In this episode of the WP-Tonic show me and Cindy discuss a dirty little secret connected to being a successful education entrepreneur. The secret is that most membership websites most of the students drop out of their course after three months.
That right after only three months! So in this show, we discuss how you can really engage your students quickly and avoid this three-month wall that so many memberships/education entrepreneurs face. Also Yaro Starak has a great artilce about this which you also need to read
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back to the WP tonic show. This is episode 347. And we’re getting close to turkey Thanksgiving aren’t we listeners? This is going to be a discussion between me and my great co-host Cindy Nicholson. Cindy, would you like to introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Cindy Nicholson: Hello everyone, Cindy Nicholson from thecoursewhisperer.co and we’ll talk a lot about the work that I do as we get into this episode today.
Jonathan Denwood: Yes. And what we’re going to be discussing basically, how do you engage your students on your course basically? That’s what we’re going to be discussing. Sounds simple, but it’s a lot of areas to cover. We’re going to be going quick and deep, as they say into murky waters and membership sites. But before that, I want to talk about one of our great sponsors. And we’ve had some great sponsors in 2018 and one of them is WP Fusion.
What does WP Fusion do? Well in your technology stack, obviously, I think you should have WordPress. Then the second thing you should have in 2018 is your CRM, which is your customer relations manager, or system. And what I’m talking about there, I’m talking about something like an active campaign, mail chimp, campaign monitor, the older formal email clients are now going into marketing optimization as well.
Jonathan Denwood: So why should you care about this? Well, if you’ve got a membership site, or if you’ve got an e-commerce site; being able to track members or people that buy stuff from you around the website. And then when they do certain actions, send them a series of email. It’s a powerful tool. And what WP Fusion does, it allows you to do that. It basically allows you to do a number of really crazy, powerful things so go to the WP fusion website.
And what the other great news is, that if you buy any of their packages and use the coupon code, WPTONIC all uppercase one word. You get 25% off any of their packages and you can only get that with that coupon code. It’s a totally special offer that they only offer to you, the WP tonic tribe. That’s not bad, is it? So, on we go into our discussion Cindy. So, how would you like to start off our discussion on this particular subject?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah well, I think the first thing is kind of establishing what the problem is. Really, people want to create online courses. But one of the biggest challenges or one of the biggest struggles that is happening out there with the online course world is that people just either aren’t engaging in the contents or finishing the content. I don’t know, I’ve taken a number, I’ve signed up for a number of online courses and I would say over 60, maybe 70% of the courses I haven’t finished.
Jonathan Denwood: Oh, you naughty girl
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah. Well, this is not uncommon. Have you taken courses, Jonathan where you haven’t finished?
Jonathan Denwood: And I want to make it totally clear to our female listeners, I’m not being patronizing, Cindy now as my cohost is totally used to my English humor and I wasn`t being patronizing at all was I Cindy?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, its okay Jonathan, I know you by now. Have you taken, sign up for a course Jonathan and haven’t finished it?
Jonathan Denwood: I’ve got one that is actually one of our friends who goes home on Friday show. Just get back onto the subject. Yeah, I’ve just joined one course and I’m just, I’ve just looked at it and I’ve gone back, but going to be studying it a bit more today. It’s easy to start off and then put it to one side and never go back to it, isn’t it?
Cindy Nicholson: Well that’s the thing and you know, I don’t know what the real stats are, but you hear a number of different stats that 2-5% percent of people finish courses or 20% of the people who sign up for your courses only finish it. I don’t know, I don’t care what the number is, the number is just really bad. And so, if you want to create a course, one of the key things you need to be thinking about is how to like, engage your students. How to make sure that you know they keep going through the course. Because ultimately, well, if you think about it this way, if you create a course and the students that take your course, get all the way through it, they get the transformation, you know that you promised when they bought the course.
To me that is the best type of marketing out there, right? You have great referrals. You have great people giving reviews on your course. so when you’re creating a course, you want to create it in such a way that you make sure that people get all the way through it and you know the way things are right now with a lot of the way the courses are designed right now. They’re not designed in a way to kind of help get the person through the entire course.
Jonathan Denwood: And you know I’m going just ask the obvious question because I’m that type of guy. What are some of those main reasons, you just say they build their course in the obvious way that encourages not to finish the course?
