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7 Keys to Increase Student Success In Online Courses

I’ve heard this saying since I was a kid, “you don’t really know something until you can teach it to someone else.” In lots of ways, that quote is true, but what it doesn’t really take into consideration is that teaching is actually a skill in and of itself.

Because here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do. You can be at the absolute top of any field, and you’ll still find yourself losing students to your competitors if you can’t deliver on the promises you made to them when they purchased your course.

Why? Because when it comes to online course creation, nothing is more important than producing results and changing lives, and the only way you’re going to do that is by giving your students a transformation.

Lots of course creators spend so much time creating their online courses that they think that once they have it published, they can just forget about it and won’t have to interact with their students. This is a HUGE mistake!

When it comes to online course creation, nothing is more important than producing results and changing lives, and the only way you’re going to do that is by giving your students a transformation.

If you want to change the lives, want your students to take action, and actively participate in your course, then you’re going to have to make sure that you can optimize the learning experience. They are what is important. They are your paying customers. They are the ones that will give good or bad testimonials, and they are the ones that will either come back or will never take another one of your courses again.

Being there for your students, and making sure that they are getting the most out of the course is the only way that you will successfully show how much of an authority you are, and it will ultimately help you make more money down the road.

To ensuring student success in online courses, make sure you include these seven critical elements:


1) Good Curriculum Design - Creating a Curriculum that Leads Your Students to an Outcome.

So you’re an expert in your field, and you can do some of that field’s hardest tasks in your sleep. You want to design an online course that will really help people learn and come out on top, but you, like a lot of course creators, have never been a teacher, and you have no idea where even to start. Don’t panic; it’s okay to feel stuck!

Before I even think about the curriculum of any courses that I want to design, I usually ask myself two questions:

1. Who is this for?
2. What are they struggling with?

Don’t forget that at their most basic, all online courses are just about solving a problem. There are people out there who have no idea how to do something, and you do. You have a solution to offer, and if your course isn’t providing that specific solution, it will never be as successful as the ones that do. So how do you make sure your curriculum is designed to give your students an optimal experience?

The three most significant things to keep in mind are the following:

1. Figure out well defined and powerful learning outcomes for your students.

2. Let them know clearly what the path to that learning outcome is going to look like.

3. Structure your lessons and sections strategically so that they follow the path that you set, and so that your course content is presented logically and is easy to navigate and

You need to start thinking about what your students are going to experience when they actually take your course. Are they going to learn everything with ease, or are they going to be frustrated by the way your course is designed when they can’t figure out how to turn a page?

The most successful online courses make it easy for students to navigate the course, and ultimately get the most out of the money they are paying you. They make it easy for students to actually learn something, and those students end up coming back to those courses for more because they know that no matter what, you will deliver on the promises that you made them.

Read more: Checklist: Critical Success Factors You Need to Incorporate Into Your Online Course

2)  Learning Styles: Consider People Learn in Different Ways

Did you know that different people learn better in different ways? Lots of online courses completely forget about this! The problem is that while you might be better at receiving visual queues, other people could be better at understanding concepts when they’re told to them out loud.

The most engaging online courses are the ones that combine a variety of resources that appeal to different learning styles. Think about it. If you were a visual learner and you took a course that was all audio, you would probably have a really tough time, right?

A course that offers alternatives so that more of its students can better absorb the concepts that are being taught will keep things interesting. It will also let your students explore and engage with the course in different ways that they might not have otherwise tried.

Here are some examples:

1. YouTube videos and images appeal to visual learners
2. Recording lectures appeal to auditory learners
3. Transcripts from those lectures help verbal learners greatly.
4. Physical learners might find hands-on labs appealing
5. Games, quizzes, and activities help those who get easily bored when reading.
6. Social learners might find they prefer discussion boards and group projects
7. Some people find that they need real-life examples in order to understand how to use the knowledge they are gaining.

Also read: 5 Secrets That Will Keep Online Students Coming Back for More

3) Course Structure: Organize Your Course to Facilitate Student Learning

Think back to some of your favorite courses from when you were a student. What did they have in common? You might find that lots of them were well organized and, more specifically, well structured. 

The professors and teachers that really seemed to know what they were talking about, and who were the best at teaching you were generally the ones that were able to create a foundation of knowledge and build off of it. It wasn’t necessarily that they knew more about a subject than their colleagues; it’s that they understood how to facilitate learning. 

Don’t forget that your students are taking your course in order to learn. If you make that easy for them, they’ll keep coming back! 

