7 Ways To Increase Online Course Completion Rates

7 Ways To Increase Online Course Completion Rates
Summary: Completion rates of online training can be as low as 5%. Despite this, there are clear actions that can increase completion rates to as high as 80% – 100%. These are proven tips that have improved course completion rates for online training.

Create A Plan To Increase Your Completion Rates

Online learning is growing in popularity as technology improves and organizations are looking for easy ways to scale training globally. One of the biggest challenges with online learning is driving completion rates. Since the training can be accessed any time and completed at any pace, many learners fail to complete their online training. Industry studies suggest that online course completion rates are as low as 5 – 15%.

How do you overcome this? We’ve worked with clients who have achieved 100% completion rates on smaller teams (even for a 40-hour online certification), and 80% completion rates across global teams. At the same time, some teams achieve less than 50% completion.

What leads to such big differences in the completion rates? While training design is a part of it, in our case, the training is the exact same, yet the completion rates vary up to 60%.

There are few factors that the teams with the highest completion rates have in common. Here are 7 of the most common factors that we’ve seen grow completion rates.

1. Set A Clear Deadline For Completion

A clear deadline is vital to driving the completion of online training. It can be too easy to deprioritize without a deadline. Set and clearly communicate a deadline to complete the training. Send reminders of the deadline to keep learners focused on the completion date and motivate them.

In our experience, deadlines that are reinforced and reminded can increase completion rates by over 30%.

2. Break The Course Into Smaller Steps

A longer course can feel intimidating to complete. The best way to handle this is to break it into smaller steps with regular timelines. For example, we have a 24-hour certification course. We break it down into a weekly plan of 3 hours per week. Three hours a week feels much more achievable than 24 hours.

This gives participants a clear plan and pathway to completion. It is especially vital in courses that are longer than a few hours.

3. Block Time In Calendars

Prioritizing online learning can be a challenge. It is easy to completely forget about it among competing priorities. Having learners block time on their calendars is a great way to make sure it gets done.

In our email campaigns, we prompt learners to add a calendar appointment to complete their training. 100% of those who do it say it helped them to finish the course on time.

4. Have A Clear "Why"

Having a fundamental motivation to complete a training program is key. Why is this training important for the learner to complete?

This can be an internal "why." Having participants start the program by sharing (in writing) why the training is important to them and committing to a completion date increases completion rates.

For corporate or team training the why can come from leadership in the organization. For example, a senior leader can share the importance to the organization and set expectations for the team.

Keeping the why in the spotlight helps learners stay motivated.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication plays a big role in driving learners to complete their courses. Emails about timelines, deadlines, plans for the week, and the value of the training to the organization all play a role in driving completion rates.

In one of our tests, we found that learners that participated in a program that sent weekly reminders had a 40% higher completion rate than those that were only given the next step after completing a section.

Formal communication like emails, newsletters, and internal communications are powerful, but so is informal communication. Mention the priority of the training at team meetings. Ask about status in 1:1s. Build communication and encouragement into as many touchpoints as possible.

Set a deadline and a path to complete the training. Then, send reminders to stay top-of-mind and keep the team focused.

6. Reward And Recognize

Reward and recognize those who complete the program. Some of our clients offer a prize to the first 10 to complete, others send an email featuring those who have completed, recognizing them (and inspiring the others).

Whether the reward and recognitions are formal or informal it plays a big role in motivating teams to complete.

7. Follow Up With Incompletes

Following up with those who have not completed the training is just as important as recognizing those who have. Find out what is driving those to not complete the training and ask them to commit to an alternative deadline. Some learners may not realize the importance of completing the training. Knowing that their incompletion is being tracked is a strong motivator.

As you can see, there are many things that organizations can do to improve the completion rates of online training. Driving course completion has more to do with how the training is rolled out and communicated than anything else. When you roll out an online training, build a clear plan upfront to use these best practices to maximize your probability of success.