What Makes The Completion Rates Of Your Online Courses So Low And How To Improve Them?

What Makes The Completion Rates Of Your Online Courses So Low And How To Improve Them?
Summary: How to improve the completion rate of your online course? Well, it’s not difficult to google the answer. However, they don’t show you what makes the completion rates of online courses so low. In this article, we will give you an optimal solution.

Completion Rate Issue And How To Solve It

It's not difficult to google how to improve the completion rates of your online course. Many articles with headlines like "5 ways to increase completion rates of online courses" or "7 tips to increase your course completion rates" will show up. Truly, the internet just gives you a bunch of solutions to follow. However, they don’t show you what makes the completion rates of online courses so low. In this article, we will show you the root of the problem and give you an optimal solution to solve it.

What Makes The Completion Rates So Low?

Industry reports and Instructional Designers alike typically report that only 5–15% of students who start free open online courses finish them and get a certificate. This low completion rate is one of the biggest headaches for all institutional designers. If there are many learners who drop your course easily, perhaps you are facing some of the issues listed here.

1. Lack Of Incentive

In the traditional classroom, the consequence of dropping out is having to attend the class again and paying extra money to re-enroll. However, it seems like there are no negative consequences if learners quit online classes. To be more specific, when a learner stops an online course:

  • First, there is little or no damage involved in skipping class when there is no punishment or requirement to take extra courses.
  • Next, dropping out won’t affect the learner’s degree when there is no fixed curriculum in eLearning.
  • Finally, no one will blame the learner for not finishing the course.

Furthermore, some online courses do not provide any positive incentives for learners, to motivate them to finish the course.

  • First, learners do not receive any motivation from the instructors to complete the course.
  • Second, there are no targets or achievements for learners to reach at the end of the learning progress.

For these reasons, some learners don't find it necessary to complete the course. Moreover, online courses are different from the regular classroom in that they have a varied audience which is very diverse. Specifically, many learners are not students and studying is not their main activity. Therefore, an online course is just an extra supplement to their main job and does not require completion to benefit them. In the end, this leads to a low completion rate in an online course.

To keep learners motivated give them a challenge, a simple task to do for a medium period of time. For example, challenge your students to watch at least 30 seconds of the learning videos for the next 2 weeks. In the end, they will get a reward for completing that challenge. Email reminders are also a good option to keep your learners engaged.

2. Optional Enrollment

Truly, enrollment in online courses is not compulsory. Therefore, people are free to enter and take their place in any random eLearning course. In a physical classroom, enrollment is something adding value to an overall program. However, for an online course, the attitude of learners toward enrollment is not serious, so they might just casually forget about the course.

Furthermore, some people enroll in the courses but not for strictly educational purposes. Perhaps they just get into the course to fulfill their curiosity. Hence, this leads to a large amount of "unreal registration" for your online course. To be more specific, there will be lots of accounts in your course but only a small number of them are actually active. As a result, when you receive this statistic, the percentage of people actually entering your course is relatively low.

3. Institutional Design Issues

Statistics have shown that there were overall 11.4K online courses by 2018, and the number keeps growing. If you make your course just like a thousand other courses, chances are you might not attract any students or bring them back to your course.

Learners' attention spans are shorter than that of goldfish nowadays. Therefore, our mission as institutional designers is to hook their attention and keep it through the course. Actually, this is the factor we can evaluate the most. You can keep your content short and sharp, use quizzes and surveys to involve learners, and apply new teaching aids to the course, like animation.

How Can Animation Improve Online Course Completion Rates?

Above, we have listed some reasons that may cause low completion rates for online courses. There are many ways to solve these problems. However, instead of finding many solutions for each case, you can use animation to solve multiple problems at once. So, how can animations do this? Check it out:

Animation Helps Increase Commitment

As we have mentioned, people mostly have a problem with participating in online courses. For this reason, as an institutional designer, you need to come up with some solutions that can increase the commitment of learners. A better way to do this is by applying animation in online courses, to enhance students’ concentration which then naturally increases their commitment. There are two major benefits of animation in doing this, using the visualization and the story-telling methods.

  • First, with visualization, animation can capture learners’ attention and engage them in learning. Visualizing knowledge helps learners understand the knowledge better. Moreover, beautiful visuals and design can raise the learners’ desire to study.
  • Meanwhile, with the story-telling method, you can keep students concentrating and attempt to get them to learn. With this advantage, animation can stir up the curiosity of learners and their desire to know what will happen next. Eventually, they will follow the story as a habit and keep tracking it until it finishes. As a result, you can create learners’ commitment naturally and increase the completion rates.

Applying Animation To Create Specialty

Being unique in the field is another solution to increase completion rates for online courses. Some courses supply promotions within the course to create their specialties. To be more specific, they offer discounts or provide some packages for learners on finishing the course. By doing this, learners have the motivation to finish the course and to gain entry to another one. However, this is just a temporary solution that shouldn’t keep being applied in the future.

With animation, you will have more space to create unique content in the long term. Usually, you can add some pictures and icons to your lesson to make it stand out more than a text-based course. However, this is not enough to increase the excitement of learners and their motivation to explore the lessons. Therefore, using animation with a colorful background, animated characters, and motion can help. For example, you could use Avengers characters to teach kids in a primary school.

Furthermore, perhaps only in animation, you can easily set the tone for your lesson. By using the story-telling method, institutional designers can show the feeling and the importance level of different cases. With the animated video, learners can realize the danger of some situations from the expression of the animated characters, the speed of motion, the emotion of the voice-over, and the sound effects. For example, in a medical video, learners can understand the pain level of the patient by the patient’s expression and the music from the animation.


To improve the completion rates of online courses, there are three important points that you need to remember:

  • Learners have a low commitment to the course when they lack incentive.
  • Your online course needs to be special when compared with the many other courses out there.
  • Animation is the optimal solution to increase the completion rates of an online course.

Hopefully, this article can help you find out about any problems and apply the most suitable method for your online course. You can check out our other posts to get more tips and advice on progress.

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Originally published at flearningstudio.com.