Create Courses that People Finish

course design learning consulting Mar 26, 2021
man hitting ceiling

Why do we keep blaming the learner when it comes to our courses not being finished? It's actually not entirely our learner’s fault. There's a lot that we can be doing as course creators to encourage them and excite them to not only buy our program but to finish it.

How you ever bought a course, program or a membership and spent a lot of money, got a couple of modules in, and then quit? Most of us have; it's super common and tons of your audience is doing the same thing.

The average completion rate is 15% industry-wide. That means, on average, 85% of your audience does not finish the course or program they just bought.

How does your completion rate compare? If you're scared to look (or even more scared now that you know), keep coming back here for more insight. There are a number of strategies to identify the problems and find solutions to get your learners finishing.

When you buy a course or membership that's not the right fit, what does that feel like as a consumer? Do you feel totally responsible? Or do you expect some level of accountability and support from the creator of the course? Most likely the later -- unless you're just in it for the money and then we're probably not going to get very far in this conversation.

We're going to address three common reasons why learners aren't finishing your course.

First, the program is too long. We get excited creating this learning and make the program too long. To correct this, chunk your program into smaller bite-sized pieces. Break a dense course into three or four lighter courses, or if you have a lot to share, create a membership wtih a lot of micro-sized bits of learning that are easy to find and retain. Completing courses boosts the learner's confidence. With shorter courses, they can finish and look eagerly towards your next offer.

Second, the course offers little support when the learner is stuck. If learners have no way to get help when they need it, they will just move on to something with less resistence. These hurdles can come from the content side, technology side, or skill side. To address this, do research on your users to identify likely hurdles. One way to do this is by looking at course stats; at what points are learners commonly dropping off? Hone in on this spot then find a way to prepare them for this hurdle.

Third, the course is more challenging than described. Marketing language is wonderful, but it often fails to convey the challenges learners will face in completing the course. Be upfront with your audience. Let them know the challenges that will come so that they can go into your program with realistic expectations. For perfectionists, this is essential to counter feelings of failure or disappointment. Make the challenges clear and make the opportunity to learn even clearer. No course is a magic wand, but it is a meaningful investment if completed —so help them realize that at the beginning.

We're just scratching the surface of this topic There are many ways to improve your program if you're not getting the kind of completion results you want. Take a look at my mastermind that will help you analyze your program to find specific places to make improvement.

Let's create more finishable courses.


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Through conversations with global leaders and the credibility of personal industry, Your Greatest Work podcast digs deeper into learning design in useful and applicable ways. The second episode is out now, listen to it here. Stay tuned for coming episodes. Let's start the conversation about making your current work into your greatest work.

Thanks for reading and subscribing! Please comment, ask questions or share feedback so I can continue to create valuable content for you.

To find out more about the work I do, visit or message me on LinkedIn for my Learning Experience Design services.


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