Top Methods of Keeping Your Students Engaged in Your Online Course

Course Creators
August 10, 2021
How do you grow your customer base and retain your students? Building effective online course offerings that your students keep coming back to takes so much more than the course materials themselves. But with a deliberate, thoughtful, human approach, you can build an entire digital culture of learning and make your brand the place to go for engaging content.
Written By:
Chelsea Stone

By now it’s clear: taking online courses is more than just a pandemic trend. So many new users discovered the benefits of remote learning while quarantining, and they will continue to take advantage of this flexible way to self-study and up their skills. E-learning is already a $250 billion global industry, and companies looking to scale their online course offerings are in a great position to give a rapidly growing customer base the learning they are looking for. 

You already know the opportunity to grow and thrive in the e-learning industry is out there. But how do you grow your customer base and retain your students? Drop-out rates for online courses are no joke - as many as 80% of students never complete their online course. Unfortunately for e-learning companies selling online courses, that could translate to 80% of your customers deciding not to return, repurchase, or refer. 

That’s why it’s crucial to keep your students engaged in your online course and support them through from piquing their interest, to starting out, to completion - and hopefully beginning another online course. 

So, what’s the secret to keeping your students engaged in an online, remote e-learning course?

Meet your would-be students where they are looking

Many e-learning companies start with a marketing strategy that asks “How do I sell my course on Udemy?” or “How do I get my course on LinkedIn Learning?”  This can be a great way to find a new audience of e-learners and prove your course’s value to them. Especially if your brand is still small, relatively unknown, or lacking a big budget for advertising, leveraging a well-known platform with a built in user-base - i.e., selling your course on Udemy - can help you build awareness and credibility.

Provide a course launch checklist - and a review checklist for quality

Once you’ve got your would-be student’s attention, it’s important to make sure you’re marketing to the right audience. In an industry like online e-learning, it’s too easy for your customers to choose the wrong course for their needs, have a bad experience, and drop out. That’s why it’s important to help your customers self-select the right course for them.

Give detailed descriptions of what learners can expect from a given course with a course launch checklist or, even an online course questionnaire. Easy and cost-effective survey or quiz builder options like Typeform and Survey Monkey are plentiful, and they can help your would-be students determine which course is best suited to their interests and skill level.  

Make sure your course launch checklist or questionnaire is actually doing its job properly. Once students have completed a course, catch them immediately after with an ask to fill out an online course review checklist - and consider using this opportunity to incentivize them to review and sign up for another online course with a discount offer for their next online course.

This can be easy to implement - once you’ve built your online course evaluation rubric, you can use that as a template for all your courses to make sure you're doing quality assurance on every offering and delivering real value to your customers.

Ensure quality & enhance communication with frequent online course evaluation questions

Remember - online course evaluation forms and questions are not a “one and done” deal. While using an online course evaluation template can help you do quality assurance efficiently, you have to make sure you’re checking in frequently - and doing so with a personal touch.

This means offering a quick opportunity for feedback whenever a student completes a module. But it also means checking in when they don’t complete a module or go for a long time without logging in. That could look like an automated email - but never underestimate the power of quick personal outreach whenever possible. If you are choosing to use automated email, make sure it’s from a real person, addresses the student personally, and invites them to get in touch for a 1-to-1 chat to see how they can better support them through their e-learning journey.

If you’re making use of online course evaluation forms (which you should be!) remember to provide space for unfiltered feedback. Quick multiple choice questions, checklists or ratings are good to collect quick quantitative feedback, but leave open fields for customers to make their voices heard. 

Set your online course teachers up for success

If your online course evaluation questions include topics around the quality of your teachers (which is a great idea), make sure your online course instructors understand what is expected of them and all the things you are doing you are doing to keep your students engaged. Whether that be regular email check-ins with tips & tricks, pairing “power user” students with new students as study buddies, or rewarding students for completing modules - tell your instructors! They can remind students of all the resources available to them.

More importantly, your online course instructors will see the kind of engaging, nurturing culture you are striving to build for your students, and good ideas spread. Your efforts may inspire online teachers to come up with their own creative ways to keep students engaged and coming back for more.

In short: Create and use online teaching evaluation forms. But make sure you are also supporting your teachers to be the best instructors they can be.

Cultivate an e-learning community

You already know potential customers want to see real testimonials from real customers. But how do you do that in a way that makes sense for the e-learning industry? 

Happily, this industry is rich with opportunities for community building. 

  • Connect with your “power users”. Reach out to current students and offer them discounts, freebies, or even affiliate options for helping to answer would-be students’ questions, reply to their emails, and help new students feel confident enough to purchase.
  • Showcase your educators. Do an Instagram Live, showcase a thought leadership piece by them, or give them a platform like a webinar. Not only does this give your would-be students a face to place to a name, it also builds that teacher’s personal brand - a win-win situation for everyone.
  • Consider an online forum. Power users and your online course educators can act as subject matter experts and moderators. Give current students full access as part of their online learning package, and give potential students “sneak peek” access to better understand your product, ask their questions, and start to build a relationship with them before they have even made a purchase.

Offer supporting structure like time estimates, onboarding emails, and an open line with tech support

The downside of the flexibility of online learning is that it sometimes feels like a lack of structure and accountability. A roadmap before beginning a course with frequent nudges throughout the course can act as the friendly reminder and motivation students need to see it through.

Be transparent and clear from the beginning about what to expect from a course. Offer a suggested self-guided timeline with estimates of how long portions will take. (You can ensure accuracy with these by looking at responses to your online course evaluation forms!) Send an onboarding email sequence that makes sense - don’t throw too much information their way at once. Give them the tips and tricks they need as they make their way through the course. You can even offer congratulatory emails to your users as they reach milestones in your online course.

Finally, be personal: Remind your learners that there is always someone there to help them if and when they should encounter any issues, concerns, tech or IT questions. Including contact info to a real human being is the best way to ensure your customers feel taken care of.

Show the value of your online learning course from beginning to end

Building effective online course offerings that your students keep coming back to takes so much more than the course materials themselves. But with a deliberate, thoughtful, human approach, you can build an entire digital culture of learning and make your brand the place to go for engaging content. Building a successful e-learning brand doesn’t happen overnight - but here are a few easy ways to get started today.

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