Here are some resources for better organizing your course: 

  • Course Goals - The first step is to ask yourself, “What do I want students to be able to know and/or do by the end of the course?” 
  • Course Activities - Once you know what the goals for your course are going to be, you can then figure out what sort of activities and assignments will best engage your students and help them meet those goals. Like I mentioned in the previous point, making sure you have a variety of teaching styles will help keep students focused, and keeping different learning styles into consideration will help your students progress more quickly. 
  • Course Assessment - Are your students progressing towards your course goals? What is the best way of figuring out whether or not they’re gaining the most they can from your content and activities? Formative and summative assessments can help you gauge how well students are doing. 
Also read: Guide Students Toward Completion: A Proven Method For Structuring Your Online Course

Other important points: 

  • Provide a Roadmap - Giving your students an overview of the course and letting them know what your course goals are, can be massively helpful in allowing students to know where they stand and how they are progressing. This can help maintain motivation.
  • Summarize Key Themes - Providing your students with summarized key content at the end of each lesson can really help them grasp major content, and practice owning their knowledge.

4) Length: Help Students Learn Faster!

The best online courses in the industry are the ones that understand that what is essential is their ability to compress years of experience and knowledge into a program that allows students to learn a skill within a shortened time frame. 

Length is a crucial element when it comes to keeping your students engaged. Just like a movie that’s too long, you don’t want your course to drag along forever without it really going anywhere. 

You don’t need a lengthy course in order to prove to your students that your course is valuable or to earn more money. Instead, you need to find that sweet spot where you can make sure that your students have enough time to properly absorb everything you are trying to teach, while at the same time are staying engaged with the material. 

The best way to do this is to focus on creating content that will allow your students to learn as quickly and efficiently as possible. How can you do that?

  • Try to keep things as focused on the learning objectives as you possibly can, and build from there. Letting your students reach your course goals will keep them coming back for more instead of unnecessarily boring them and wasting their time. 
  • Also, don’t be afraid to break things up into a series of courses if you feel like you might have way too much content. If we go back to the movie analogy, it’s better to have a really engaging film trilogy, than an extremely long single movie that glosses over everything. 

Watch now: This Is One Of The Biggest Mistakes Online Course Creators Make

5) Assessments: Gauge Student Progress

Though assessments are used to have a bad reputation, the truth is that they are an extremely effective way of gauging progress, as well as increasing comprehension and completion rates.  

Making sure to divide the course up into easily digestible portions with an assessment at the end will also help students with their level of engagement, and will ultimately be a great benefit to you, as it will allow your students to maintain a higher level of information retention and won’t make them feel completely overwhelmed. 

It’s also a great idea to post their grades in order to increase their motivation! Here are some more ideas for quizzes and assessments: 

  • Present a quiz at the end of every lesson . This will encourage your students to study and will keep them motivated as they move on through the course.  
  • Create a leaderboard for which you award points as students complete modules. Higher quiz grades should earn higher points. Allowing other students to see this leaderboard and their points will help motivate them to work harder.
  • Use the Prizification technique: Offer prizes for the top 10 students in that leaderboard. 
Read more: A 5-Point Plan for Using Quizzes to Improve Student Success

6) Intuitive and Frictionless Experiences

The internet is one of the most distracting places imaginable. One click away and any of your students could easily find themselves hours into a Netflix binge-watch. Since this is such a massive problem, you should make sure that nothing in your course could become potentially distracting. 

Avoid unnecessary elements such as irrelevant images, illogical learning paths, or outbound links that might lead the user away from the course. Sending them a YouTube link is a mistake you don’t want to make if you want to make sure your students aren’t wasting their time accidentally watching other videos. Embedding videos to your site directly is a much better idea.  

Similarly, make sure the actual course is easy to navigate. All relevant buttons (play, next, previous, pause, replay etc.) should be clearly visible and easily used. A frustrated student who is unable to enter the next lesson because they simply can’t find it on your website is much less likely to retain any of the information you give that day, and far less likely to return to, or even recommend, your course.  

Read more: This is Stopping You From Growing Your Online Course Business (And How to Fix It)

7) Pull Structure

A massively important part of any online course is its ability to maintain motivation and engagement, while at the same time keeping the student satisfied.

Think about this, how does a TV show maintain its audience at the end of every episode?
The answer is techniques like cliffhangers, things that will keep you guessing what will happen next. At one point, the show will do something to kick off your curiosity, and then will leave you wanting more.

An online course should try to do things similarly. You want to allow and encourage the course’s students to explore all that you have to offer for themselves. In this way, a learner won’t have all the information they need pushed to them, but will instead allow themselves to get pulled into whatever pathway benefits their learning style the most.


Teaching is a challenging task, it’s something you have to learn. Ask any professor or teacher you know and they’ll tell you the same thing. It really doesn’t matter how much you know about a subject, if you don’t know how to teach it, you’ll leave your students confused and frustrated.

If you want to make sure your students are getting everything they can out of your courses, you’re going to have to try to put yourself in their shoes. Give them the solution they’ve been looking for. Hopefully, the tips above will help you do that!

personas online courses

This article was originally published on eLearning Industry .


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.

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