Cindy Nicholson: Well it’s interesting because of often perception of creating a course as well. I’ll just make a bunch of videos, tell people about what I know and then I will sell it as a course. And there’s actually a lot of things that you can do in the design of the course. And that’s kind of what I do is I’m an instructional designer. There are a lot of things that you can do in the design of the course that helps people get through it. And some of the reasons that, you know, they’re not completing the course either they may not have time. You know, everybody’s busy. So, they’re signed up for a course and they’ve had all these hopes and dreams of completing it, but then reality got in the way and they didn’t have the time to finish it. Or once they got into the course, they found that it was not relevant, you know, the content wasn’t what it was, what they thought it was going to be.
Cindy Nicholson: And then I think kind of the third big reason is that they don’t finish the courses is it’s too much. It’s too overwhelming that they don’t have the confidence that if they take the course, they’re actually going to get the result. And so just kind of begging off of the course because they get in there and they realize, okay, this is too much for me. So I think those are kind of some of the main reasons that people aren’t finishing the course. And so there’s a lot of things that you can do with the design of the course to kind of counteract some of those, you know, reasons why people may not finish it.
Jonathan Denwood: I was going to ask you a quick question on that, and then when we go deeper into these areas that you just outlined. You know, a lot of people, they like to show all the lessons of the course, right. And they say we’re going to build this fantastic big course and it’s going to offer all this, all these lessons. And when the person logs in, they’ll be able to see all the lessons, see all the modules. Do you think having like 14 modules in a course, does totally the opposite of what the owner`s the thinking? It actually has a psychological element where it deters the students from finishing.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, absolutely. Again, that’s. You know, it’s one thing like logging in and seeing all of this content that somebody has to complete in order to get the results. So that’s kind of the first thing. The other thing is the length of the videos. You know, if people have videos within their courses that are 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour long, as soon as people see things like that, especially if they start listening to it and it doesn’t apply to them directly, they’re gone.
And so, then they’re never coming back to it. So, by logging in and seeing all of the content, it depends on how it’s structured. I think it’s okay to have a number of different modules as long as they are there for a good reason if they make sense to be in the course itself. And that’s part of you know, when you are creating a course is to be super clear on what the outcome is going to be. And when you’re super clear on what the outcome is that you want to achieve in the course, then you only include content that gets that result. Anything else outside of that, you don’t include it because I tell you, adult learners, we don’t like to waste our time, we don’t like to waste your time and we are super sensitive to content that doesn’t apply to us so.
Jonathan Denwood: We’ve been exposed to those university lecturers that we were thought to do that course and listen to some waffle semester that totally wasted our life. Life duties and our passionate for education should almost finish us off forever.
Cindy Nicholson: Well, exactly! And we don’t have the luxury of that with online courses. We’ve got Facebook to compete with. We have Instagram; we have all these other competing distractions that will take us away. We’re not stuck in a, you know, a lecture hall where we have to get them, you know, and we have a test at the end of it. So, with online courses make sure that the content that you’re providing really gives them what they need. And so that’s one way to make sure that you’re engaging your clients as to just only provide the content that the students need in order to get the result that they want.
Jonathan Denwood: You know I was pretty flippant there. But unfortunately, it’s a reality that fear is a great inductive for getting something done, isn’t it? Where most online courses that have that fear a little bit like either university. You know, if you failed too many courses, they just kick you out and if it’s cost you a fair bit of money to do the university in America, that’s a fact. There is a big motivation to get it. But on the other hand, when you look at the actual amount of students that leave, I don’t know what the statistics in Canada are. But the statistics in America for people actually dropping out the first semester, the first year of university is mind-bending isn’t it Cindy?
Nicholson: Yeah well and again you know. Why are they dropping out? Is kind of an interesting question now, a lot of it is that there is a perception that they don’t think that this will add value to what they’re doing.
Jonathan Denwood: Exactly. Now when it gets to the other factor, as you were talking, do you think, obviously we’ve discussed this in previous episodes about finding your niche. But in that niche, do you think at the beginning of the course is a good idea to say, to have additives to say if you’re this kind of individual at this level or this individual at this level, you here may be free, you know, the first you should look at this element of the course if you’re this number one and look at these elements if you’re number two or look at these elements of the course, if you’re number three is that making any sense Cindy?
