online course completion statistics

Last Updated on August 8, 2022 by Team College Learners

Completion rates in online courses are generally low, averaging around 13%. This poses a challenge to course designers, who are responsible for the success of online learners but have had few tools for influencing their behavior. A promising solution comes from our study on the effect of social networks in eLearning. The key finding is that students who participate in virtual teams are 5x more engaged and 16x more likely to finish an online course.

We considered the performance of students enrolled in Technology Entrepreneurship, an eight-week MOOC offered in the summer of 2013 on NovoEd. Of the 23,577 students who worked individually, only 2% finished the course. By contrast, of the 2,671 students in teams, 32% graduated. Completion rates were greater for teams with mentors, which achieved 44% completion (see Figure 1). Those choosing to join teams might be more engaged, however, consistent results held even when we controlled for planned and actual initial engagement with the course.

The data testifies to the power of felt accountability, a feeling of social obligation that arises when learners are beholden to others. We surmise that learners in teams tend to hold themselves and each other accountable for their performance, leading to improved completion rates and greater engagement. That’s why team-based learners sign in 5x more often than learners without teams, a 26% higher level of activity (see Figure 2).

MOOC Completion Graph 1

The effect is amplified in courses where the majority of learners are enrolled in teams. It is noteworthy that, in courses held on the NovoEd platform, course completion rates are as high as 95% when team participation is greatest.
These initial findings present a powerful argument for designing MOOCs around team-based assignments. Download the white paper by clicking here.
Online Education Statistics 2021 (For Creators & Entrepreneurs…)
By:ROCHI ZALANI Last updated: NOVEMBER 5, 2021
It is no surprise that online education is booming. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more students were opting to take online courses. 
But how much has online education really contributed? Should a creator or an entrepreneur spend their time making online courses for their audience? Knowing the online education stats below can give you an insight into the market demand. So let’s get started.
Recommended reading: 15 Best Online Course Platforms To Sell Your Skills
Table of Contents

Market Size Of Online Education
If you look to create and sell something, you should have a market for it. It goes without saying. Let’s verify whether online education has a big enough market:
Syngene research from 2019, examining North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America, and the Middle East & Africa, revealed that the global e-learning market is expected to reach a market value of $336.98 billion by 2026, growing at a rate of 9.1% from 2018 to 2026. 
A large market is still open for MOOCs as studies from Mongolia evaluating 6846 students found that only 47% of the students are aware of MOOCs. The result is consistent in Egypt, where 2700 medical students were randomly selected, and only one-fifth of them knew about MOOCs.
In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2.8K courses were added to the MOOC market and this number will shoot up to 16.3K according to a Class Central report.
Growth of Moocs Online Education
MOOC providers also gained 60 million new learners; half of these were just for Coursera. 
Recommended reading: 13 Top Online Learning Platforms (To Acquire NEW Skills…)
Completion Rates For Online Courses Or MOOCs: What Are They And Do They Matter?
So, all good, right? You’d think this growth meant that MOOCs rock!
Not so fast.
A 2018 Columbia University’s Teachers College study on edX and Coursera courses shows that MOOC Certificate programs have a completion rate of 15% or less.
These rates can approach 40%, according to this data from 2015, but they remain largely at 15% on average.
The situation has remained largely static. A recent 2019 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that over the past five years, online courses recorded an astronomical average dropout rate of about 96%. This high dropout rate has not improved in over six years. 
This means that while people do excitedly sign up for MOOCs and they have seen a boost, they remain largely incomplete. But is completion rate an accurate metric for evaluating the success of MOOCs? 
2018 study from Columbia University concluded that only 35% of students start a MOOC to earn an alternative credential.
Completion rates are largely limited to courses that offer certificates. This leaves out the various courses that don’t offer them.
However, a little boost in engagement never hurt anyone.
Increasing Engagement In Online Courses
Although completion rates don’t matter as much as you might think, it is good to have some tactics in the back-pocket on how to keep your online learners engaged:
study by the University of Central Florida identifies three underlying satisfaction components: engaged learning, agency, and assessment
A course taker’s ability to understand the material, reflect, collaborate, and find information comes under ‘engaged learning’ and increases the satisfaction of your course buyers. ‘Agency’ is how much control does a learner have over their environment. This involves time management, motivation, and multitasking ability. 
The easier it fits in with their schedule, the more satisfaction they derive out of the course. And lastly, ‘assessment’ is measured by how quickly the instructor responds to a learner’s query and how able are the course takers in evaluating their progress. The quicker you respond and the easier a learner is able to see their progress, the better the satisfaction.
An online framework made in 2018 by Petrea Redmond suggests that there are five dimensions in which students need to be engaged. 

