Offering Certificates of Completion in an Online Course: The Pros and Cons6 minute read
Offering a certificate of completion to your online course students means handing out a document that certifies their attendance to your course, and/or provides proof of their effort.
In other words, an online course certificate is a reward that creators give to their students on completion of the course or a specific section in a program.
In the case of online learning, certificates generally are delivered digitally, and in addition to showing proof of completion, they can involve other elements such as a token, gift, or some other form of reward.
If you are thinking of offering completion certificates in your online course, then this article is for you! Before you go ahead and start giving out certificates, it is important to know what the benefits and the downsides of this practice are, so you can make an informed decision.
In order to we get into the pros and cons of offering certificates of completion, we need to distinguish between two types of certificates:
Certificates in online learning can be accredited or not. A certificate is "accredited" when a third party or entity verifies the validity of the online course. Such entities can be universities, professional institutions and other associations that have the power to accredit certificates.
Accredited certificates are needed if your online course teaches something that legally requires a certification. Topics such as professional development, language learning, or any other topic that is recognized by an official body.
That said, just because a certificate isn't accredited, that doesn't stop it from having value to others as showing proof that students learned a new skill.
Gaining accreditation for your completion certificate is not as easy as offering a certificate with zero legal value: many times, you need to partner with universities or apply for accreditation through a professional body (which might also be expensive).
In this article, we will focus on unofficial certificates, meaning certificates that are not accredited (that do not include any official validity). So let's see what the pros and cons of offering this kind of certificate to your online course students are:
Pros of Offering Completion Certificates
There are many benefits to offering completion certificates to your online course students. Here is why doing so is worth a shot:
Certificates Help With Engagement
Have you heard that one of the biggest issues for course creators is the lack of engagement in their programs?
Studies show that the average completion rate in online learning is as low as 13%. Meaning that only 13% of students enrolled in a course actually complete it.
So even if you gain many new students who buy your online course, it is not guaranteed that they'll reach the finish line, sometimes, people who buy an online course don't even start it!
Completion certificates might help you increase completion rates as this practice can provide an extra incentive for students to go through your course content and engage with it!
Improve Students' Perception of Your Course
Even if the information in your course is the same with or without a certificate at the end, in the eyes of your students, a certificate of completion can make all the difference.
A completion certificate can make your course look more "official" and "real" - even though the certificate is not accredited, and we are still talking about unofficial certificates.
The certificate is a testimony of your students' dedication to learning a new skill, which makes it more attractive to a potential customer.
Certificates Reward Students' Efforts
Completion certificates are a great way to apply gamification techniques to your online course and offer an incentive for your students to complete the program.
In the eye of the students, a certificate can symbolize their hard work in a more concrete way. Once they complete your course, students can show off their knowledge with their brand-new completion certificate.
Upon completing your course, students immediately receive the certificate and get an instant reward for their effort.
Certificates Help with Conversions
Can a completion certificate be a marketing strategy?
Aside from being an incentive for your existing customers, completion certificates can offer one more reason to purchase your online course. So make sure you are showing off the certificate students will get in your sales pages and marketing content.
This concept is especially valid with accredited certificates: in this case, students might purchase an online course mainly to gain the certification they need in order to reach their desired outcome.
Certificates Boost Social Proof
Social proof (customer reviews and testimonials) is an essential part of your marketing strategy. If you are not doing this already, you should show your positive reviews on your course landing page. Check out this article from our blog to learn how to gain reviews quickly: 7 Quick Tips to Collect Reviews Easily and Increase Social Proof in Your Online Course
Offering a certificate and rewarding your students can help you delight your customers. Since they will get their certificate at the end of the course, this is the perfect time to incentivize them to leave a good review on your site (maybe where they show off their certificate!).
Help You Gain Loyal Customers
Imagine you are taking an online course, and at the end, you get a beautiful certificate of completion. You are so proud of it because it symbolizes your continued effort and how you managed to learn a new skill, so you decide to print it out and hang it on your wall!
Every time you look at it, you think about the online course you took and how it helped you.
If you can do the same for your students, you will gain loyal customers for life.
A completion certificate can be a way for past students to remember your online course and keep your relationship alive.
Simply by looking at your certificate, whether they frame it and hang it on their wall, or they simply stumble upon it in their Downloads folder, they will keep your business on top of their mind and maybe come back to purchase from you again.
Cons of Offering Completion Certificates
Are there only benefits to giving out certificates of completion in your online course?
Certificates of completion cannot hurt your online course, so instead of drawbacks, think of these points more as "considerations" and "possibilities" you need to think of.
Let's see what could potentially go wrong with offering competition certificates in your online course, and how you can make sure to design a great learning experience for your students.
Certificates represent an end: One potential concern that course creators might have about having completion certificates is the fact that students might confuse them as the very end of learning.
For example, if you are selling multiple courses, memberships or coaching programs, you want your students to know that they can get more from you. Students who enroll in one online course and complete it to get a certificate might consider this the very end goal, without looking for a continuation of their studies in other products you offer.
Certificates make it hard to truly measure students' progress: while certificates are a great way to incentivize students to complete a course and engage them, they should not be your primary way of tracking students' progress.
Not everyone who takes your course learns in the same way: there might be students who take every lesson and complete 100% of your course, but in the end, they do not learn as much as someone who took a few lessons here and there and did not complete the course. Who knows!
A better way to measure students' progress (especially in regard to creative subjects) is by assigning them a Project to complete. Projects in Heights Platform are customizable assignments that students get to do at the end of a course: this way, they get to practice what they have learned and apply their new knowledge to the real world.
Students might take a course just for the certificate: this is a rare case in most unofficial courses and more of an issue with accredited courses where the only reason why people take a course is to get the certificate.
This is not so much of a disadvantage, as you still get students to take your course and learn something, even if they only do it for the certificate!
How to Create an Online Course Completion Certificate with Heights Platform
Now that we talked about the benefits and potential concerns that come with offering certificates of completion in your online course, let's see how you can actually do it.
You could decide to create and design your own certificate for each student and manually send it to them as soon as they complete your course. But that's not ideal, and is very time-consuming!
There is a better way: use Heights Platform to automatically generate a certificate once a student completes your course. (You can choose to manually grant the certificate as well if you need to review the student's performance first.)
With Heights Platform, you can design your online course certificate according to your branding, decide when to grant it to your students and send it to them!
Heights Platform will automatically provide the certificates to students once they complete one of your online courses (you decide!).
So let's see how easy it is to design and grant completion certificates using Heights Platform.
First, choose a ready-made template that you like. Then, change the color and fonts of the certificate to match your unique branding and customize it as you like:
Once you are happy with your design, it's time to configure a few settings. Choose when the certificate should be granted to students and for which online course within your program.
At this point, when students complete your online course, they will automatically receive the completion certificate, so you don't have to manually check their status or manually send them the certificate! Plus, there is no limit to how many certificates you can issue!
It's that simple. Check it out for yourself by creating your free Heights account today:Create Your Online Course Today