break from reading and watching.

Short, regular quizzes are a valuable opportunity to apply new knowledge, and for learners to test themselves. This way, learners aren’t going into the final assessment blind.

Regular quizzes also have the welcome side effect of encouraging learners to keep going. A small sense of achievement through completing an exercise or activity can have a huge impact on the motivation to keep going.

5. Create buzz!

Make training something that employees can’t wait to participate in, and definitely don’t want to miss out on. Create a buzz by running an internal marketing campaign with contests, teasers, visual leaderboards and regular acknowledgment of learners’ successes.

When training becomes a social activity and learners can discuss their training with others, they’re more likely to complete it. This is also because talking about training publicly makes it hard to put “out of mind” and creates a sense of accountability to finish it.

Improve course completion rates even more by taking the buzz to social media. Encourage employees to share their progress and their training experience with friends and colleagues. This makes training a tangible part of their lives.

6. Use email reminders

Don’t just let learners fall behind. Instead, use a planned email campaign to bring them back into the fold.

Your first email when learners enroll should include something along the lines of “You have X days to complete this course. If you complete the course within the time limit, you’ll receive Y. If you don’t, here’s what will happen.”

Further down the line, you may need to use some craft email messages to recover learners who’ve lost their enthusiasm for training. Include phrases like: “We see that you haven’t logged on in X days. Want to get in on the learning action? Jump right back in by clicking here.”

You can also capitalize on people’s natural Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) with messages like: “X% of your colleagues have already completed the course. Click here to catch up!”

Weekly, automated emails are a way of politely reminding learners how much they have left to do, and what rewards await them if they complete it. This communication can also be time-effective.

7. Good design

Outdated content like PowerPoint presentations from the 90s is a great way to scare your learners off.

To improve completion rates for online courses, you need to recognize that modern eLearning content needs to be designed with a sophisticated user in mind. Readability, interactivity and visual appeal have all become important in a world saturated with online platforms.

So, choose a Learning Management System (LMS) with a user-friendly design. Then, take advantage of its features by creating different content types, like videos, graphics, and notes, to appeal to all kinds of learning styles.

But, Why Should I Even Care About Completion Rates

Low eLearning completion rates is like baking a pie that never gets eaten. It takes effort and planning, and yet it never gets to benefit the people it was intended for. When learners don’t complete the full eLearning course, there’s no way to claim a good return on investment on all the activities, videos and assessments that learners missed out on.

On a planning level, this is bad for training budgets. On an educational level, this is tragic for learners, who might consider their training “done” despite missing out on core knowledge and skills. This, in turn, affects their skills development, their performance in the workplace, and their career growth.

So, let’s look more closely at the specific disadvantages of low completion rates, and the advantages to look forward to if you improve course completion rates.

Low vs High Completion Rates: Risks & Benefits

Why do you bother with training? Simple: to achieve true behavioral change in learners. And this behavioral change should contribute to improved job performance, better alignment to company goals, and greater workplace happiness. When learners don’t complete their training program, it’s far less likely to have a lasting transformational effect on them.

Because unless you increase course completion rates, learners are left understanding only half of the story. This means that miscommunication with their direct colleagues, managers, and other departments is likely to increase.

Now, it’s important to note that some training (like compliance training) requires 100% completion, while other training doesn’t. That said, completion rates still need to improve across the board for learners to gain all the intended benefits of training. And, boy, are there benefits! Like these:

  • Improved performance, because learners are able to take advantage of more opportunities for practice, and complete more assessments to test their knowledge and skills.
  • Better feedback on training, because more learners can accurately complete post-training surveys.

It’s hard to ignore completion rates in the face of these benefits, right? Apply the 7 tips from this article and you’ll very likely see a jump in completions for your online courses.

Where Does An LMS Fit In?

When you combine the tips in this article with a modern and powerful LMS, you’ll have all the help you need to improve completion rates and simplify admin of your training as a whole. An LMS that makes it easy to track and report on completion rates, and even identify specific drop-off points in your courses, can be invaluable for improving your learning completion.

Improve your employee, partner and customer training with our enterprise-ready learning management system. Book a demo now and see why our diverse portfolio of customers consistently give us 5 stars (out of 5!)

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