All Posts

Ideas to Maximize Student Motivation in Your Online Courses

When I ask my clients what their biggest struggles with their online courses are, one factor that comes up every time: student motivation.

Keeping your students excited, happy, and active throughout your online course can feel like an uphill battle sometimes. People live busy lives, they get distracted easily, and the amount of time they have to engage in learning is not that much. 

But student motivation is crucial for students to achieve their desired outcomes and for your course to succeed. After all, the only way students will grow is if they complete your course, learn from it, and apply it in their life.

So what’s the trick to encouraging people to take action, enjoy the experience and get to the finish line? Unfortunately, you can’t force motivation...but that doesn’t mean you can’t inspire it. Your job as an online course creator is to motivate adults to learn and to keep them on track towards reaching their goals. 

Here are some proven strategies I have collected over the years:


Idea #1: Make Progress Tangible

Trying to reach a goal can be daunting. Often, people become fixated on how far they have to go, forgetting how far they’ve come. This mindset can be extremely discouraging.

Remind your students of their accomplishments by making their progress tangible. This gives them an indicator of how far they’ve come and how much further they have to go.

Allowing your students a way to gauge and track their progress is the most valuable thing an online course creator can offer.

My favorite way to offer “measurability” is by having a progress bar. A personalized progress bar can track how proficient students are at a skill or how far along they are in your course. This creates a sense of accountability for students, as it gives your online course a more traditional classroom feel. After all, it’s only natural that your students will want to see their bars fill up--motivating them to complete more lessons and to get to “the finish line.”

Bonus: Make your bars shareable! Let your students be proud of their accomplishments. Giving your students the opportunity to share their progress on social media will also help increase your course’s visibility, helping you attract new students. Can you say: win, win?

Also read: How to Use Digital Badges for Your Online Courses

Idea #2: Don’t Overwhelm Your Students

Learning something new can be intimidating. For some students, not understanding a concept right off the bat can also bring them down.

A part of being an effective course creator is designing your course considering how people learn. Preventing your students from feeling overwhelmed is key to maintaining student motivation. A great way to do this is by making your lessons more palatable by “chunking” your content and creating micro-learning. Check out this piece I wrote here on how to organize your content.

Additionally, you should also give your students lesson “breaks.”

Listening to someone lecture passively for hours isn’t learning. You need to create meaningful learning for your students by having them apply the materials being taught to them.

Give lesson breaks by assigning an interesting activity or a resource to watch/look through after every module or section for instance.

Idea #3: Give a Sense Accountability

You’ve heard me talk a lot about community--but what does it mean?

Community is an extremely important element of a successful online course. It’s not just nice to have. An active community will make students feel welcomed, supported, and keep their energy high. It’ll also make them feel they are not alone in this journey. That’s why people join clubs or support groups!

So, how can you foster a strong community? Publicize the goals and achievements of your students so that they can keep themselves and others accountable. Part of why this works is because they know other people are looking at them and their progress. When you make other people aware of your goals, it makes your commitment to them feel more “real.” Suddenly, you’re not just a team of 1. You now have a whole bunch of people who are invested in whether you succeed or fail.

And, as I’ve said countless times before, YOU (aka. the expert, course creator) are also a big part of your online course’s community. This means YOU need to hold your students accountable too by sending follow-up emails, reminders, messages, etc. Pay attention to your students’ behaviors. Reach out if you notice a student falling behind or if you start to see a dip in a student’s performance.

Online courses are notorious for high churn rates, so it’s important to be proactive. More likely than not, churn can be prevented. Take a look at this 5 step guide to prevent member churn. 

Tip: Encourage students to participate in the community outside of your online course platform. For example, you can create a Facebook group and add your students to it. In here, you should have students share their struggles, questions, achievements, and success stories. A group will also serve as a great place for networking, allowing your students to stay in contact with one another even after completing your course.

Idea #4: Create a Seamless UX Experience

Lag. Broken links. Failed redirects. Disorganized content.

Your online course’s site design is something you need to be cognizant of. It’s best to keep things simple. Use clean layouts that are compatible across all platforms. You need your students to be able to access your content easily and intuitively. This is something a lot of course creators fail to take into consideration. You built your site, so you know where everything is--but will your students?

Additionally, your students will also use your site more frequently--meaning they’ll be the first to run into any technical problems or error. Get ahead of any problems by collecting feedback from your students on your site’s performance. You can do this easily by creating a tab where students can reach out or “submit a ticket” should they run into any issues.

Idea #5: Give Your Students a Voice

Understand your audience and get a feel for what your students like and what they don’t like. Do they like it when you include additional reading resources? Do your students want to learn more about a specific topic? Do they think your lessons are too basic? Or maybe too difficult? Are they getting lost finding your content? 

When we become online course creators, it’s easy to slip into an authoritative role. Break out of that mindset. Think of your online course as a collaboration. Give your students a say on what and how they want to learn. Give them a voice.

The most popular way to collect feedback from students is by surveying them. If you go this route, be sure to make your questions specific rather than simple “yes” or “no” answers in order to get the most information out of your students. Personally, I like to collect my feedback a little more organically by opening up my schedule up to students for one-on-one or forum discussions. These discussions allow you to gauge student understanding of topics in your course. For example, if you notice most students are struggling with a specific lesson, then you know you have to rethink how you’re approaching the topic or cover it more extensively.


People are taking your online course because they’re hoping to achieve an outcome in their personal lives--don’t let them fall short on achieving their goals! Keep student motivation high by tailoring your content to your students’ needs with these 5 strategies. It may be more work, but it’ll definitely be worth it!

Don’t give up on your students and they won’t give up on you.

steps to make more money with your online course


Mike Weiss
Mike Weiss
Mike Weiss is the founder of Client Engagement Academy, The Client Engagement Membership Platform and Internet Sales Experts. He has become one of the top experts in online sales and marketing and client engagement. Mike's Client Engagement Membership Platform is leading the global movement utilizing modern technology and proven adult education methodologies to increase client engagement and course graduation rates causing profit margin expansion.

Related Posts

Apply These Motivational Design Principles to Every Online Course

Let me ask you a question: “Are you a finisher or a quitter? Now be honest here. Think back through your life at all the things you’ve started. Maybe you started college or piano lessons or a diet or an online course. Did you finish? You might be surprised to learn that few people finish what they start. It’s not that they’re bad people or that they don’t have compelling goals. It’s just that somewhere along the way they lose motivation. There’s not enough perceived “reward” to keep them going. At one point or another, every educator, coach, expert, speaker, or thought-leader has struggled with course creation that results in unsuccessful outcomes for learners. The course content may have covered the topic comprehensively; the syllabus probably included a variety of materials and sources, so why didn’t students finish the course they were initially so excited to start? 

4 Red Flags That Signal It's Time To Optimize Your Online Course

So, you’ve got a lot invested in the online courses you’re offering … not only the money you’ve put into them but plenty of effort and enthusiasm. You had high hopes and great expectations, but lately … maybe not so much. You’re simply not seeing the results you anticipated.

Use Brain Science to Improve Your Online Courses

I’ve seen more entrepreneurs jumping on the online course bandwagon lately. And, time and time again, most of them make the same mistake. They figure creating an extraordinary course comes down to a mix of business savvy and subject matter expertise. As they have plenty of both, they jump right into course creation without even considering the impact that neuroscience and human psychology have on client retention. Because of this, they often have nothing to show for their hard work but unhappy clients, low completion rates, and reduced profit margins. Luckily, you don’t need to be a doctor in neuroscience to set your students (and business) up for success. You just need to take advantage of the following learning science principles.