Course Abandonment: 7 Ways To Re-Engage Students

Course Abandonment: 7 Ways To Re-Engage Students
Antonio Guillem/
Summary: Worried about course abandonment? These different tactics review how to re-engage learners and bring them back to your course.

Practical Tactics To Reduce Course Abandonment

Course abandonment refers to the phenomenon where learners or students start an online course and leave it for different reasons. As many as 70% of employees abandon their online and other forms of training. And 80-90% of eLearning students abandon MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) after a few segments. Having students, trainees, or learners drop out can be a significant problem for online learning institutions, instructors, or trainers. It not only affects the institution's reputation but also impacts the learners' knowledge acquisition and retention. This can impact job performance and safety, and even result in compliance issues. Therefore, it is essential to understand the reasons behind course abandonment and also how to fix it.

Why Do Learners Abandon Courses?

There are numerous reasons why learners may abandon online courses. Some common ones include:

  • Lack of motivation
    Without a clear understanding of why they are taking the course or how it will benefit them, learners may lose interest and drop out.
  • Poor design/content
    If the course is not engaging, interactive, or lacks relevant content, learners may find it tedious and lose interest.
  • Technical difficulties
    Technical issues such as slow loading times, broken links, or difficulty navigating the course platform can frustrate and discourage learners from continuing.
  • Lack of time
    Many online learners are already juggling work, family, and other commitments. If they feel overwhelmed by the amount of coursework or deadlines, they may choose to abandon the course.
  • Lack of support
    Without proper guidance or support from instructors or peers, learners may feel lost and give up on the course.

These issues are not insurmountable, and online course developers and teachers can take steps to reduce course abandonment rates.

7 Ways To Re-Engage Learners And Reduce Course Abandonment

Now that we understand the impact and causes behind course abandonment, we're ready to tackle the next issue: how to avoid it and re-engage students better. Here's what you can do.

1. Refresh The Content

One of the most common reasons for course abandonment is a lack of relevance. Students may feel overwhelmed or uninterested in the course material, causing them to disengage and eventually drop out. To manage this issue, you can refresh the content by incorporating real-life examples, current events, and interactive elements into your lessons. Also, focus on outcomes and how the course material will benefit students in their personal or professional lives. In this way, students can see the value in completing the course and stay motivated to continue.

2. Enable Mobile Responsiveness

More often than not, learners are often on the go and may not have access to a computer for extended periods. Also, many people do two (or more) tasks at once and choose not to sit in one place and learn. You want to cater to these audiences by making your course mobile-responsive. This means that students can access the course content from any device, including smartphones and tablets. By doing so, you give them more flexibility in when and where they can complete the course. There are some coaches and trainers who offer audio versions of a video course so that people can download and listen to an MP4 instead of having to stick to the video version. Your students will more likely complete a course if they can access it while commuting, driving, or during other downtime.

3. Encourage Interaction

Lack of interaction can be another major cause of course abandonment. When students feel disconnected from the material and their peers, they may lose interest and motivation to continue with the course. To prevent this, educators should encourage interaction through group activities, discussion forums, and virtual meet-ups.

For example, renowned watercolor artist Anna Mason holds monthly community calls with her students. This gives everyone a chance to ask questions, paint in real-time with others, and generally stay connected. Such efforts not only create a sense of community but also make the online course more dynamic and engaging.

4. Provide Timely Feedback

Timely feedback is crucial in keeping students engaged and motivated. When students feel like they are receiving individualized attention and that their efforts are being recognized, they are more likely to stay committed to the course. You must provide prompt feedback on assignments, quizzes, and projects, highlighting areas of improvement and acknowledging their progress. This not only shows students that their efforts are valued but also helps them identify areas where they can improve.

5. Incorporate Gamification

Gamification is the use of game elements in non-game contexts, such as education. By incorporating elements like points, levels, and badges into their courses, you can make the learning experience more interactive and engaging for students. Hitting minor goals while learning and creating rewards through visuals that showcase points and levels are incredible at keeping students going. The gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry precisely because of such efforts. So, it's wise to incorporate gamification elements into your online courses.

6. Offer Support

Sometimes, students may abandon a course due to personal or external factors that are beyond their control. In these cases, offering support and understanding can go a long way in re-engaging them in the course. You could make yourself available for meetings and provide some resources for any additional support students may need. Such encouragement alone can build a feeling of reciprocity and remembrance. And learners will be more likely to rejoin online classes or continue an online course.

7. Use Push Notifications Cleverly

The reality is that you will often have to remind users and students to complete their courses. One of the best ways to do this is to trigger push notifications or send emails in a timely way.

A good example of a company that is known for using push notifications is Duolingo. Not only does it induce learners to return to their language learning, but today, the messages that Duolingo sends reflect the latest in memes and online conversations. Of late, people have been making jokes about how Duolingo's reminders and notifications have a threatening aspect to them. This is meant in a joking manner. However, Duolingo has leaned into the joke, made it part of its brand messaging, and improved its marketing as well as engagement with students.

Ask yourself whether you are using notifications effectively today. If you can send a few timely but well-spaced notifications, you will be highly likely to reengage your students. When used in apps, push notifications improve responses 3-4 times over. We'll look into the practical aspects of applying these strategies next.

eLearning Tools And Engagement

By now, you've likely realized that enacting the suggestions here will depend on using the right learning platform with features that can support engagement strategies. You need to investigate and choose a suitable learning platform, LMS, plugin, or done-for-your site, with features like adding notifications, gamification features, feedback, and more.

It is possible to find affordable means, such as adding a notification plugin if you use a WordPress website, or simply leverage free tools like social media groups, polls, and so on. I recommend making small changes and adding improvements over time. Any decrease in course abandonment should be considered a win.


Re-engaging your students is an important part of your training and teaching efforts. The activities suggested here can go a long way to bring students back and ensure that your content is relevant and fresh. With a few changes, you'll see re-engagement and growth—so start making changes today!