Cindy Nicholson: It makes sense, but I wouldn’t structure it that way. I would create three different courses and you know, let’s say you have. So, for example, I’m working with a client who is an Airbnb specialist, so he’s creating a course for other Airbnb hosts on how to level up their game. There are essentially three different potential courses here. There are people who are just starting out, you know, you’re just starting out to an Airbnb person. What are the things that you do? Then there’s the middle step where it’s like, okay, you already have a property, how do you make sure, how do you bring it, level it up to make more money from it.
And then the third one is what if you want to buy more properties, you know, and be kind of more of a property manager. So, there may be content that you would share the same in each of the three buckets they’re their own course in and of itself. So, it by saying, you know, focuses on these modules versus folks that’ll be just way too confusing for people. And so, what I would suggest is if your kind of really identify three kinds of different buckets, create three different courses, 50, 60 percent of the content may be the exact same, but you want to make sure, especially from a marketing standpoint that you are super clear on who the course is for. Because again, if people get in there and they perceived that there’s a bunch of content that doesn’t apply to them, they’re not coming back again and we need to keep them in there.
Jonathan Denwood: So, what about the intro, is the intro the onboarding videos, the description of the video, is that a crucial part of getting students to finish if the other elements that we’ve discussed are in place?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah, I think that again, you want to make the course as easy for them to complete as possible. Um, and so they are more interested in completing the course that they’ve bought from you other than when they just purchased it. So, if you can create a really positive experience rate at that outset that will help you know, with that continuing through the course. So essentially people are coming into your course. Imagine they’re visiting your house.
The first thing you do if you want to give them a tour of your house to show them where everything is. And some you kind of want to do that with your course. They’re coming to your place and so you want to make sure that they know their way around, they know how to navigate so that when they’re on their own, they can get through it themselves. So that’s kind of one of the other ways is to make sure that they are familiar and comfortable with how the course is laid out, how that’s structured, and how-to kind of navigate.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s a good point, we’re going to go for our break folks and we’re coming back. We’re going to be delving in more and hopefully giving some great insights to you. How to make so your course is successful and that the people that join it actually finish it, which is for you to build your course and get more students is rather important. We’ll be back in a few moments Folks,
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. I had a great discussion with my host, Cindy Nicholson, the course whisperer, just love that Cindy, just love it. And you got the coursewhisperer.com. Didn’t you manage a bag that didn’t you.
Cindy Nicholson: I did
Jonathan Denwood: Yes so, we’ll be delving in deep in the murky world. I was listening to Chris Badgett the CEO and joint founder of Lifter LMS, one of the leading learning management system plugins in the word press space. And he was interviewing, he also does great podcast folks. And Cindy, he was interviewing somebody and he was talking about this subject and he’s saying one factor you’ve got to realize is, you know, quite a few students they looking just for one key bit of information when it gets it from a course, they don’t bother finishing the rest. So that says element, isn’t it?
Cindy Nicholson: I think that I have a feeling that that’s kind of where online learning is going is to more of this just in time learning where people, you know, they’re signing up for a course to learn about how to build an online business. They may be signing up for a course for, you know, how to build a website or how to, you know, do SEO or you know things like that. So, I think that I have a feeling that that’s where things will go as people have been burned by taking these massive courses and they haven’t finished them because they haven’t needed all of the content.
That they’re going to start to look for these more specific course ideas which I think ends up being perfect for memberships. Right? So, you know, you could have a membership site on building an online business and then within the membership site you can have these various different modules on these various different elements within that. And so, people can then come to the membership to find out what they need just in time as opposed to signing up for a full course. So, I think that you know, this whole just in time idea is going to lend itself well to really building membership sites so that, you know, people can come to have the community of the membership site but then find the content they need when they need it.
Jonathan Denwood: Right, that’s great. So back to this intro, so we discussed, you know, you got any kind of tips, more specific information about how you do these intros about how the course is organized. Or do you think we should go on to something else?
Cindy Nicholson: I think, just that the key takeaway is to make sure that you do have some sort of intro video in your course. I kind of recommend that there’s two, the first video is around you know, introducing yourself and you know, why you created this course and then giving an overview of what the content is going to be. So that’s Kind of the first video. And then the second video I recommend is having like a navigation, how to get around inside this course that you’re now in you know, how the content is laid out. So, one’s kind of like you know, the overview and the next one is kind of like the technical navigation thing. So, that’s kind of bottom line what I think you need for when people first join your course.
