Folks who DON'T complete e-Learning courses

Aug 07, 2013

We have an issue that a certain number of folks who start some of our eLearning course do not complete them.

We don't know why. Perhaps it's the course design or content. Perhaps the user interface of our LMS. Perhaps our remote users have computer problems, or too many interruptions, or they stepped away for a cup of coffee, or perhaps the phase of the moon is interfering. We don't know why ....

What is your experience? Is there a typical percentage of an audience who attempts an e-Learning course but then fails to complete it successfully?

I'd love some advice!



9 Replies
Bruce Graham

Hi Job - and welcome.

1. What %?

2> You need to ask THEM. Asking us to guess is no use. If you are a service provider to them, then it is possible you are providing the wrong service. Have a grown-up discussion with them, users will usually tell you.

Hope that helps - and once again a warm welcome to the Heroes community.


Bruce Graham

Agree Nancy.

I think some good ol' fashioned "face-to-face-ring-them-up-and-talk-to-them".

For one reason or another, the users do not seem to value the course - they would appear to have no personal or business reason to complete it.

There could be dozens of reasons for this - however, you need to deal with it effectively.

Talk to your intended users.


Steve Flowers

Low completion rates are not unusual for self-paced content -- any content not attached to a positive or negative consequence will likely have a high bounce rate. If folks don't have to and can't find a way to want to, that only leaves one option -- close it

Nancy and Bruce's suggestions to contact a few users to find out why they left is a good one. It's what I'd do.

Bob S

Hi Job,

Clearly reaching out pro-actively to your learners is a first step as others here have said.

But also consider the kinds of objective metrics your LMS may provide. Often you can get things like "time on content", "last screen/slide viewed", "number of attempts", "date/time of launch", et al.

Those metrics might provve insightful. For example, you might see a trend that the folks failing to complete launch the course during certain hours of the day (possible daily business reality conflict). Or that most often they leave after slide/screen X (possible content relevance or confusion issue). That kinda thing.

When you combine learner feedback with metrics, you can build a pretty clear picture of what's really happening.

Hope this helps,


Joanne Lazzaro

HI, Job,

It's a mixed bag of reasons for us - some technical, some motivational. I almost always have to contact the user and find out what happened, they rarely contact me. Here's what I've found....

1. Can't answer one of the quiz questions because they don't grasp the material (content design problem for me to consider)

2. Can't answer a quiz question because of a technical glitch (e.g. link rot) which I have to fix

3. Browser crashes and they didn't get credit for completing the course in LMS ( I have to advise upfront which browsers are compatible)

4. Didn't realize that they did not complete all the individual components (modules) of the course (see next excuse)

5. Don't know how to check their own  transcript in the LMS to see what courses they've finished/not finished

6. Time management issues (our courses are relatively long).

Regardless, I had to extract this information one-on one. On the good side, no one refused to answer me when contacted individually (which is a much higher response rate than sending a survey would have gotten).

Hope this has been helpful,


Alphonso Hendricks


Do your learners have to complete your course in order to succeed (pass course?). Is it a pre-requisite? Is there a one to one correspondence between how much of the online course they engage in and their eventual understanding in the subject area?  Maybe starting course is all that the direction they need. 

I sense that you are frustrated, and I am guessing its because of all the hard work you put into developing the course material and the learners are simply skipping huge chunks of it. But that is precisely what learners have been doing with hardcopy textbooks all their lives. And textbook writers also slog to complete books in time for publishing. 

To me it is more important that learners enjoy their learning experience. Even if they only spend a little time engaging it - did they at least find that little time mentally stimulating? that would be my question of your learners.

Marty King

We experience this issue as well. We use a Lapsed Report generated by our LMS to identify employees not completing or not starting their courses. The report runs every three weeks. The LMS generates reminder emails before the three weeks are up. After three weeks, we contact the employee’s manager if the courses are required and if the course is not required, we withdraw the employee from the class.

Be sure you are not having issues with your LMS. We did a series of software upgrades with our LMS and started seeing problems with employees claiming they had completed a course but the LMS was not marking the course complete. Our courses are SCORM based.

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