How to Create a Seamless Online Learning Experience
The pandemic has changed our world in ways we never expected and at such speed many could not adapt quickly enough and were left behind. Moving so much of our daily lives online has been a necessity for survival both literally and figuratively. The education space, like everyone else, was not spared and the pandemic has forced many schools, universities and colleges to offer their courses and curricula online. This is a fantastic way for these institutions to remain relevant as well as attract higher volumes of students who are stuck at home hungry for knowledge and skills and will likely turn to online offerings to satisfy their needs. Now this is great if you can offer a seamless online learning experience. If not, you will quickly lose out to those that offer better and more seamless options with higher ratings and better online reputations. One of the most crucial factors in attracting and retaining new students is to make sure that the student has a pain-free experience from the second he or she clicks onto your website. So, just how do you get this right and make that killer first impression? How do you get the interested student to sign up and buy into what you are offering? Let us have a look at some of the important puzzle pieces that need to be in the correct place for the whole picture to be complete.
The whole bigger picture point to keep in mind is that a seamless online experience must begin with the prospective students’ personal requirements and goals. Once these are aligned, the student needs to be guided through the entire experience. There is no one type that fits all here and a successful company needs to be able to offer enough flexibility for the student to own the experience and take the course on the terms that suit them. Rigidity will very quickly put people off and they will search elsewhere for something that offers them flexibility. Remember that taking an online course does not mean you have no life. Life has this annoying habit of being unpredictable at the best of times and keeping this front and centre will really help you to be able to offer a program that is more attractive than the competition. The experience needs to conclude with something tangible learned. The student needs to know they will achieve something and gain the skills as per their original goals.
So, how do you stand out from the competition in the first place? Yes, you market and advertise, and you are getting the clicks onto your website so there is interest. How do you then make your offerings more attractive to those that show interest? There is after all an immense variety of courses, classes and skills that could be just as good as what you are offering.
The first thing you need to get right is to be completely transparent about what you are offering. You need to explain clearly what the student can expect to learn once they complete the course. Be clear and give some examples. You could say after completing this photography course you will have the skills to begin a career as a wedding photographer or food photographer or even a glamour photographer and if you take this course, you will learn how to firstly get that epic shot and then how to edit and touch it up for that extra professional feel. As an interested photography student this already gives me an idea of what level this course will take me up too. This is useful information. Someone wanting to learn how to take selfies is not likely going to want to take a whole course that will take them to a level they have no interest in getting too. So be clear and list some actual tangible skills the student will walk away with after choosing your course.
Tying into the above, you should show how this particular course on your platform will benefit the student. No one wants to spend time and money on something that offers no benefit to them. It is kind of a no brainer.
You then need to be clear about two things. You need to be clear about what level the course begins at. You need to state that this course is from basic to expert and covers everything to get you started right to the finishing touches and some professional tips. The student not knowing how much knowledge they need to keep up before taking the course will likely put them off or cause hesitation. If the course is for advanced students, you need to make this clear. You could say to take the advanced photography course, you need to be familiar with the material in the beginner’s course and know your way around a camera.
Finally, you need to be clear about what materials come with the specific course. Does the student receive study notes with each lesson, or a copy of the slides when they sign up? Are they going to be in for a surprise once they sign up and find out they must pay extra for the resources? Unpleasant surprises, especially financial surprises are not good for student retention at all.
This information you must offer helps the student decide if the course on your platform is something that suits them. If you do not get that correct and clear you will lose a lot of signups.
As learning needs change constantly, you also need to find new subjects and more up to date courses so that the information offered is wanted and needed in the present day. No one needs to learn how to write a CD anymore. It is old info and not likely to get any interest. So, stay up to date and offer new courses wherever you see there is interest.
The next puzzle piece is that you need to design and offer courses that provide a pleasant and simple user experience. Your website should be user friendly with as much information provided in a neat and attractive display. If an interested student likes a course that you offer and then has an unpleasant experience when trying to sign up, they will likely lose interest or choose another platform that actually works seamlessly. You cannot afford to have tech issues at signup or at any point really. Your course needs to work, easily, perfectly and seamlessly. The truth is no one has time for things that do not work as they should.
The next piece that should be in place is to offer real support to the students. They need to know that if they have questions, they will have access to the correct explanation from the lecturer or presenter. They need to feel like someone will be there for this support. Why not make this clear as soon as you can and say something along the lines of “any questions you might have will be comprehensively answered by the lecturer through one of the following channels.” Then you list the various options students can use to get in touch should they need additional explanations. If there is a lead time on the lecturer responding, it would also be helpful to be transparent about this. You could state that the lecturer will respond to their queries within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours over weekends. This makes sure no false expectations are created where students are expecting immediate answers and at the same time shows that your platform cares about their students and wants them to succeed.
Finally, you have the last piece, qualifications. You have the tech operating with no issues, you have the students banging on your digital door, they know what to expect and that they will receive the support they need. The only thing outstanding is what sort of qualification will the student walk away with. Is it a case of some certificate that no one will really recognise? Is it a diploma or degree with more weight? Sure, the student wants to learn a skill, but they might also be doing the course to add the qualification to their resume. They may need a qualification for one course in order to do another. Either way, you will find that a lot of students have vastly different reasons for taking your course and offering them what they actually need once the course is completed goes a long way to getting that student to sign up. If you need skills in accounting in order to apply for a dream job, you would be better served with a more formal and recognised qualification that can be added to your resume than stating you learned accounting through a short course at accountingwizz.com. If you are just learning accounting because you want to know how it is done, then accountingwizz.com might offer something more suitable. The point I am making is to be clear about what the student needs, what they will receive, what they will learn and the level of information they will learn and finally, what they will walk away with after completion. This all gives the interested student a lot of really helpful information that can be used to decide if the course is correct for them and aligns to their personal goals.
This is how you can create a seamless user experience. Provide the information for them to make the decisions, provide the platform that is user friendly and works and provide something that the student can walk away with, and you are on your way to more quality signups that are most likely going to stick with you and recommend you because they have had a seamless online learning experience.