Jonathan Denwood: And do you think you know if you’re starting your first course and you’re trying to get traction, do you think you should offer one to one onboarding experience? You know, obviously as hopefully as the course expands you can’t do that because you just wouldn’t have the time and resources. But do you think you should offer some personal onboarding to your initial students that join it?
Cindy Nicholson: Initial onboarding, meaning like
Jonathan Denwood: You know, you actually have a one-to-one, zoom with them and you show them how, you offer that to the initial students.
Cindy Nicholson: It doesn’t hurt and I don’t know, it may not necessarily need to be one to one. It could be just like a kickoff call where people, you know, come on, you know; join through Facebook or what have you. And they have the opportunity to ask some questions or what have you at the beginning so that, that might be a way to do that. The one to one, maybe more, almost like as a bonus that you could offer, you know, if they buy within, like where you can offer a call with you, but that may not be till a little bit later on as opposed to right at the intro.
Jonathan Denwood: The reason why I bring that up is in the startup world, there’s been. You know dropout rate, exactly what we talking about membership is very prevalent in the discussions in the startup world and one of the things that people have been doing, I’ve noticed in that startup world, is they quit the onboarding, initial onboarding experience. They’ve been offering one to one video onboarding to their applications that’s why I bring it up, Cindy. Seems to be a slight trend because this dropout rate in the startup world is very large and it’s a big subject in that world. On we go.
So, I think some of the other factors that we’ve discussed in previous episodes is breaking down your videos, breaking down the content into digestible morsels, gamification, oh, that seems still to be a big buzzword in the learning system. I’m also linked to our sponsor of this episode, you know, optimization of emails, um, where students reach a certain level or they’re seemed to have stopped actually working with the course then in a series of emails will be sent to them to encourage them to come back and finish the course. Are they are all elements in your quiver of arrows that you think that people should be looking at to encourage their students to actually finish the course?
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah well, the idea is that there are so many little things that you can do to your course to help boost that engagement or that, you know, the completion rate and you know, sending those periodic emails, you know, either a reminder that the course is, or a congratulatory email when they finished a particular module, those are all really cool things that you can do. So, so maybe you can talk about the technology around that, Jonathan, in terms of, you know, what tech options are available to students or sorry, to course creators to really help with that engagement. You talked about the email that…
Jonathan Denwood: Well, I think we start with gamification there’s a couple of well-known additional plugins that you can utilize, you know, fundamentally. Um, my focus is WordPress and the two leading WordPress plugins is Lifter LMS and learn dash, both owned by excellent founders and CEOs. We’ve learned dash is Justin, with lifter LMS it’s a joint founder that’s Chris and Tom. Super guys, now we’ve learned that their focus is learning management system and if you want the additional membership or gamification you have to buy third-party plugins that will achieve that.
There’s about a three in the WordPress world, they don’t come to mind, but I’ll make sure they’re in the actual show notes that help you with gamification. We’ve learned that they have third-party plugins, but they also build add-ons because their actual core model is slightly different. To Learn Dash, we’ve learned dash you have to buy, you have to put money in the game straight away because it’s a paid plugin. With lifter LMS You can buy all the core lifter LMS plugin for free. It’s in the WordPress repository and you can just download it and install it. It works, you know, you can’t take payments, you have to buy these add-ons from lifter LMS to take payments through Stripe or PayPal and they also have add-on for gamification as well that you can buy. They have their own one and I think there are a couple third party ones, so gamification through those two plugins is, is available and depending on which of the third-party solution or the internal add-on that you choose is up to your choice and needs really Cindy.
Jonathan Denwood: Now, what do you think is a good way of using. Because it is a Buzzword, isn’t it? But you go insights about how it can be used effectively? Any tips or insights? That can be used effectively for a membership website?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, what gamification options are available with the plugin? Like what kind of things can they add to the course?
Jonathan Denwood: Well, it’s like quizzes, you get tokens, certificates, you know, depending on which one you got. They had all that where they’re trying to get you into, as you get, they provide a list of active members and the top member gets five stars and the, you know, so they’re encouraging competitive spirit to be generated into the user group which has its good points but also can have its bad points can’t it?
