What makes the Completion Rates of your online courses so low and how to improve it?

How to improve the completion rates of your online course? Well, it’s not difficult to google the answer. 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 just follow it. However, they don’t show you what makes the completion rates of online courses so low and how to start with it? In this article, we will bring you to 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 it and have a certificate. The low completion rate is one of the most headache problems for all institutional designers. If there are many learners drop your course easily, perhaps you are facing certain issues listed here.

1. Lack of incentive

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

  • First, it takes little or no damage involved in skipping class when there is no punishment or required extra course. 
  • Next, dropping out won’t effect on the learners’ degree when there is no fixed curriculum in eLearning. 
  • Finally, no one will blame learners to not finishing the course.

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

  • First, learners do not receive any motivations from instructors to encourage them in completing the course.
  • Second, there are no target or achievement for learners when they reach at the end of the learning progress.

For that reason, some learners couldn’t find it necessary to complete the course. Moreover, different from the regular classroom, online courses have varied public which is very diverse. Specifically, many learners are not a student and studying is not their main activity. Therefore, an online course is just an extra supplement for their major job but does not require completion to benefit them. In the end, it leads to the low completion rate in an online course.

To keep the learners motivative, 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 that challenges. Email reminding is also a good option to keep your learners retention.

2. Optional enrollment

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

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

3. Institutional design issues

The statistic has shown that there are 11.4k online courses in overall by 2018 and the number keeps growing fast. If you make your course just like other thousand course, chances are you might not attract any students or keep them back to your course.

Learners attention span nowadays is shorter than goldfish. Therefore, our mission as an institutional designers is to hook their attention and keep it through the course. Actually, we can evaluate this factor 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.

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How can animation improve online course completion rates?

Above, we have listed out 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 for multiple problems at once. So, how can animations do that? Check it out.

1. Animation helps increase the commitment

As we have mentioned, people mostly have a problem with participating in the online course. For this cause, as an institutional designer, you need to come up with some solutions that can increase the commitment of learners. One easy challenge like we mention above is quite handy. One better way to do is applying animation in online courses to enhance students’ concentration that naturally increases the commitment. There are two major benefits of animation in doing this job, there are visualization and story-telling method. 

  • First, with visualization, animation can capture learners’ attention and engage them in learning. Visualize knowledge helps learners to understand knowledge better. Moreover, beautiful visual and design can bring up learners’ desire to study.
  • Meanwhile, with a story-telling method, you can keep students’ concentrate and attempt them to learn. Furthermore, 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 until it finishes. As a result, you can create learners’ commitment naturally and increase the completion rates.

2. Applying animation to create own specialty

Being unique in the field is another solution to increase completion rates for online courses. Some of the course apply promotions into the course to create their specialty. To be more specific, they discount or provide some packages for learners when finishing the course. By doing this, learners will have the motivation to finish the course and to gain another one. However, it is just a temporary solution which shouldn’t keep applying in the future.

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

Furthermore, perhaps only in animation, you can easily set the tone for your lesson. By the story-telling method, institutional designers can show the feeling and the importance level of different cases. In animated video, learners could realize the danger of some situations by the expression of animated characters, the speed of motion, the emotion of voice-over and sound effect. For example, in the medical video, learners can understand the pain level of the patient by the color, patient’s expression and the music from 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 of incentive.
  • Your online course needs to be special compared with 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 your problems and apply the most suitable method for your online course. You can check out our other post to get more tips and advice on the progress.

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