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Feeling Stuck? Here are the Top 5 Ways to Accelerate Course Completion Rates

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

When designing courses, it is hard not to think about course completion rates. For some time now, course completion rates have been staggeringly low, especially in online courses. Notoriously, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, stand at a 5%-15% rate of completion. BUT, don’t let that number discourage you, because we have 5 tips on how to accelerate course completion rates.

Why do Students Quit Courses?

To start out, it’s important to acknowledge that there are a number of reasons that students do not complete courses they signed up for. Here are just a few reasons why a student may drop the course:

  • Busy schedules

  • Feeling stuck and don’t know/don’t want to take the next steps

  • Course is not engaging

  • Lack of motivation

  • Course has unrealistic expectations OR student has unrealistic expectations of the course

  • Technical difficulties

  • Done with what they need from the course

With that said, some of these reasons have nothing to do with the course itself. However, there are potential course edits that can help faculty improve course completion rates. Here are the top 5 to help increase course completion rates:

1. Post Course Materials in Pieces

A trend, especially in online asynchronous courses, is to post all course material and make all of the content accessible immediately. Though an assignment that is posted may not be due for another month, viewing a course as a whole feels far scarier than a chunking method.

This also leaves a piece of mystery within the course that could prompt student curiosity. Providing all of the information ahead of time can throw off the “suspense” of learning that motivates and engages students.

2. Utilize Virtual Teams

It’s cheesy, but teamwork can really “make the dream work” in these settings. Students who participate in virtual teams are 5x more engaged and 16x more likely to complete an online course. Although an automatic, random sorting of students in teams seems palatable and easy, these typically only are successful for a one-time meeting.

For teams to work to their full potential, it is best for the students to form their own teams. When students have peers in class, they are more likely to stay enrolled because they have a familiar face in the classroom with them, whether in-person or online or synchronous or asynchronous. Motivation increases when students are surrounded by fellow learners, thus reducing the number of students not completing the course.

3. Gamification for the Win

Who ever said education can’t be fun? Because that is certainly not true. In fact, embedding elements of fun into the course design reflects positive gains for course completion rates. Gamification is the strategy of using typical-game elements in a non-traditional-gaming manner, like, for example, in learning.

Games can awaken student interest in course content, inspire motivation in learners, provide manners of healthy competition and even improve learning results! They also can help connect course content to real-life situations, adding an element of relatability to the course that serves as a motivator. If you want to learn more about gamification, we have a great blog post that shows how you can use gamification in the classroom.

4. Embrace Technology

As courses that had to transition to online formats due to the pandemic come back to an in-person format, it is essential to not completely stop using virtual elements. Technological advances created prior to and during the pandemic have expanded the world of what academia can look like. Technology has increased accessibility to education, and fully online courses allow students that have families, jobs, or other priorities to learn within their personal schedule as well.

Having virtual elements of courses, even in-person courses, allows for a wide variety of educational opportunities. In fact, face-to-face courses are improved by implementing virtual elements. Students are able to prepare for class discussions ahead of time to allow for deeper and richer conversations that engage the whole class.

5. Create a Course Community

No matter the modality, social learning is an important factor for course completion rate. Students will not only gain the knowledge and skills from the course itself, but will also meet peers, make friends, and have additional course resources for any topics they are having difficulty with. This can also make students feel heard, which is essential in student motivation. When students can submit their work to peers, or receive feedback and encouragement, they feel connected, seen, and feel motivated.

Our platform, Yellowdig, is a great tool for creating a course community that allows both student and faculty to be heard. Yellowdig is a fun, gamified platform and helps improve course completion percentages. In fact, Yellowdig courses have seen a 9-11% completion rate gain. And it’s easier than ever to start!


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