Poor online course completion rates often stem from poor course instructional choices. We need to include more active learning strategies to improve. This might include the interaction of learners with the content, the instructor and each other.
Course completion is a major data point to consider while evaluating your course analytics. This data is often given as a percentage. Unfortunately, it is also often dismissed by those who are not course designers.
Completion rates in self-chosen courses are almost completely dependent on engagement. Of course, we cannot control our students' lives, learning preferences, work schedules, motivation, etc.
Courses that are all lecture, like the talking head or talking slide variety, we are not using good course design. If a learner buys one course from you and it was too confusing/not organized/contained hours of video, you just lost a customer.
In fact, us course designer types would probably call those "extra resources". Lectures should not primary instruction. According to research, lectures don't work:
Research also tells us that we teach the way that we were taught.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey (Teacher who advocated for people to think creatively rather than following old habits)
You may have attended some amazing lectures in your life. These are a super easy way to teach for the teacher. Sometimes that is an okay way to lean. All the time? Nope.
You may be thinking to yourself, "I love lectures!" Science disagrees according to many studies. Here is one of my favorites about the effectiveness of the holy grail of video instruction, TED Talks. There certainly are benefits of video but video lectures cannot and should not be the only method of instruction in your courses.
If you are a course DIY-er or entrepreneur, you may be trying to fill both roles. Maybe you are following the current market and building courses on Udemy, Teachable or one of the many other systems out there. These systems allow you to upload text and video. Maybe you can attach some resources files or links, too.
People do not learn from listening to hours of videos or podcasts. Add different modalities and engagement strategies to make your course work for learners, boost attendance and rock those completion rates.
Add different modalities and engagement strategies to make your course work for learners, boost attendance and rock those completion rates - CLICK TO TWEET
Alternatives to Lectures
"We know that learning is harder from the sidelines."
Weiman, C.E., (2014. Large-scale comparison of science teaching methods sends clear message. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 111 (23), 8319-8320.
Here are some ideas to spark your creative juices:
Use the human social nature by leveraging discussion boards. Use for more than just discussions - play games, brainstorm, have your learners share stories and case studies.
Old fashioned assignments designed for adults. They must be immediately applicable and not a waste of time. Build in accountability because adults are busy and will blow it off.
Self check assessments are a great way to informally allow learners to gauge learning. Offer follow up "just in time" resources for those who feel that they have not gained mastery of the topics yet.
Hire a course designer and have it all done for you.
To sum up…
Keep the course completion rate in mind. You have a lot of control over that metric so watch it closely as you make changes. Course reviews will also give you insight into this metric. If an online platform limits your ability to make sound instructional decisions, ditch it and move to something that allows more researched best practices to be used. Video instruction is not bad but use it sparingly and only for content that warrants it. Active learning strategies are a surefire way to move ahead of the crowd of untrained entrepreneurs trying to build online courses to highlight an expertise.