Confession time: I never finish the courses I sign up for

That’s right. I’m a serial course abandoner. I scan through the content and make a beeline for the bits that interest me most and then bounce around and dip in and out of everything else. I can think of nothing worse than being forced to work through a course module by module, lesson by lesson. If I signed up for a course and it was set up to drip feed the content only on completion of each and every lesson, I’d ask for a refund. Nope – not for me. I want to see a buffet of content to select from.

Now I may be in the minority, but I can’t be the only one like this. People learn in different ways and not everyone learns in a linear way. So, it’s safe to say that I have a problem with course completion rates being a measure of success for a course. And just to be clear – I don’t abandon these courses because I don’t enjoy them. So, it’s not the quality of the course that drives my behaviour – it’s just the way I learn.

Here’s why course completion shouldn’t be a major measure of a course’s success:

People learn differently

Some learners like the structure of a step-by-step process to follow and some get completely overwhelmed with too many options. And some, like myself, want the freedom to pick and choose what content to consume. Try to create your course in a way that provides structure for those who need it – and flexibility to move around at will for those who don’t need the structure.

People have different levels of experience

Not everyone who signs up for your course will be a complete beginner – even if it’s a beginner’s course. So, you need to create your course with the beginners in mind – but allow those with some experience to skip the basic lessons if they’d like to.

People have better things to do with their time

Harsh I know – but it’s true. The kind of people who sign up for online courses are mostly looking to add to their skills or learn something new. They all have lives and often have to find time to work on your course. Time is the only completely non-renewable resource we have so treat their time as the precious resource it is. If they only have half an hour to spare don’t force them to listen to an hour-long video of things they don’t need to know before they can get to the bits they want to learn.

Are course completion rates irrelevant then?

No. Obviously when it comes to courses that provide certifications or where people have to prove competency in the topic – then course completion rates are important. But for the vast majority of online courses, there is no need to drip-feed course content.

However, if you have a lot of people who sign up for your course and then never progress through the content then this may be an indication that you’re not connecting with your learners. It could be that your messaging is wrong and you’re attracting the wrong people – or that there’s a problem with the actual course. If it’s a messaging problem, then that’s an easy fix, but if the course just isn’t landing that’s a bigger problem and goes back to properly understanding your audience’s needs. So, if you find yourself in this position you need to reach out to the people who signed up for your course and ask them for some feedback.