Universal Mentors Association

7 Steps To Boost Your Online Course Completion Rates


Why Users Give Up Courses And How To Change That

Despite the growing popularity of online learning and self-education in the post-COVID era, the number of those who complete online courses successfully leaves much to desire. The completion rate of online courses is between 5–15%, and for MOOCs, it is 3–6% only [1]. Not that inspiring, huh?

As an online course creator or a manager planning online training programs for employees, you cry over such statistics, search for their reasons, and look into how to improve such metrics and motivate your target audience to learn. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common reasons why students give up online courses, and share the actionable steps to help you boost your course’s completion rate.

Reasons Most Students Give Up Online Courses

With the freedom to choose an educational path and the other benefits that online education brings, why would anyone give it up [2]? Especially when they’ve already paid money and invested their time in it? The first reason that comes to mind is laziness, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all excuse. Moreover, we can’t consider it a solid reason to abandon anything an adult person has chosen themselves, invested resources in, and considered essential for their personal or career growth. So, laziness aside, below are a few motivations that lead online students to give up a course:

  • Boredom
    Students choose your online course because of its exciting topic or promising program, but then realize they don’t enjoy the content or the teaching style you have to present it.
  • Lack of time
    They look for a fast and easy way to boost skills, but soon realize they don’t have the time to listen to two-hour-long lectures and complete the complex assignments you have for them.
  • Expectations vs. reality
    They get hooked on your course ads and curriculum, but then they realize you don’t provide what you promised, or your online course doesn’t match their proficiency level. (It’s too primitive or too hard for them to complete.)
  • Technical issues
    Your Learning Management System appears too challenging to master or uncomfortable to use: the learning materials are non-responsive, the video resolution is low, the load speed is poor, etc.
  • No motivation to continue
    Learners enjoy your course and understand its benefits but see no involvement or help from your side: no personalized feedback, no progress fix, no communication with other students, no answers to their questions, etc.

As a course creator, be mindful of these reasons, analyze them to understand which ones may refer to your course, and never stop improving your educational product accordingly.

How To Motivate Students To Complete Your Course

And now, to business: below are the seven steps to consider when working on your online course to help boost its completion rates.

1. Analyze The Reasons And Adjust The Promo Accordingly

By understanding the reason for your course being abandoned, you’ll know what to change, improve, or adjust. You’ll hardly have all the problems listed above at once. An inside-out investigation of your buyer persona will help you to learn the core cause of them giving up on your eLearning product. Buyer personas aren’t about demographics and lifestyles only. Ensure you know their motivations, frustrations, pain points, needs, interests, and goals. With such data in your pocket, you’ll accommodate the course to their needs and communicate its content accurately.

  • Ensure your course promise is relevant to its content. Prevent all possible misrepresentations and misinterpretations.
  • Provide clear and tangible results students can expect from your course.
  • Set realistic requirements for students to enroll and complete your educational program.

2. Revise The Curriculum

If you notice that students give up the course after starting a particular learning block, the curriculum organization might be to blame. Your task is to create a smooth learning experience, so ensure you follow the “simple to complex” course plan.

  • Leave no gaps between course blocks
    Ensure the curriculum is engaging yet relevant and crystal clear about what students will see in the course. Don’t let them get hooked on your program but abandon it because of disappointment when they don’t find what they expected.
  • Engagement
    Avoid monotony in your online course plan. Mix theory lectures with elements like hands-on exercises or games to keep students actively engaged. The challenge here is to find the right balance between theory and practice and determine the proper timeline for course lessons. Don’t plan lengthy lectures (20–30 minutes are enough) so users won’t get bored and leave.

3. Make Your Online Course More Accessible

Some students will give up your online course because of technical issues or poor User Experience. When choosing a Learning Management System or a platform for the course, please consider its accessibility. Load speed, responsiveness, easy navigation, search functions, video resolution, subtitles, and compatible format—all these features matter. Ensure your target audience can access and enjoy lessons even if their internet is slow, or they access the course on mobile devices, not just on PC.

4. Diversify The Course Content

Once you grab a user’s attention with your online course, it becomes even more challenging to hold them. Attention span is short today, and students crave content worth their energy and time. While also answering the students’ question of “what’s in there for me?”, your online course needs to be diverse and engaging enough for them to stay with you.

Make your course more interactive and competitive. Think of elements like polls, quizzes, or games for learners to test their knowledge and have fun during eLearning. Also, create different content formats for your learning materials: eBooks [3], glossaries, cheat sheets, step-by-step manuals, prompts, webinars [4], templates, etc. Thus, you’ll hold students with different learning styles—each will use the most comfortable formats for them—and encourage them to move on to the next block.

5. Remember About Social Proof

Your course reviews and other feedback from those who completed it can serve as powerful motivation for others. First, it’s social proof: potential students will see that your course is legit, with grateful users, and brings in results. Second, positive comments and graduates’ success stories encourage “freshmen” to keep learning and complete the course for the same success.

Ask loyal former students for a text review or a short video describing how completing your course helped them improve their skills, get a promotion, or start a new career path. Share that feedback on your course platform from time to time to feed users’ motivation and prevent them from giving up on the course once they feel it gets complicated.

6. Create Urgency

Let’s face it: Not all students give up on your course. Some are just super slow to complete it. They start it, then postpone it for later, and then this “later” never comes. As a result, you get passive learners. Technically, they are with you, but bringing no conversions and thus, preventing you from growing your eLearning business. They don’t visit online lessons, participate in webinars and discussions, and don’t submit assignments. Any tricks to influence such students’ to proactivity?

  • Introduce a rigid timeline for lesson availability
  • Think of perks for being present in class or submitting homework on time (personalized feedback, free consultations, discounts, extra learning materials, etc.)

7. Reward Students For The Progress

We are social creatures, craving praise and appreciation for our accomplishments. It motivates us to keep moving and to conquer new heights. In eLearning, you can foster student motivation and encourage them to continue learning by allowing them to visualize, celebrate, and share their milestones.

Most online course builders have the feature of generating personalized certificates of completion, awarding badges for task accomplishment, etc. Get the most out of these: design them with brand colors and allow students to share them on social media. Such tiny rewards make learning more competitive, encouraging users to continue for more achievements.

Let’s Make Them Complete Your Online Course!

Online courses, training, and everything related to eLearning are mainstream today. Encouraged by the freedom to choose an education path and the diversity of options on the market, users grab many courses but often fail to complete them. To save your eLearning product from such a fate, research your target audience inside out to reveal all the possible objections they may have that leads to low course completion rates. Once you know these, adjust the course accordingly. Even the tiniest detail matters when it comes to course content and user engagement [5].


[1] Why the completion rate for online courses are so low

[2] Online Education

[3] Find an eBook

[4] Upcoming and On-Demand eLearning Webinars

[5] Content Provider Top Lists


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