12 Replies
Bob S

Hi Patti,

It would probably help to know a bit more about what you are looking for....

Did you want some real life examples of completion rates?

Were you looking for a certain industry rates?

Would it be something that you needed to breakdown by "regulatory/mandatory" training vs "development/role" training?

Or was it something where you were just looking to shoot out an overall percentage of courses offered vs completed?

Patti Shank

Bob, GREAT questions. Thanks SO much!

I would be thrilled to find information about:

  • Research with relatively recent industry data (corporate online learning, not higher ed) along with URLs to the studies, if possible
  • Information from companies that have measured their completion rates for their own company, along with how they measured it so I know their assumptions/measurement parameters
  • It would be great to see the differences between mandatory and non-mandatory courses, synch and asynch
  • If someone has done any research into what lowers the drop-out rate, that'd be cool, but not necessary (a lot of this has been done in higher ed... not sure that it applies because it it so different)

My main goal is to see what kind of corporate, rather than higher ed, information is available.

Bob S

Alright, I can give you some info on the second one to get you started. Here are two cases very much on the HIGH side of compliance rates. These should be thought of as truly best case scenarios.

 If you look close you will see the common factors in both of them...

Case #1 - A North American arm of global luxury goods retailer and manufacturer - 200+ stores

Industry-leading average 95.8% compliance rate for 8 course new-hire learning plan for retail

To be counted complete, a passing score of 90/100 needed to be achieved

Course length varied from 10 mins to 90 mins (typcial was 20 mins)

Success factors included:

  • High production value "look and feel" to match luxury brand image; photos, videos, narration
  • Clear expectations communicated at time of hire
  • Learning calendar detailing suggested module completion plan provided
  • And perhaps most importantly... Relentless reporting regime (weekly summaries and details provided to first three levels of managmeent)

Case #2 - A foreign owned US-based Bank - 1000+ branches

100% completed or validated exemption for federal regulatory requirements courses

Completion required 80% or better passing grade

Course length averaged 40 mins plus

All users required to retake courses every year

Success factors included:

  • No-nonsense, low wow factor "look and feel" designed to mach the "just the facts" business need; no video, no narration, low interactivity
  • Clear expectations communicated at time of hire and throughout the year
  • Highly role-specific versions of each course created to increase relevance
  • And perhaps most importantly... Clearly defined and well communicated escalation strategy that included paths to highest level of the organization if needed

Again, these are truly best-case.

96% for a large retailer with most part-timers? Amazing.

100% for a 1000+ branch bank? Unbelievable.

The common factors were the VERY clear expectations set out at the beginning that this is simply non-negotiable, and the relentless, some would say, draconian reporting and/or escalation procedures in place to monitor compliance.

Are these kinds of measures right for every business on every topic? No.

For example, the luxury retailer has many other courses that are not subjected to the same rigor. But they feel as if the core courses are essential to having their people live the brand image correctly.

Also for example, the bank has many other courses they treat differently. But these regulatory-based topics these courses addressed were a huge risk area for them with millions of dollars of exposure potential.

So... high compliance can be achieved. But does it make sense to force such compliance in every case? That is a the real question.

Hope this helps,


Sheila Bulthuis

Wow, Patti, I can't believe how little there is out there (and by little I mean nothing!).  I did a quick search of the databases I use for my grad school work just to see what i could find and there is nothing...  if i want to move past my master's and get a PhD I know what I can do my dissertation on.

Good luck - hopefully you'll find some into at the Learning Solutions conference...

Patti Shank

Sheila, You are absolutely correct. I looked through the databases as well and found the same thing. But I think we need to remember, that this (completion) is not really enough of a construct by itself and may be why there are no studies. Completion doesn't really mean anything important without more information. There are so many possible reasons for lack of completion:

- The course didn't need to be completed to meet the need (They stopped when it met the need)

- Workers didn't have time to complete it

- Workers needed something else instead

- Workers needed something additional

- Workers had questions and were stuck

- The content was too difficult to understand

- The course wasn't needed

- The content was in the wrong format

- ???

So if you were to do research in this area, you would likely want to narrow your focus to more than just completion rates. I'd want to know why workers didn't complete courses. I think the literature on informal learning shows us that people get over 95% of the workplace learning in ways OTHER than from formal learning.

Sheila Bulthuis

Patti, actually, i was kidding.   If I do go for my PhD it will probably not even be learning-related. After spending 15 years with my primary focus being learning, I'm ready to start focusing on other areas of I&O Psych, especially in my academic endeavors!

And I figured i wouldn't find any studies looking specifically at completion, but I thought I'd find something that at least mentioned completion in the context of a broader construct...