This means that course creators have to find a way that enables the learners to emotionally engage with the course. 
Research also finds that “presence” is the most important factor in online learning effectiveness. According to the study, ”presence included items measuring instructors’ ability to share relevant experiences and provide meaningful examples to illustrate course material, present information creatively, and communicate enthusiasm for course topics”. 
These engagement tactics become all the more useful with the COVID-19 pandemic boosting the numbers.
Online Education In COVID-19: Numbers You Need To Know
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased both – the number of courses and the number of attendees.
Coursera’s user base increased by 66% in 2020, accounting for the pandemic. Its learners boosted from 45 million in the previous year to 75 million this year. 
These numbers are not limited to individual users. Even companies have started buying courses for their employees. 
2300 enterprises signed up for “Coursera Business”, including 25% of the Fortune 500 Companies. 
This is beneficial not only to employees but for businesses too. 
Curious how?
According to a 2015 position report by KPMG, up to 60% of total employee training costs are attributed to traveling expenses alone. All of these expenses can be saved via online learning. 
And it’s not just for Coursera, the user base increased in the pandemic for every online course provider in the market – edX alone increased its numbers by 3 million users!
New Registered Reports Online Education
According to Class Central Report 2020, “the top three MOOC providers (Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn) registered as many new users in April as in the whole of 2019”. 
Now, that is an opportunity for every creator because the pandemic induced changes in online education are here to stay. 
Many employees, students, and companies will continue using eLearning’s various benefits to meet skill gaps, ensure learning & development, and pursue unexplored interests. 
But how much should you charge for these online courses? Considering that there are other similar courses available for free, should you charge anything at all?
If you’re thinking yes, the stats in the next section might change your mind.  
Pricing Your Online Course: What Is The Best Price For Online Courses?
This sentiment is also found to be true in practice where research proves that paid MOOCs with a certificate showing more completion rates than free ones. A price tag automatically shows value. And if someone buys your course, they will be more motivated to derive value from it by finishing it. 
Now that we have “free” out of the way, you need to decide on an income goal for your course.
The average course, according to research on 133,000 courses by Podia, an online course platform, is priced at $182.59. The median is priced at $76.50. Remember this dataset might be skewed towards self-hosted courses by entrepreneurs. Courses on marketplaces such as Udemy might have a much cheaper average price.

If yours is a course in competitive subject areas, or if your intention is not to earn money through your course, price it at the baseline. You will have a much wider audience this way, with everyone being able to afford it. 
But if your course has the potential and content to solve the pain points of your audience, with tons of features like workbooks and social media groups, charge a premium price. Sure you might cut out a few students who won’t be able to afford your course, but you will get more revenue from less (and more engaged) buyers. 
If you are still hesitant to put a price, try this handy Teachable course calculator to evaluate a fair charge for your course. 
With pricing out of the way, comes the issue of the content, what topic should you make a course on? Yes, you can make one on your expertise, but is that profitable?
Profitable Online Course Ideas For Creators
First things first, choose a niche and stick with it. This will also help you narrow down your target audience. 
So, don’t create a course on “Sales and Marketing”, make one on “content marketing for food bloggers”. This way your course will be more focused, tailored, and useful for your target audience. 
But what does the data have to say?
In its 2020 report, Class Central revealed a similar pattern as 2019: 40% of the most popular courses belong to the categories that are easy to monetize – like business and technology. 
Course Distribution By Student Online Education
Another latest report by Class Central also tabulates the quarantine boost and the changes in the most followed courses pre-pandemic and post-pandemic. Interest in soft skills has increased post-COVID-19. 
Most followed subjects online education
22.You can make a course about skills like digital marketing too. It has become more important for entrepreneurs, content creators, and small businesses as things have gone virtual.
Digital Marketing Class Online Education
If you are good with numbers, accounting is also a good choice. 

However, if you are more on the artsy side, “online art classes” are also witnessing a search rise.

report by the Association of Creative Industries shows that most sewers or crafters are millennials between 18-34. This report also shows that 63% of US Households practice at least one crafting hobby. 
Photography also has a good search volume. 
Lastly, build what your target audience would need and can derive value from. Consider their pain points, survey them, and find out what they are willing to pay for — validating a course idea is a proven way to ensure what you build will be profitable. 
Final Thoughts (And Online Education Statistics Infographic…)
Unsurprisingly, that online education is a booming industry. More so, with the COVID-19 pandemic. Creators like you can leverage this rise in online course attendees by creating a course of their own. 
Pricing the course appropriately is important. So arrive at it after market research and taking the value your course offers into account.
And now, here’s an infographic showing the key online education stats and trends for 2021: