The promise of passive income has long been a lure of people creating online courses. Digital pre-recorded classes that are automated are a great way to allow people to learn at their own pace, consume the information from the comfort of their own home or office, and typically they can be less expensive than some traditional educational institutions.

The global e-learning market is set to reach approximately $325 Billion within the next decade. This training comes from companies offering internal training, to companies that offer certification training, to entrepreneurs offering specialized training.

Online training has opened up a whole world of learning that would not otherwise be available to some segments of the population. It can also save companies time and money if they offer training internally instead of incorporating the expense of lost time and expense of having employees travel.

So what’s the problem with that? Well, the online course industry has recognized some serious flaws in this style of learning.

Dirty Little Secret #1

The first time I offered a course online was an exciting time for me. People had asked me for years to produce some trainings that they could purchase. So I put it out there and people purchased it. How wonderful! I felt like I was helping people.

But as time went on, I realized that people were not completing the course. When I asked them if they didn’t like the course or if it were too boring, they said it was good, they were just too busy. This was heartbreaking for me. I put in a lot of time and effort to build the course, only to find out that people had other priorities. There is no accountability in this model. No one tells the student when to log in or when they should finish, since much of digital training is self-paced.

I found out that this is one of the most common problems in the online learning industry. The dirty little secret is that almost no one finishes their digital training courses. So why do people keep producing trainings if no one is consuming the information? They still get paid when people purchase – they’re not tied to the outcome. The student is responsible for getting the work done.

This never sat well with me. I genuinely want people to learn the information I put out. I want to see them improve their careers and their lives.

Instructors can build accountability into online courses by offering quizzes and certification badges. They can hold periodic live training sessions where attendance count towards the overall grade of the course. Sending timely emails to remind students of deadlines can also be helpful.

Where’s The Beef?

OK maybe not beef, but in this case, where’s the support? When trainings are completely virtual, how do students ask questions or get support? It’s inconceivable that people will consume hours of training without having a few questions. No matter how well the content is laid out or how carefully the instructor has explained something, somebody will need support at some point.

Some courses offer email support or a Facebook group, which can be helpful, but if the questions need further evaluation or are very technical or subjective, this may not work well. In a Facebook group, unless the teacher of the course is present and can answer questions, it’s the group helping each other. That can be a good thing, but it may not be what the teacher originally intended.

Conducting a live training to supplement the digital components would be a great way to support the students. Some courses offer a retreat-style training to follow up the online training. Some companies offer live support during specific hours where people can call for support. That works well and so does live video chat support and Facebook Live broadcasts where the students can ask questions.

The Party That’s Actually a Snooze-Fest!

Many years ago, I got my financial services broker’s licence and one of the courses I had to complete was an insurance course. It was so hard to get through a chapter in the very thick book to learn this information without propping my eyes open. Let’s face it – learning alone in front of a book or a computer isn’t really all that fun. It can be also be a little boring if you don’t have anyone to discuss the material with. Many people prefer to have someone teach them the course material, so video courses tend to be very popular.

The attention span of people online now is so low that they have to be stimulated constantly to keep engaged. Learning should be fun and keep people interested so that they retain the information.

Enter gamification. Games designed right into the learning! This is one of the hottest things in online learning right now. Gaming is fun and keeps people alert and engaged, so they learn more and have fun while doing it.

Rock Your Online Courses!

There are several things that online course producers can do to increase the engagement with their students to help them finish consuming their content.

These days, when I offer digital courses, I build some things in to keep people engaged and offer support. Usually the completely stand-alone courses are very short and don’t require a ton of support. They can be consumed in a short period of time, eliminating the need for huge engagement strategies.

If your company is thinking of offering digital training, create a plan around how that information will be consumed. Avoid the pitfalls of having your online courses gather dust because no one is logging into them. Institute some live components and support to the training. Create fun quizzes and games to keep people engaged.

Debbie Peck Digital