While online courses have their own unique advantages, such as scheduling convenience for students, a much wider student base for instructors and the ability for anyone, anywhere with an internet connection to access educational content, they also come with their own unique set of challenges. Due in part to the inherent nature of not teaching classes in person and not being face-to-face with your students, one challenge with teaching courses online can be accurately assessing the value that your students are getting from your course, what their engagement level is and how likely they are to enroll in one of your courses again in the future.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can apply to more accurately gauge the value your students are getting from the courses and also their level of engagement and how these impact your business. There are a number of factors that must be considered when assessing these two points; factors to consider include:
- Educational trends in your area of instruction. Is the course content you’re offering up-to-date with all available information? Do you stay abreast of industry trends and breakthroughs? Do you continue to update course content to include that new information? The more current the information that you offer in your courses, the better value each course will be for your students.
- Competitors’ courses. How do your courses stack up to those offered by your competition? Do they provide more engaging content? Are they priced competitively in relation to your competition’s classes? Student perception of your classes’ value will always be affected by other course providers in your professional space, so it always pays to stay aware of your industry competition.
- Quality of the student experience while taking the course. Do your students have a smooth experience while progressing through your course? Is the user interface intuitive and easy to use, or is it clunky and hard to navigate? Is the course content clear and effectively communicated, or is it poorly designed and just trying to read the course content is work for students? All of these factors affect students’ experience while taking your course and have a direct correlation to their engagement with each class.
- Does the value of the course stay with your student long after the course has been completed? The most valuable lessons in life are those we continue to carry with us long after we learned them. If the content your course teaches is used by students long after they’re done taking your course, it is safe to say that your course was valuable to that student. This particular point can be difficult to assess over the long term once a course is over, but it can be inferred that continued student engagement with your other classes is a good indicator that students find your classes valuable. You also can also assess a class’s long-term value and overall student engagement by periodic follow up with your students via email, through social media and with survey requests.
- Be available to your students outside of the course. Most online courses taken by students fall into the self-paced category, but just because a student’s progress through a course is self-guided doesn’t mean that from time to time they won’t want to speak with the actual person who created that course. Giving students a direct line of contact to come to you with any questions they have about their courses adds value to the course itself as well as contributes to a sense of trust between students and instructors.
- Understanding the value of humor. Keeping the tone of your course upbeat and using humor when appropriate makes your class seems less like work and more like a fun exercise that students don’t mind doing (and maybe even secretly enjoy). Humor has also been shown to boost student retention of subject matter. Think about it, did the cartoon above in this article make you want to keep reading because it was funny and increased your engagement level? I thought so.
- Utilize marketing strategies, but don’t be too sales-y. Staying top-of-mind with consumers (in this case, your students) is a strategy that marketers leverage to ensure they stay an option in their targeted audiences’ mind when the time comes for them to finally make a purchasing decision. Staying top-of-mind can be done by sending out informative newsletters, intentionally reaching out to students as well as providing valuable, free content to students that will continue to make them think of you the next time they need to take (and pay for!) an online course.
All these factors combined make up a large part of the value that your online course brings to your students as well as play a part in determining their engagement level and how likely they are to be a return customer (student).
A useful tool that can be utilized to assess the perceived student value of courses is a post-course evaluation survey that preferably is taken by a student in the learning platform your course is taken in. With the continued rise of the digital age, time is of the essence with the decreasing human attention span. Optimally, a class evaluation survey appears to a student immediately after they have completed a course, prompting them to provide feedback on the class while they are still engaged in the course itself and the experience of taking the course is still fresh in their mind.
As seen from the before mentioned points, each individual online class is a building block that makes up the larger entity of an eLearning business, but it is also the level of student engagement and the long term value received from each class taken that provides the catalyst for the continued success of your company. To lock down that success, ensure that your are grounded in understanding how engaged your students are and continue to improve the value of your courses.
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