Need suggestions for increasing course completions


How are people handling users who do not start or complete a course? We are looking at course completion rates and need ideas for how to get more people to complete a course? We have started notifications as reminders with information on how to unenroll from a course but are there any other best practices that anybody can recommend? Do any of you do user clean-up to remove people who have not started a course? If you do, is there any special process you use to do the cleanup?

10 replies

Userlevel 4

Be careful with notifications. Depending on the number of system notifications people receive, you can reach a saturation point VERY quickly. After that point, people will ignore the notifications or, if the notifications come in via email, they will auto-sort them into a folder (or delete them).

Depending on the courses, your organization culture, and how far you want to go with it… one idea you could try is to hold a “competition” within your users base. Come up with an award or prize for the person (or people) who can complete the most courses over the next two weeks. “Top 5 people get a _____ reward.”  Depending on your budget and culture around training priorities  you could offer a gift card, a day off, maybe feature the person as the top user. If you are using Gameification, that could make the competition easier and more visible to the users, but even without gamification there are ways to tackle it too.

On the flip side to that “carrot” option, you could use the “stick” option. Not too tough “Stick option”: remove them from courses. Stricter “stick option”: Reach out to leadership and ask that they ask their people to finish courses they sign up for.

I think a carrot option is much preferred because you don’t want training to get associated with negative consequences. 



@Dahveed - thanks for this information! I am talking about externals who are not completing the courses and yes I know what you mean about notifications. We have only just started adding 7 day and 21 day reminders but are looking at potentially removing people from classes after x amount of time if they have not completed the course. We have not started gamification yet but it is another thing we are looking at implementing.

Userlevel 4

@BWeschke Thanks for the additional info! 

In that case, I think it is more than reasonable to notify your users that if a course is left inactive for X days, they will automatically be unenrolled. Maybe even include that disclaimer in the course description. Then you can go in and clean up the courses, but it will also encourage people to sign up for courses they will actually make the time to complete quickly. Two birds one stone!

Another suggestion would be to ask to a selection of your users. Find some folks that take classes promptly, but also some people that have had classes sitting for a while and see if they can take a few minutes to answer questions to improve their experience. Then you can ask: 

  • What factors help you take a course quickly?
  • What factors make you put off taking a course?
  • What would you like to see that can increase the likelihood of completing a course you just registered for?

Sometimes, our users can provide us with the best ideas.

With my users, they requested information to be added about how long a course takes to finish. Adding a value for “estimated completion time” (even though it’s a bit of a ballpark figure for some courses) helped them make better choices about which classes to sign up for and complete quickly.

Userlevel 1

Hi @BWeschke , 

If I’m understanding correctly, it sounds like you’d like more people to complete the course, but they’re not required to. And if someone isn’t going to take the course, then you don’t want them just showing up as enrolled. I think people who are disengaged are unlikely to read the instructions and un-enroll themselves. 

From the enrollments tab of a course, there is the option to send a one-time email to users, and you can write your own message. Maybe you could send everyone who is “not started” an email 14 days after enrollment saying “we notice you haven’t started this course. Please note that you will be automatically un-enrolled in 7 days if it is not started by then.” Then 7 days later you can unenroll all the people who haven’t started the course 21 days after subscription.




Thank you both for you answers, I am going to use what you both suggested!

Userlevel 6
Badge +4

@BWeschke Just adding here that we have this problem too. Our external partners are enrolled into courses and I hate to to say it most do not complete the courses. There’s little motivation and no one on the partner end is holding them accountable for completing them. For some partners, they are assigned Learning Plans and after each a live workshop is held. In these cases, we “require” the course work to be done before participating in the workshop. In this scenario we get better completion rates.

We do send notifications to remind them to complete the course. But what we don’t do is unenroll them. I guess there’s always the hope that when the time is right for them they will engage with the content. We’d like to do some “marketing” videos eventually that help show the user the value in the content as well as maybe have a “spotlight” corner or something like that on the homepage where we promote a particular course. Obviously not unenrolling them affects the numbers on our reports and such but internally we all know and understand that completion rates are not necessarily a useful metric for us -- although over time if we can show that our promotional efforts increase rates that would be helpful information. Anyway, I ramble on. FWIW. 

Userlevel 6
Badge +4

We started sending a monthly “Incomplete Course Report” (not overdue, just not complete), this helped us tremendously because their supervisors are copied on the report as well as our Executive Team. 

Additionally, on the landing page when they first log it we added the widgets that display their courses/progress this helps them understand where they are without having to click into another screen. 


Lastly, we have what we call the “Green Donut Challenge” so from time to time employees with a “green donut” (all courses are complete) are entered into a drawing for a dozen donuts to share with whomever they wish. 

Userlevel 4

@BWeschke  We have mostly external learners, and from our analysis it seems that only about 45% do complete courses they started. And that’s OK. I mean, we’re building courses using micro-learning approach, with short, targeted modules covering single topics. So this was by design, that people may not be going through learning form cover to cover.


Recently, we did research among our users, and our assumptions were confirmed, as many of them told us, that they are only looking for specific information - so they only complete modules, which they need. And that they have no time to invest in completing all available learning, if it’s not relevant to their current problem or task.


Still, we have configured a once-a-month email notification (Digest: Learner has yet to complete a
course), that is sent to all users who have any incomplete learning, to let them know that there is something unfinished + inform how they can unenroll from courses that they don’t plan to complete.

In the research, this was highly appreciated as a not intrusive reminder about some forgotten to-dos (you know, those important but not urgent things we all keep on our checklists for months).

Userlevel 3

I agree with alekwo, we have external customers all over the world and they really only take the parts of content that they need. Think about your use of YouTube, if you anything like me I have a problem or need some info, I search You Tube , find a likely video and watch it. In most cases I skip through it to get to the exact part I need, then leave. happy in with my new found knowledge. When talking to our customers they are doin the same. So unless it is compliance or safety training (where you need to mandate completion) we have stopped making completion a KPI for our business, instead focusing on how many people start a course (“in progress”),and customer satisfaction. 

We have seen that of our learners will also take part of a course, go about the daily work and then when they have an issue will come back to the course. 

An interesting subject thanks for raising it

Best regards,


Userlevel 4

Um - here is a trick - if you are working with externals and are mapping them to a course via automatic groups? There is nothing wrong with sending them a “user has never logged in” email after a week. I was doing that manually for a little during a soft go live….not no more - the system is helping me.

I recently implemented that one….seems to be working and moving people into the system as I see a spike of activity timed to the notification being released.

I do think that the culture is ultra-important? But I also think at one point or another? If you are working with externals (depending on their flavor?)? Maybe slap them with the digest form of Learner has yet to complete a course. After a set of scheduled reminders….nudge nudge nudge….then autoenroll them into something else - and then nudge infinitely...