Struggling with low online course completion rates? You’re not alone. It’s a challenge that many other L&D and HR professionals struggle to overcome.

The good news is that there are simple, effective ways to accelerate learner success and jumpstart stagnating completion rates. In this blog post, we will highlight seven tips to help you bump those rates up closer to 100%.

Jumpstart Your Online Course Completion Rates: Tips for Accelerating Learner Success

Why Do Completion Rates Matter?

First, let’s talk about why those completion rates matter. The answer is – it varies. For some courses, completion is required. This is the case for mandatory corporate training, such as diversity or inclusivity training, as well as for professional CE and the like. For others, it’s more about ensuring that your teams are moving forward and developing correctly, while other businesses are trying to close skills gaps so that they can compete more effectively within their industry.

Regardless of the reason, though, completion matters. And you’ll need to do more than just send out email after email or memo after memo. Reminders only do so much good. What should you be doing?

1. Clearly Communicate the Deadline

First and foremost, make sure that you have not only set a deadline, but that you’ve clearly communicated it. You’ll need to do more than just talk to other managers about the deadline, though. Open up a line of communication with each employee and ensure that they are aware of the looming deadline, too.

It’s not unusual for managers to forget to pass along notes and information. After all, they have a lot on their plates, too. Ideally, you will use email or another digital tool to communicate directly with stakeholders, managers, and individual employees so that everyone is aware of what training must be completed and the deadline for completion.

However, it’s not enough to mention it once and then forget about it. You need to reinforce your message. Send reminders as the deadline approaches. Touch base with those who have only partially completed their courses. Active management is the best solution.

2. Chunk It

If your completion rates are plummeting, it may be a sign that there is simply too much to be done at one time. If your learners must make a significant investment of time and energy, they will be less likely to complete anything at all. The solution? Chunk it up.

Chunking is a term that refers to breaking larger items into smaller, more manageable pieces, or chunks. For instance, you could take a lengthy course and break it into smaller modules. You could then take those modules and break them down even further.

This also works very well if you’re tying into the mobile learning and micro-learning trends, as smaller chunks are easier to complete on a mobile device. You’ll also find that learners can retain more of the information presented in smaller lessons, meaning that you’ll also likely experience better retention rates overall.

3. Block Out Dates

Today, many organizations use employee calendars to help keep track of things like vacations, convention-related travel, and more. They have become so heavily used that the simple calendar has become a critical business tool. You can also use them to help jumpstart your online course completion rates.

One of the most effective steps to take (at least with employees that regularly use calendars) is to block out dates on their calendar. These should coincide with the deadline for your training, but can also be used to indicate when training should be completed. You can either prompt your learners to block out time on their calendars on their own, or HR can automatically block out dates for employees.

4. Communicate Why Training Matters

If you’re struggling with chronically low online course completion rates, it could be a disconnect between employees and the reason that training matters. Make sure that you are clearly communicating why the training matters to encourage them to move forward. However, you’ll need to do more than just tell them that it’s important for compliance or to tick a box. Employees want to know what’s in it for them, so highlight:

  • How the training will affect their current position
  • How the training will affect their career path
  • How the training improves their day-to-day experience
  • How the training helps the business grow

Show them the value – tell them why the training matters – and you might be surprised at the level of buy-in you see afterward.

5. Keep On Communicating

Often, trailing completion rates are due to a lack of communication. You might mention to employees that they need to complete a module or course by a certain date, but that gets pushed to the back of their minds by other responsibilities. Keep communication high to bolster completion rates in this instance. That doesn’t mean you need to bombard your learners with daily emails, but you do need to take steps to ensure that they don’t forget about it entirely. A weekly reminder might be enough, but you should really tailor your communication to the employee.

6. Recognize Your Success Stories

If your online course completion rates are plummeting, it could be that your employees feel that their efforts are not being noticed. Nothing is more demotivating than doing something and no one noticing. So, change the situation. Find ways to recognize and celebrate your learners’ successes.

How can you do this? You’ll find any number of options, really. You could use leaderboards in your LMS. You might choose to offer rewards for those who make the most progress. Give the first five people to complete a course a half-day off. You get the idea – recognition and rewards can do a lot to drive completion and engagement.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways that you can change the situation if you’re experiencing dwindling course completion rates. The key is to keep an eye on the situation and then take decisive action. Be prepared to take different tactics at different times and with different courses, though.