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Completion Rates: Part 2 – Razor Sharp Focus | Great Online Teaching

eCourse experts all agree on one thing: completion rates are dismal.

An online course creator might wonder, “Who cares? So long as I get the enrollments (and revenue), it doesn’t really matter who finishes it.”

Not only is this an abominable attitude for a teacher, it is very short sighted for an entrepreneur. If you want your business to grow, make sure your product is the highest quality possible.


How do you know if a course is a quality learning opportunity? Don’t look at enrollments; A better indicator is the course completion rate. Think about it: students won’t receive the promised results of their efforts in your course if they don’t actually do the course.

In last week’s post, I laid out several reasons why students might not complete a course, despite their financial investment in it. Today’s post outlines how to make sure students don’t drop out because of confusion about the purpose of each activity or the flow of the course. (Part 1 has tips for helping students with the time commitments they need for a course.)

Teaching Tip: Razor-sharp purpose


One of the most important pieces usually missing from courses are clear and direct statements to students about the purpose(s) of each and every item in the course. If you don’t tell the students exactly what they will be able to do as a result of the presentation or activity, how can you expect them to decide that it’s worthy of their time and effort?

And yes, I do mean that you can say something as mundane as:

“As a result of this activity/presentation, you will be able to (an action verb that demonstrates learning) (in these situations).

Omit this type of specificity at your peril. Without it, no one has any idea why they are doing what they are doing. And are much more likely to watch cute pet videos on You Tube or play Pokemon Go than do your course.

When you directly state the purpose of every element of your course, students will know immediately see their success as soon as they do what you’ve told them they would learn by listening to a presentation or doing an activity.

The process of honing the exact purpose of every activity also makes you get crystal clear for yourself about each piece of your course so you don’t overstuff the course and overwhelm the students.

The razor sharp purpose of each activity also helps to build an easy-to-follow flow to your course. At all times, students should know exactly where they are, what to do next, and how it all fits into a bigger framework.

Building an easeful flow for the course, however, doesn’t stop with clarity for each element. Learning online requires that the teacher repeats the larger framework: each time you remind students of how the activity fits into the overall structure, you hook them back into the course, motivating them to keep at it so they will get results.

And before they know it, voila, another student has completed your course and is ready to rave about it to their friends and colleagues!

Here is a quick worksheet to help you get razor sharp in the purpose of each activity you put in your course.