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Why LearnDash Course Completion Rates Matter and How to Improve Them

LearnDash is a super learning management system (LMS). It enables consultants, coaches, trainers and content experts in any field to make what they know available to a new audience. However, in order to be successful with a course, you have to make sure your learners finish the course. They have to get to the end and receive the benefits you have to offer them.

Course completion rates are a key metric to track. It helps you gauge how successful you are being at teaching what you teach. You don't really want a 100% completion rate. That's not realistic, but when completion rates are low, something is off that you need to address.

Let’s explore this and go over how to improve completion rates with your program.

(NOTE: This want to give credit to Angie Ricciardi for her article at that was an inspiration for this one.)

Why do course completion rates matter?

Higher completion rates is a sign that:

  • The course does what it says it does
  • Your learning audience is getting what they expected
  • Learners are using your course
  • The expectations you set or the course are reasonable

You not only want your students to finish showing they are getting what they wanted. You want them to finishing because those are students that 1) will consider buying other courses from you and 2) will recommend you to others that are needing something similar.  These are folks that will give you testimonials and reviews that you can use in your marketing materials.

When students are NOT finishing your course, it means something has gone wrong. And there are a lot of reasons why this can happen. It could be that one part of your course in particular is confusing or too long. It could be that a topic isn't covered in sufficient depth leading your learners to think they missed something.

One thing I point out in a lot of my articles is the difference between students becoming confused with your course versus becoming overwhelmed. A student that gets confused will ask questions. The will continue to dig to get past their confusion. A member that gets overwhelmed will not. They often look at themselves asking, "Did I get myself into something I'm not capable of doing?" That scenario leads to the student disappearing instead of asking questions. You will lose them and never know it happened.

Here is a list of things to do to improve your completion rates.

Review Your Sales Materials / Course Description

I would start with your course description and outline. Review the sales information you make available to people purchasing your course carefully. Review your course outline. What is it you promise? What is it you are asking your students to do? Confirm your course description accurately and honestly reflects the course and outlines its learning objectives.

A good course description can offer:

  • An overview of the length of the course
  • Major deadlines
  • Time commitment
  • Course content details
  • Prerequisites and required skills
  • Assignments
  • Technical requirements

If your course description isn't a tight match with what your course delivers, that can impact your course completion rates.

Embrace microlearning

It's important to understand how your learners use your course. Some may be learning at their desk. Today's learners, however, learn on the go.

  • They use their phone.
  • They learn while they are waiting to pick up their kids at school.
  • They are fitting it into their busy lifestyle.
  • They are going over material on the treadmill, exercise bike or stair climber.
  • They are in bed before going to sleep.

You want to build your course into manageable chucks that are consistent and short enough to fit in the gaps when your students have time to take them. This has become known as microlearning.

Whole courses can be divided up into separate mini or micro-courses with lessons ranging from five to twelve minutes. When your organize your course content this way, it’s easy for students to ask themselves, "Do I have time to complete a lesson now?" Since they know how long your typical lessons last, they can fit it in where possible.

By embracing microlearning, you make it easier for your learners to consume your content and boost your course completion rates.

Engage learners

Learning with a course is a lonely endeavor. You are the lone range our their with no one around you supporting you. It can be discouraging. If you can get your learners more engaged,  they are less likely to check out.

Here are dome ideas for increasing engagement:

  • Provide an easy  way for students to contact you. Monitor that and respond within 24 hours if possible.
  • Monitor what happens at the very start of a course. Reach out to students when they start off slowly or are NOT logging into your platform. (There are are great tools for monitoring this.)
  • Vary your format to include a wide variety of media and methods: videos, quizzes, games, and more.
  • Create an online community. You can consider a private Facebook group. Our team specializes in BuddyBoss Web and Mobile App development which adds forums, social media-like groups, and discussion boards to your site.
  • Offer incentives for students who attend your virtual office hours.

Overall, try methods that get learners excited about your course. Focusing on increasing engagement will lead to higher learner retention and course completion rates.

Try gamification

When you offer rewards, you can grab student attention and give them additional reasons to continue with your course. You can give them a certificate showing they have mastered a skill by completing the course. You can use gamification features to post their name on a leaderboards or assign them points that lead to earning badges others in the platform can seen.

LearnDash integrates really well with gamification tools like Gamipress. You can encourage learners to stay engaged or complete additional content by rewarding them. This pulls them along when they otherwise might not.

Personal Example

I am learning Italian using Duolingo. That have implemented some excellent gamification. They make a prominent leaderboard available to all users. Every week, you are ranked along with another set of users ranking them based on how many learning points they score. The score count puts them on a list. If they are in the top 7 in the list, they get promoted to another "league." It's all made up, but it show students how their learning habits compare to others learning a language.

I'm not a competitive type, but I watch that leaderboard and it keeps me engaged. There are times when I get busy and don't have as much time to dedicate to the learning. The app reminds me that I'm being demoted to lower leagues. It messages and notifies me. It changes my behavior.

Consider adding features like this to get your students to complete your course and programs.


Hope this helps.