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5 Secrets That Will Keep Online Students Coming Back for More

Online Courses Learn How To Keep Your Students Engaged
Summary: Engaged students are profitable. When you keep students engaged, they will finish your courses, get their desired outcomes, buy more of what you offer, and become even more excited and more dedicated every time they pay you!

Online Courses: Learn How To Keep Your Students Engaged

It’s easy to think that customer acquisition is the key metric for determining online course success, but without engaged students, more sales mean nothing. Online course creators are spending a huge amount of money on getting more customers; however, this is only the first step. After acquiring students, the key to accelerating online course profits is in engaging and retaining them.

Think about it. If you keep students engaged, it’s likely that they’ll complete the course. And if they complete the course, they are much more likely to achieve their desired goals. This increases the probability that they will buy more of your courses in the future and recommend them to others. As a natural consequence, your profits will soar!

Few people finish the courses they start. And it’s not that they’re bad people or that they don’t have compelling goals. It’s just that somewhere along the way they get busy, they forget or they simply lose motivation. There’s not enough perceived “reward” to keep them going.

In this article, I’ll reveal my 5 secrets to keeping your students engaged and coming back for more:

1. Teach Your Students In The Way Your Students Want To Learn

You need to realize that online learners face many distractions, and they often don’t have a lot of time. This means that if you’re still offering text-based courses, you need to change this ASAP.

We live in the 21st century, and people are expecting video-based courses that are fully responsive on all devices. Each lesson needs to include stripped-out audio, a transcript of the lesson, and workbooks and checklists if they will make the material easier to understand.

When you offer these varied types of learning materials, you’ll be more likely to keep students engaged. Visual learners will be attracted to the videos, while audible learners will be happy to see you provide audio versions of your courses. Offering multiple types of content also increases the perceived value of the course and leads to a higher rate of satisfaction at the end. When your students are happy, you’ll get high-quality feedback.

2. Ensure There’s Two-Way Communication

Another secret to boosting student engagement is to make the course interactive. Even if your courses are short and self-directed, they shouldn’t be based on one-way communication.

Students should feel supported and receive feedback on their work. Even if they can take the course at their own pace, you should schedule a few real-time events where everyone can discuss the material.

Provide opportunities for one-on-one discussions with a coach or one-to-many conversation with a coach and other participants discussing each lesson in an active forum. Creating a vibrant community keeps learners engaged!

Some of the things you can do to improve instructor-student communication include: 

  • Using the notification system in your Learning Management System to send out reminders and messages
  • Facilitating discussions with either built-in discussion tools or third-party options.

3. Don’t Give Learners Too Much Content At One Time

People take your course to get an outcome, so you should give them only the information required to help them achieve that outcome.

You may feel insecure about providing “less” content and the price you’re charging, but students don’t need you to over-deliver. When they see screens and screens of content in each module, they may not even try to get through it.

At the very least, separate the concepts they must know from those which are optional and make sure you make each section clear. Ultimately, you should only include the content which learners really need to know. You also should provide a course outline or another method of guiding them through the content.

A simple rule is to never try to teach everything you know in one course!

Remember, you want students coming back for more, so keep each course short and focused on a specific topic. Also, divide long courses into several smaller “modules” that provide your learners with a sense of progress when they complete a milestone (i.e. part of the course). The effectiveness of this approach is backed by a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect. This effect states that people are more likely to remember tasks that are in progress than those which they have completed. The Zeigarnik effect also indicates that people are more likely to want to complete a task once they have started it. This means that when you separate your course into small chunks it gives learners motivation to complete all the sections once they have started.

4. Plan For What Happens After The Course

Delivering just the right amount of content isn’t the end of the process. Course designers often neglect the end of the course but as with other types of digital interactions, endings matter.

Think about it. When you come to the end of a blog post, you see links to related articles. When you reach the end of a YouTube video, you are encouraged to subscribe to the channel or watch additional videos. You may even get a discount code at the end of a shopping experience. The endings encourage you to extend your experience in some way. In contrast, clickbait and frustrating User Experiences drive learners away.

When it comes to online course creation, great endings can help to build student engagement. Provide a Call-To-Action which clearly states what you want learners to do next.

You should consider:

  • Offering additional courses. Some learners will want to learn even more from you, so the end of the course is the perfect time to sell them other courses. Show them that it’s only natural that they take the next course. Not everyone will be interested, but trying to upsell or cross-sell can increase the average spend per individual once you promise value.
  • Inviting learners to join a private Facebook group and/or client group from the start of the course. An exclusive group can be used for students to post links and information related to the course content. This provides an opportunity to engage in ongoing discussions and support each other. Blogs or other online forums can also be useful.
  • Asking for feedback on the course. You shouldn’t wait until the end of the course to do this, but you should definitely do it then. If learners know you will consider their opinions, they are more likely to engage with you. You can conduct surveys, host focus groups or do simple social media polls. Not only do you engage participants from that particular course, but you can learn how to better meet the needs of future learners.

5. Gamification: Create Achievements Throughout The Course

Gamification is a technique that you can use to get students involved in course activities and encourage them to learn the material. As the name suggests, you will need to include elements that are popular in game design. These make the lessons fun and offer incentives for completing each module. A simple example is gamifying your quizzes by including rewards or points for each correct answer. Digital badges and other rewards can help motivate students to press on with challenging parts of the course.

There are 4 main types of achievement for which you can create rewards:

  1. Activity
    You can reward learners for logging in, asking questions, responding to questions or similar types of activity within the platform.
  2. Accomplishments
    You can offer rewards when students achieve specific objectives like passing a test or completing an assignment. You can also acknowledge when students do better than they have done before. This helps to increase interest and boost motivation.
  3. Timing
    The biggest challenge to course completion comes when students stop logging in. Timing rewards encourage them to keep moving through the course since they get rewards for logging in or reaching crucial parts of the training.
  4. Success
    These rewards are issued when students reach a particular milestone. It may be finishing the course, getting results based on what they learn or scoring full marks on a test. Even small wins should be rewarded.

To incorporate achievement rewards into your course, you need to:

  • Analyze the flow of your course from the perspective of the student.
  • Break the course into small milestones.
  • Anticipate where students might lose steam, get bored or lose motivation and create an achievement to push them through this stage.
  • Design your reward to reinforce not only understanding of the content, but also to encourage speed, engagement, and momentum.

To Recap

If you want to deliver a successful online course and keep students coming back, you need to keep these secrets in mind! They are easy to implement and will result in higher profits.

Just think of the last time you were engaged during a learning experience—why were you engaged? I bet it was because it was fun, interactive, and had just the right amount of content! If you think you are already doing all these things, great but don’t stay there….always monitor student behavior, know where people are getting stuck, get their feedback and optimize.

Now go be awesome, and create impactful online courses!