Last July, I launched Grumo’s first ever online course creation challenge.
194 people joined the 12-week challenge.
6 weeks in, at the halfway point, there are only 24 challengers left.
That’s only 12% left. About 9 in 10 have already quit or stopped submitting their assignments.
(If you want to join the waiting list for the next challenge CLICK HERE)
There have been several studies that estimate the average completion rates for online courses or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) vary between 5% and 10%.
At this stage of the challenge, my numbers are within what’s expected of a typical online course.
Looking at those numbers one could conclude that there is no advantage to running an online challenge versus an online course.
Has this been a failure so far?
I must admit that after all the work I’ve put in organizing the challenge and motivating everyone to keep going, losing 90% of the challengers halfway in, felt a bit discouraging.
But then I realized that, even if no people were left by the end of the challenge, this experiment has already yielded 10x better results than any other online course I’ve ever created in the last 7 years.
Because I have proof that my students have taken action. To be exact 253 assignments have been submitted so far and 54 people have submitted 2 or more assignments.
To give you some perspective, my most popular course on Udemy “How to create an awesome online course” has been taken by over 10,000 students and I have evidence of about only 100 people implementing what they learned and actually creating their own online course afterward.
So although about 10% have watched the entire course, only about 1% have done something useful with it.
In contrast, by week 6, I already know for a fact that in this challenge 24 people have taken action and have finished creating their course or are almost done (the last 6 weeks are devoted to marketing). That’s at least 10X more effective at getting my students taking action than a course on the exact same topic. Boom!
The Problem With Online Courses
On most online courses, students are not required to submit any proof of work to advance through the course or receive a completion certificate.
At least on Udemy, the only metric used to ascertain completion is whether the student watched all the lectures or not (certificates are issued automatically once the student watches the entire course).
There are two problems with measuring course completion based on watched time:
Problem 1: Very easy to cheat. Just play back the course in the background (at 2x speed) while you go for a walk or watch Netflix on another browser tab.
Problem 2: there is no proof showing that the student actually implemented anything they learned. By proof, I don’t mean passing a quiz, but actually submitting an assignment showing tangible proof of work done.
In my opinion, the ultimate metric of success for an online course is the rate of implementation, not the rate of consumption.
It doesn’t matter if you watch 100% of an online course if don’t end up taking any action afterward.
Unfortunately, most online course platforms measure the rate of consumption, not the rate of implementation.
Education can only make an impact on people’s lives if it encourages students to apply what’ve they learned.
Socrates said it long time ago: “To be is to do”
How is an online challenge better than a traditional online course?
There will always be a place for passive learning via traditional online courses but, when it comes to getting things done, I think nothing can beat a well-organized challenge.
An online challenge is better incorporating many of the elements that encourage people to stop procrastinating and take action.
The 4 main elements are deadlines, incentives, competition, and accountability.
Deadlines: by far this has proven to be the most effective component of my challenge. I’ve received about 50% of the weekly assignments within 4 hours of the Friday at midnight deadline.
Incentives: this is a free challenge so I cannot afford to give out big completion prizes but a few people have told me they were motivated to join and have a chance to win what I had to offer (an official Grumo t-shirt, a free one hour Skype consultation with me, and 50% off any of my courses. All valued at over a zillion imaginary dollars 🙂
Competition: not everyone responds well to a competitive environment but some love that aspect of the challenge. By making the leaderboard public everyone knows how they compare to other challengers. It’s important to know that the leaderboard doesn’t compare the quality of work (that’s quite subjective and would take an inordinate amount of work to assess properly) but awards points only based on assignment completion.
Accountability: one of the aspects many challengers have expressed appreciation for is the regular emails where I remind them of their weekly tasks and provide them with motivation to keep pushing forward. I make them accountable and follow up if they miss any of the assignments. Also, a few challengers opted in to be paired with an accountability partner which has been proven to be very useful to keep their motivation levels up. There is also a Facebook group where people can ask questions, find motivation and help each other.
What do people think so far?
I’ve been collecting testimonials (23 so far) and the feedback has been very positive.
The main sentiment has been that thanks to the challenge, participants felt more motivated than ever to take action. Some challengers had been procrastinating the creation of their online course for over 2 years, and thanks to this challenge they finally got started and have made some progress.
Even many of the challengers that quit still were thankful for the challenge as, it either helped them get some work done or helped them find some clarity as to what direction to take next in regards to teaching online.
Here are my 3 favorite testimonials so far:
It seems silly but I’ve bought $2000+ courses on making online courses and I haven’t gone through those and completed an online course yet. Those online courses that I’m in are FILLED with modules and videos and it seems like such a daunting task to start. I think the simple style of your challenge is what’s bringing me into action. – Tina Huynh
I wanted to share my feedback with you on my “”challenge”” experience so far. I LOVE it.
Your emails are very clear and to the point. Links are easy to find and follow.
The information you give out is relevant and very helpful in doing our assignments. The accountability partner was a brilliant Idea. Your energy and good vibes come through your email and I feel supported and encouraged. Thank you for creating this challenge and making it fun to learn. – Pazit Perez
I’m learning so much with this challenge, not only the technical part but most importantly, it’s become personal and I’m learning a lot about myself, facing new fears and overcoming them so, again thank you for the opportunity! – Alejandra Noriega
Why Have So Many Quit Already?
170 out of 194 have quit or stopped submitting assignments. That’s a lot of casualties along the way.
The main reason is that to enter the challenge people only had to click on a link. So many people clicked and were added to the challenge automatically when they just wanted to learn more about it.
I’ve also been collecting other reasons why people have quit, and let me tell you, they are all over the place.
It’s amazing what can happen to a group of 100+ people over the span of 6 weeks.
Some people got stuck with the technical stuff, some were on holidays, some were affected by Hurricane Harvey, a bunch of people had medical problems (low blood pressure, kidney stones, lung conditions), some were moving to a new country, or got too busy at work, or the worst you can imagine, some people had deaths in their family, and one person lost their partner :((((
Sometimes we forget how easily our lives can be turned upside down and how lucky we are to be alive another day. My thoughts are with everyone that has had to endure terrible adversity over the last 6 weeks and I really hope things get better soon, and maybe, one day they can finish their online course if that’s still one of their goals.
Running an online challenge has been a challenge in itself but I’ve enjoyed it tremendously this far.
From a financial stand point, this experiment has yielded of the lowest ROI’s of anything I’ve done online before. But from a personal perspective, it has been definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in a long time.
It’s the first time since I started teaching online 6 years ago that I’ve been in such close contact with my students, learning about them, helping them, motivating them.
I’ve even got on Skype with several of the challengers to learn about their courses and get direct feedback on their experience so far.
I’d probably have to charge to make running another challenge in the future viable (it’s the only way I will be able to afford all the cookies this Spaniard needs to buy in order survive).
I see 2 main advantages of putting a price to a similar challenge in the future. 1. I’ll be able to provide more support (coaching calls, personalized feedback, hire coaches, provide higher incentives, bigger completion prizes, more marketing funds) and 2. Participants will be more invested in completing the challenge which should lower attrition.
What are your thoughts on joining a paid challenge? What would you expect to get from it?
Would love to hear your thoughts…
Peace, Love, and Challenges-FTW-Cookies.
P.S: BTW, the current challenge is still on! there are 6 more weeks to go. We are going to work on launching your course, launching a Youtube channel, and then building a sales funnel to get sales on autopilot. It’s going to be a blast!
P.2: Would you like to be notified if I ever launch another challenge in the future? just join the waiting list HERE.
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