Heights Platform Why Are Students Not Completing My Online Course? + How to Fix It

Why Are Students Not Completing My Online Course? + How to Fix It

6 minute read

Despite the popularity of online learning, completion rates in online courses are still low: only around 5-15% of students on average complete the online course they purchased.

This can be concerning for online course creators - but the good news is that you can fix it by re-engaging online course students who seem to have lost interest in the program.

To improve completion rates, we need to ask this question first:

Why do people buy online courses and not complete them?

If you can understand the cause of their dropping out, you can improve your student engagement and retention.

In today's article, we will analyze all the possible causes why students do not complete online course materials and offer a solution to each scenario - so you can implement it in your business right away.

Why Are Students Not Completing Your Online Course?

It may seem odd that so many people spend money - sometimes a lot of money - for an online course, and don't get around to completing it. In some cases, students do not even start an online course after enrolling.

To fix completion rates in your online course, you need to understand the root cause that makes students less prone to reach the finish line. Once you can determine the reason for your low completion rate, you can understand the right course of action you need to take to fix it.

Below we will list some possible causes that lead students to lose motivation or interest in a course - and how to solve them.

Learn more about student engagement: 9 Proven Ways to Increase Student Engagement and Completion Rate in your Online Course

#1: Students Are Not Motivated Enough

The most common issue with self-paced online learning is a lack of motivation and accountability.

In this case, your course is well-received by learners who appreciate its benefits, but they might feel a lack of involvement and support from the creator, which leads to no motivation.

Keeping students engaged in online learning is much harder compared to in-person classes, where physical attendance is required at a set location, and at a set time. In a traditional classroom, people have to show up if they want to take a lesson.

If they don't, they lose the opportunity to learn, which cannot present itself again (unless they pay more). On the other hand, with online education and self-paced courses, the material is always available for students and never expires, making it less urgent to complete the course.

Students know that taking the course will be beneficial for them, and they appreciate the content. They simply never get around to doing it because of a lack of motivation and accountability.

How to Improve Student Motivation in Your Course

Here are a few ways to fix this.

Add gamification to your course materials:

When students feel like they're making progress and having fun with the course material, they are more likely to actively participate in the course and interact with other learners. Gamified online learning means incorporating game-like elements into the educational process, which encourages students to get more involved in their learning. With Heights Platform, course creators have access to various tools and features that make it easy to create interactive and enjoyable online learning experiences.

Heights Platform gamification badges

Change the structure of your course:

The way your course is organized can make a big difference. If you use Heights Platform to sell your online courses, you're probably familiar with our challenge feature. A challenge is an online course with a set start and end date. What makes challenges different from regular online courses is how students access the lessons.

launch an online challenge with Heights Platform online course software

With challenges, you can choose specific dates for when your course will be available to students, and you can also schedule release dates for each lesson. Unlike traditional online courses, the lessons in a challenge become unavailable or expire after a certain amount of time that you can customize. When someone joins your challenge, they'll get access to the course and new lesson content at the same time as everyone else.

Learn more about online challenges:

More personalized guidance to students:

Sometimes students just need a little push from the course creator in order to become motivated to complete the course. Consider reaching out to students one-on-one with a personal email or offering to call them to solve any roadblocks they might have encountered.

Add an online community for peer-to-peer accountability:

Seeing other students succeed and take the same course can push the least motivated students to take action. This is why adding a community space to your course can be a great way to increase participation and peer-to-peer accountability. Heights Platform lets you build and customize a community as you see fit, so students can create meaningful connections, discuss with you and other students and feel more engaged with the course.

Heights Platform Community

Increase your course price:

Another reason why students might not feel motivated enough to complete your course could be because of its price. If you price too low (generally under $100), students might not feel "pressured" to take the course as they did not pay too much for it. If - on the other hand - they had to invest a large amount of money in your course, students would be more inclined to "make their money worth" and actually complete the course.

Related article: Ultimate Guide to Pricing Your Online Course (With Earnings Calculator)

#2: Students Are Overwhelmed by the Course Content or Have No Time

A common mistake online course creators make is to think that "the longer and jam-packed the course is, the better."

What students care about the most is reaching a result: they buy your online course because you promise them to take them from point A to B in the fastest, most efficient way possible.

They don't care that your course has 200 lessons and 55 modules. Actually, this might be counterproductive.

In this case, students are excited about your course and want to complete it, but once they enroll, they get overwhelmed by the amount of content, the length of the videos or the number of lessons in your course.

They might also say that they do not have time to complete your course.

How to Fix Students Getting Overwhelmed by the Course

Here are a couple of ideas to fix this.

Trim your course content:

Probably the best way to fix this is by reducing the amount of redundant learning materials and content in your course. Try to remove anything that is not extremely necessary for students to achieve the end result that your promise. If you still want to keep these "less-important" lessons, consider separating them from the main course content, and offering them as a bonus for students who want to learn more.

Another thing you can do is split individual lessons into smaller chunks. If you have video lessons that are 30 minutes long (or longer!), it is a good idea to split them into quick videos of max 15 minutes.

Drip-feed your lessons:

Another way to make students less overwhelmed when they first enroll in your course is to set a drip feed. Drip feeding means delivering content to students gradually over time. Instead of giving students immediate access to all the course material when they enroll, with drip, lessons or modules are made available to them only after a certain number of days that you can adjust to your preference.

drip feeding lessons Heights Platform

#3: Students Had Different Expectations About Your Course

Another scenario is when your course ads and curriculum catch new students' attention, and they get excited about it.

But then they might discover that your course does not match their original expectations, or doesn't suit their skill level.

It might be either too basic and doesn't challenge them enough, or it could be too advanced, making it difficult for them to complete.

How to Fix Students Having Different Expectations

The course of action in this case is a little different; let's see what you can do in this case:

Gather feedback from your students:

If you suspect this is the reason why students do not complete the course, you should ask for feedback to confirm your suspicions. Send them an email or a quick form where they can let you know how your course did not match their expectations. Is it too easy for them, too hard, too packed, etc...?

Change your marketing approach:

Once you know the reason behind the discrepancy in expectations, you can change your marketing message accordingly. If you know that students who buy your course expected a more challenging program, you might want to change your marketing to be directed to more "beginners" students.


Nowadays, online courses, training, and eLearning in general, have become very popular.

People appreciate the freedom to choose their educational path and the wide range of options available.

However, many online students tend to enroll in multiple courses but struggle to finish them.

To prevent your online course from suffering the same fate, it's crucial to thoroughly understand your target audience and anticipate any objections they may have that could contribute to low course completion rates.

Once you identify these potential concerns, you can make necessary adjustments to the course content and overall strategy.

Remember, even the smallest details can make a significant difference in terms of user engagement and the success of your course.

Another important factor that can make the whole difference is which online course platform you use.

As you have seen in this article, the most common issues can be solved with technical changes and new features: adding gamification, changing the structure of your course, creating a learning community space etc...

This is why you need an online course platform that offers all the features to build engagement and motivate students to complete your course.

Heights Platform is the all-in-one online course creation software that gives you the flexibility you need to build an online business the way you want, use features your students love and create an awesome online learning experience.

Post Topics:  How We Learn