By Emily Walker
Let’s open with a scary statistic *clicks on flashlight campfire-style*
Once there was a time when people would buy online programs but only 10% of those people would ever finish them, which meant most of those courses ended up collecting dust in *dun dun DUN* the digital course graveyard!
Ok, spooky stories aside, here are the facts:
• The average completion rate for an online program hovers around 10-15%
• This means about 90% of your people will never get the awesome results your course promises
• Which means about 90% of your people are probably not telling all their besties about your fabulous course
Don’t worry, I’m here as your resident course creation expert with a happy ending for our story because there are key things that you can do in your program to boost engagement.
Engaged students = happy students = your people getting the full, powerful transformation that your course provides.
Now in this super juicy blog, I’m going to spill my secrets around:
• The different types of engagement
• How motivation impacts engagement
• The 4 biggest party poopers blocking engagement in your course and how to get rid of them
This blog is something you can sink your teeth into so grab your fav beverages and let’s dive in!
When we say we want our students to be engaged, what are we actually talking about? Often what people mean is, “I have a Facebook community for my course and no one’s posting in it. How do I get them to interact?” While that is one element, there’s actually a lot more to engagement.
I like to break student engagement up into three levels.
1) There’s engagement with the materials. Are they completing the lessons? Are they watching the videos? Are they doing the work? How are they engaging with the experience that you’ve crafted?
2) Then we have engagement with other students. If you have some sort of community element for your course, are they posting in the community? Are they responding to other students on calls? How are they engaging with each other in the learning experience?
3) The next level of engagement is with you and your brand. Are they showing up to the live calls with you? Are they sharing about you and your brand? Are they grouping themselves as part of your community?
When we talk about engagement, most often we focus on the second level (engagement between students) but actually if we can increase engagement at the foundational level (engagement with course materials), it can have a ripple effect through all the other levels.
Picture this: someone is working their way through your course. They’re watching the videos, they may be finishing some homework, they’re responding to the scheduled posts in the Facebook group BUT they’re not enjoying it. They’re just ticking the boxes to say that they did the tasks.
While on the surface this may look like great engagement, at the end of the day we don’t want engagement for engagement’s sake. Yes, it may feel great for our vanity metrics but the reality is we want our students to get an amazing transformation AND have an awesome experience. Not just tick the boxes.
So when we’re talking about getting people to do the Thing, we need to understand why they do the Thing.
And that’s where motivation comes in.
Motivation and engagement are incredibly closely linked. You can get engagement, but it might not be good or useful engagement if it’s not connected to motivation, which is why people do things. If we can understand the why, it really helps us intentionally craft an experience that sets our people up for success.
There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.
1) Extrinsic motivation is being willing to do something in order to get a reward or to avoid a punishment. It’s coming from an external factor. (Extrinsic = external.) This often looks like including games and challenges in your course, giving out points, giving out prizes, etc.
2) The other type of motivation is intrinsic motivation. This is motivation that comes from within, that’s driven by something inside of us. It’s connected to our purpose and to what we want.
Extrinsic motivation is great for the short-term. It can act like a small boost over a hump. For example, if you know people are getting stuck on a specific module, you could offer a small gift or prize upon completion.
But in the long run, intrinsic motivation will always win over extrinsic motivation.
If we don’t have something that is deeply connected to what intrinsically motivates our people, that’s where we start to see a dip in engagement. If they can’t see why the things that you are teaching are connected to what they want, why they signed up for the course in the first place, then some other priority that is more closely connected to what’s important to them is going to win.
So let’s talk about the four biggest factors that impact motivation and lead to your people being pulled out of your experience and what you can do to stop that from happening.
I like to call these the four horsemen of the course apocalypse because if any one of these nasty dudes shows up in a learning experience, it’s very likely going to spell doom. The horsemen are:
So while these horsemen can feel super scary, I promise that there are very intentional things we can do at the foundational level of our materials– that aren’t actually that hard– that can motivate our people, help them engage, and give them that really delicious experience with amazing results.
