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Learning 6 MIN READ

10 Factors That Increase Online Course Participation (2020)

Your course is live.
You have sold a few licenses.
But, students don’t come back to finish the course.

Why is this a problem? If your students are not engaged, they won’t come to your next course and won’t suggest your course. Word of mouth matters and it can make or break your course business.

Why is this happening? You might ask yourself.

The most difficult battle for an online instructor isn’t to create an online course, but an online course that offers a unique and personalized learning experience. Failing to do so might quickly result to low student participation in your online course.

Your students may come from varying backgrounds, demographics, age groups and many different walks of life. You are responsible for including something for everyone and teaching them to make a difference in their lives.

So, how can you possibly increase the rates of participation of your students? Let’s start with the following.

1. Be Familiar with your Learning Platform

If you haven’t yet done so, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the LMS you use. Doing so can help you tackle problems more easily and get into a position where you can give out valid advice and guidance to students who ask for it.

There is a saying that comes from Albert Einstein and says:

‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’

And this is exactly what we are going for here.

Don’t expect students to know their whereabouts on the first time. Instead, go the extra mile and give out directions on where to find the learning material your students need to have access to. A great introduction to your school is to show your students how to contact you and get feedback, navigate the courses and use the comment section.

2. Setting Goals for the Course

Avoid making the mistake of starting work without setting your learning objectives in place. No matter what you have built for your school so far, it’s essential to have a look through what you have and – why not, come up with new learning goals that give a better sense of purpose and direction.

Be clear about the goals as soon as possible.

These learning goals are tied well with students’ participation, as it helps them understand what kind of engagement you expect from them. Unless you let them know, they won’t know. So, you better decide on the following first:

Once you figured these out, share them with your students to ensure that you are always on the same page, having the same expectations and understanding each other every step of the way.

3. Get Feedback

Approach your students and get feedback. Learn why your students love or ignore your course and what you could do to improve it.

You can create a course evaluation survey and ask your students to complete it. You might need to revisit your material or the way you approach the students.

4. Come up with a Clear Syllabus

It’s easy to build on engagement when students know where they are at, at all times. Coming up with a small syllabus that tells them what your course is about can help students be prepared. A syllabus can lay out a lesson plan giving students an idea of what each class will cover.

Creating a storyboard will help you get your thoughts down and then present them to your students as a course summary or outline.

5. Conduct Webinars with Small Groups

Another way to go is by creating small discussion groups of 3 to 5 people that are easy-to-follow and will allow students to open up more freely. As opposed to creating a webinar of 10 to 15 people, a smaller group is easier to handle and will encourage more discussion topics and debate.

This alone increases student participation as it builds on excitement and gives the ‘shy’ students the time and the opportunity to think on their feed, to raise their hands, share their thoughts and make their own questions as you deliver the class.

6. Reward your Students

Rewarding your students can be effective, even when dealing with adults. One way to do this is by offering a certificate that always looks good on a CV. A student with a goal is more likely to come back and chase it.

However, there are many ways to be more generous than that as part of the learning process. For example, you can give praise or a big thumbs up to the first student that responds back to your question on a public online discussion to encourage others to chip in. This way you are showing that you acknowledge the effort your students make.

Rewarding your students can include small and simple acts of appreciation or they can be as big as:

Here, you can be creative, and it’s a good idea to let them know about their price so they can work towards the goal!

7. Provide Ongoing and Prompt Feedback

Every time you ask students to complete an assignment or simply do a task, be quick enough to get back to them. Following up is all about being quick to provide feedback and is crucial to avoid making students feel that you are ignoring them.

Allow yourself time to actually go through students’ responses, be ready to understand why they made mistakes and come up with ways to explain to them what went wrong. But don’t just give out a grade that can’t describe the whole summit of the hard work they have done.

Also, make sure to provide insightful feedback through comments that help them grow and learn from their mistakes. When students are getting enough feedback about their work, they are more likely to stay engaged throughout the course.

8. Make use of Multiple Learning Methods

It’s never too late to try out different learning techniques but if nothing pops into mind, you are not the only one. In fact, even university professors sometimes struggle to come up with methods that make learning more interactive.

Jenny Pickerill, professor at the University of Sheffield admits on Times Higher Education:

I learn best myself through doing, but, perhaps due to residual fear, I still struggle to make my lectures as interactive as my seminars. I encourage questions, use quizzes and set group tasks, but I am in awe of colleagues who teach in more participatory ways.

At the same time, John Treogoning, a senior lecturer at Imperial College of London, says:

Visual jokes can work. I love cartoons and have tried to use them from a range of sources (Piled Higher and Deeper, Sketching Science and @redpenblackpen all being favourites). But…memes work better. Since they come with a preloaded meaning, they tick the shared common ground box.

What we can take out of these experiences is that the use of memes and jokes can outrun what you currently are familiar with such as puzzles, quizzes, and other games – which by the way no one denies being effective.

But instead of sticking to those learning methods that have become the norm, you can try changing the rules of the game through the combination of the effective use of text, video, audio, multimedia, engaging graphics, or screencasts along with a twist of humor.

9. Keep in Touch with the Students

As studies have shown, most online students grave for attention and communication when it comes to online learning. This shows that they need to be fed constantly with useful and effective discussion, feedback and advice.

The key here is being consistent and responsive while logging to your school regularly – if not daily. Showing up tells students that you are always there for them whenever they need your support and guidance.

An excellent way to do this is building an online community, or checking 1:1 conversation with your students upon a scheduled time (every week/month) that you both decide on.

Even a simple welcome email letting them know you are available if they have any questions can work perfectly for increasing participation.

10. Get on Social Media and Build Relationships

When it comes to embarking social communication, things may be slow. The majority of instructors give priority to building their online school and then setting up their social profiles and creating new streams of communications with their students.

It can be anything from a Facebook Page / Group to Instagram, Reddit or Twitter, where you engage with your students and remind them to re-visit your course, answer questions (Q&A sessions) or give them mini-lessons that work for each social media.

Ideally, you want your online school to gain better student participation and to a greater extent increase your visibility, reputation, and credibility as a teacher.

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Winning your students’ hearts is the first step to doing this because they are the ones closest to you, and it’s possible they have gone through your learning material more times that you have. Fact. Your students are the ones who spend hours and hours reading through your lectures and studying your notes and expect the best feedback they can get.

Keeping them engaged with your course can be of a bit of struggle, but incorporating these strategies can skyrocket participation in no time. Try them out and let us know all about the results!

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Content Creator at

Kyriaki is a Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team writing about marketing and e-learning, helping course creators on their journey to create, market, and sell their online courses. Equipped with a degree in Career Guidance, she has a strong background in education management and career success. In her free time, she gets crafty and musical.