Cindy Nicholson: You well it’s true, I guess you need to know your audience to know whether or not that would resonate with them or not.
Jonathan Denwood: Exactly isn’t it? But while I was interested in getting from you was, is there any kind of scientific research or any in the educational field that shows that gamification actually does encourage these people to finish the course?
Cindy Nicholson: Well, I can’t say I can quote any scientific research off the top of my head but their gamification definitely has its place in online courses. Again, because people are creating that are finishing their courses on their own. They’re in their own little space. They need to have a way to kind of engage them. And you know, at the very least, you know, the completion of the modules like where you are at in the course with the completion is the minimum gamification you want to include.
But beyond that, you know, earning points for completing modules or you know, pieces, I love it. I think if you can add that to your course, I don’t think it would detract anyone from doing. It can only motivate or inspire people to continue on. My husband is a huge, like he would love things like that. He’s totally motivated by things like that. Me Not so much, but I can definitely see its value. So, if there is a way that you can add some sort of gamification to you know,
Jonathan Denwood: So, what you can also say if they reach so many points, they get a bonus as well. I’ve learned, it occurred in our last interview last week actually Cindy, with Belinda Ginger spice. So, her [inaudible] email, you know, it doesn’t appeal to me to receive the debut email. But it’s working for her and her audience. So, what you mustn’t do, listeners and viewers are because it’s not exactly your cup of tea, you shouldn’t think it won’t go down really well with your audience. You can get into your own bubble, can’t you Cindy.
Cindy Nicholson: Yeah absolutely, I know. So, I had signed up for a course that was through thinkific and I signed up for it a long time ago and I haven’t finished it but I get emails maybe I don’t know how often like once every two weeks or something, just as a reminder about the course or whatever. And so, it, it definitely reminds me of it and keeps it on my radar so you know, that kind of thing I mean not have done myself, but now when I see it in action you can see how effective certain things can be.
Jonathan Denwood: And just to finish off when it comes to email optimization with WP fusion and with some of the hosted solutions, some of the SAS solutions. [Inaudible] I think has some of this to a large extent, but definitely, with using something like active campaign or drip or campaign monitor, with WP fusion and WordPress with your learning management plugin Learn dash or Lifter LMS, you can definitely set up quite rapidly. Obviously got it right your emails, but you can definitely set up optimization.
So, when a student hasn’t been active for a period of time or hasn’t moved on to another lesson or another module, a series of email can be sent to them. And you can set up a series or email when they’re going through the course to encourage them and point out certain things. So, there’s a lot of buzzwords of just introduced to ourselves. I Apologize listeners and viewers, but this area is filled with buzzwords. If you want to know more about wp fusion and optimization in general. You can always book a free session with me on the WP tonic site and I’m happy to give you some [inaudible] advice. I try to be available, have a lot of times during the week where I make sure I am available and you can book those through the website. Cindy how can people get ahold of you and learn more about what you’re up to.
Cindy Nicholson: Well, I do all things in terms of how to design a course to make sure that people are going to get all the way through the course. So, there’s a lot you can do in the design of the course to make that happen and that you can find me at thecoursewhisperer.com and you can set up a call with me and I can kind of help give you some strategies and ideas of how to make sure your course is loved by your students.
Jonathan Denwood: And listeners, Cindy and I have been thinking about how to move the value that we provide to you in the New Year, it’s rapidly coming. We’re thinking of doing a little webinar series where we talk about actual subjects in more detail and then also have a session afterward where you can ask us questions and we were thinking of starting a small membership ourselves where you have access to that Webinar and the ability to ask us any questions afterward and we’re thinking of starting at a very low price.
We think it’s something that would be of real value to our listeners and viewers. If you think that [inaudible] I’ll be setting up a landing page in the next week where I’ll be promoting that and you’ll be able to sign up for that. But, maybe touch base with us through Facebook or twitter, if you think that would be a good idea. We love your feedback. It’s just something we were thinking of starting in the year, isn’t it, Cindy?
Cindy Nicholson: Yes!
Jonathan Denwood: Right, that’s great. She’ll probably tell me off for saying that to you. But we’d love to get more feedback from you and it’s just this idea that we’re having. We will be back next week with either one of these internal discussions or we’ll be having a great guest that will help you build a great online membership learning management system and get the success you’re looking for. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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