The first horseman is Confusion and in your online program, Confusion shows when you:
• Give too many steps to do at once
• Don’t give any action steps at all
• Are unclear in how you present your content
As adult learners, we don’t like to be uncomfortable, but unfortunately, by default, learning something new is uncomfortable. When your students are confused, it adds to that discomfort which leads to them leaving your program to seek out a more comfortable situation.
To eliminate Confusion, be crystal clear:
• Directly tell your people what you want them to do, especially communities that you want your students to engage in
Ex. The Facebook community is a place for you to connect with other students so be sure to support each other by answering questions and commenting
Ex. take this template, create your moodboard using images from Pinterest and then move on to Lesson 2
Your people should always know what they’re doing next, with what resources or tools, when they can expect to finish and what comes after that.
Overwhelm is the most rampant horseman in the online space because we often fall into the trap of “more content = more value”. This leads to us overstuffing our programs and firehosing our people with information.
Overwhelm shows up when you:
• Have super long videos
• Assign large tasks that take a long time to complete
• Present a ton of information all at once
To keep your students from feeling overwhelmed, the key is to hand them the information in bite-sized, easily digestible pieces.
To combat Overwhelm, keep it simple:
• Break your lessons and videos up in smaller pieces, ideally under 10min in length
• Divide your homework or action steps into shorter steps that can be completed in 10-20 minute intervals
Ex. Instead of ‘now go create all your content for the month’, try having them choose their images at the end of one lesson, brainstorm captions at the end of the next lesson so by the end of the module they’ve built everything out
The bonus of creating a bite-sized experience is that there’s a higher chance they’ll get it done right then, which also helps combat yet another horseman coming up later, Procrastination.
The third horseman is Boredom and in your online program, Boredom can show up in all sorts of ways, like if you:
• Speak or present monotonously
• Have bland or no visuals
• Ghost your students as soon as they enter the program
The biggest way Boredom shows up is when the relevance between what you’re teaching and what your people really want isn’t clear. This is where we see a big competition of intrinsic motivation: ‘I want the result from this course really badly, BUT I also don’t want to fall asleep with my eyes open’
To beat Boredom, state the relevance:
• Throughout your entire program, explain how what you’re teaching or what your students are doing connects to the bigger transformation that they really want
Ex. “Right now we’re focusing on this specific visibility strategy, which will help you get in front of your dream clients”
If you have to teach a bit of boring theory in order to get to the real juicy stuff, don’t be afraid to call a spade a spade: “hey this stuff can get a bit dry, so let’s power it out and get on to the goods!”
The fourth and final horseman is also very rampant in online programs, and it’s Procrastination. This often sounds like:
• I’ll come back to this when I have more time
• I want to do this when I can really focus on it
• I just need to get XYZ off my plate and then I’ll be able to start this
Once someone leaves a learning experience, it can be really hard to get them engaged again, which is why we want to intentionally craft the program to keep people focused and prioritizing the work.
To avoid Procrastination, help your people prioritize:
• Continually remind your people of why they need to take action, do the homework, watch the video, etc and why they don’t want to save it for later
Ex. “I know your Shiny Object Syndrome may be calling you towards a new project, but how great will it feel when your course is finally launched? Let’s get one step closer with this next task”
As mentioned earlier, it’s also essential (for so many reasons, because *science*) to break up your content into smaller lessons, shorter videos, and quicker action steps. When someone sees that it will really only take them 5 minutes to watch a quick video and 10 minutes to complete the action step at the end, they’re much more likely to go ahead and do it instead of putting it off for later.
The biggest, most impactful step you can take to boost engagement in your program and deliver a powerful learning experience also happens to be the step that is the most overlooked:
Take the time to intentionally architect your program for transformation.
When you actually take the time to premeditate where the horsemen might show up for your people, to think about what motivates your people and how to weave that through the experience, you end up with a course that beautifully encompasses the best of your magic and will invite engagement on all levels from your people.
Ok, I know it’s a bit blunt – but isn’t that truly what we’re all worried about? I know that you don’t want to pour your heart and soul into a program and have it faceplant. That’s why I’ve created a totally free guide for you that shares all my favourite tips and tricks for combatting the horsemen, elevating your program and delivering a truly powerful transformation.
Grab your free guide here!
What’s your main takeaway from this post? I want to know! Tag me or send me a DM on Instagram @modernleadersco
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