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The #1 Indicator Your Course is Working

It’s no secret that online courses have become an increasingly popular way for people to learn new skills or knowledge from anywhere that has wifi. University programs still have their place, of course, but we now have access to more information than we ever have. We can go to YouTube right now and learn pretty much anything we want.

From professional development courses to hobby-based classes, there are countless options available for learners of all types.

Because so many options are available, both free and paid, as a course creator, it's important to understand what makes your course effective and engaging for students. After all, the ultimate goal of an online course is to help students learn and retain new information, and to apply what they've learned in their daily lives.

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the #1 indicator that your course is working, because, let’s be honest, we all fall into the trap of feeling like maybe we’re not providing enough or doing enough or we’re internalizing that negative feedback and making it mean something it had no business meaning.

I can almost guarantee that you’re in the online course business because you want to help people, you want to make an impact. It’s about more than money for you. So ensuring that your students are getting what they pay for is a top priority. I know. I see you.

So stick around and let’s talk about how to know if your course is effective. I’ll give you a hint - it’s not your completion rate. In fact, completion rate has nothing to do with effectiveness at all.


Welcome to Next Level Course Creator. My name is Erica and this is a podcast about creating premium online programs that participants never want to leave..

If you want a program that serves the whole person, satisfies participant needs, and creates brand ambassadors who tell all their friends about how awesome you are … This is for you.

Listen in as we go beyond conversion numbers, sold out launches, and five-figure months to get to the heart of the matter: taking care of the people who have already said YES.

Let’s go!


Actually, let’s focus on that for just a bit. Your completion rate has little to do with the effectiveness in your course. Maybe that’s shocking to hear a curriculum designer say. Maybe you already knew that. The truth is, it’s a lot more complex than that. To say your completion rate doesn’t matter would be wrong, but it certainly doesn’t hold as much weight as one might think. It is simply one more metric to consider when you’re painting the overall picture of your course data.

But there is one metric that rises to the top.

The number one indicator of an online course's success is the extent to which it causes a change in participant behavior.

In other words, are students applying what they've learned in the course to their daily lives? Are they using new language or strategies that they learned in the course? Are they coaching each other within your private community using the strategies taught or the language you use when coaching? If the answer is yes, then CONGRATULATIONS! Your course is working.

Now, that’s not to say that your course is perfect and meets every promise you made when marketing it–that would require some deep diving–but it does mean that your strategies and coaching are effective. It means you’re making a difference.

In this episode, we'll be exploring the concept of change in participant behavior in a little more detail. We'll define what it means and provide examples of how students might demonstrate a change in behavior. We'll also discuss the benefits of using this indicator as a metric for online course success, and provide strategies for course creators to track and measure changes in participant behavior. Whether you're a seasoned course creator or just starting out, this episode will give you valuable insights into what it takes to create a successful and impactful online course.

So what exactly do we mean by "change in participant behavior"? Essentially, it's any shift in the way students behave or think as a result of taking the course.

This could include:

  • Using new language or terminology that they learned in the course.

    • For example, if a course teaches students about a new concept or topic, they may start using specific terms or phrases related to that concept in their daily conversations or written work.

  • Implementing strategies or techniques that they learned in the course.

    • For instance, if a course teaches students how to solve a particular type of problem, they may start using the techniques they learned in the course to tackle similar problems in their own work or personal life.

  • Applying what they learned in the course to their work or personal life.

    • For example, if a course teaches students about time management techniques, they may start using those techniques to organize and prioritize their tasks more effectively.

  • Sharing their newfound knowledge with others, either through discussions with friends or family or by teaching or presenting on the subject to a wider audience.

    • This could include things like leading a workshop or presentation on a topic they learned in the course, or simply discussing the subject with others who may not have taken the course.

And this change in participant behavior doesn't have to be a dramatic shift. Even small changes in the way students think or act can be an indication that the course is having a positive impact. It's about seeing a measurable difference in the way students approach their work or daily life after consuming the content.

Anyone who works with me knows that I am SUCH a sucker for data. The simple answer is that I truly am just a giant nerd, but there is serious magic that happens when we gather and analyze the data from our courses – the information we’re able to glean is truly GOLD and can make or break the course curriculum and experience. Measuring all identified important metrics is necessary, and that includes participant behavior.

It allows course creators to understand the effectiveness of their content and teaching methods. If students are demonstrating a change in behavior after taking the course, it suggests that they are learning and retaining the information being presented. On the other hand, if there is little or no change in behavior, it could be a sign that the course is not effectively reaching or engaging students.

Measuring change in behavior can also help course creators identify areas of the course that may need improvement. If students are struggling to apply what they've learned, it could be because the course material is not presented in a clear or easy-to-understand way.

By tracking changes in behavior, course creators can identify areas of the course that may need to be revised or redesigned.

And honestly, this can also help course creators understand the value and impact of their course on their students. If students are able to make meaningful changes in their behavior as a result of taking the course, it suggests that the course has had a positive and lasting impact on their lives, which is why we’re in this business in the first place. Not only is that validating for you on a personal level, but it also creates an opportunity to increase your revenue.

So how can you track and measure changes in participant behavior? It’s not like it’s cut and dried and we can provide a quiz and get the answers and bam, data, so how do we go about tracking a metric that is so vague? Well, here are two tried and true strategies that can be effective:

  1. Collect and analyze data from course evaluations or surveys. Just talk to your participants! By asking students about the changes they've noticed in their behavior as a result of taking the course, you can get a sense of the impact of their content.

  1. Observe changes in student participation and engagement in online discussions or group activities. If students are more actively participating in discussions or group projects during and after taking the course, it could be a sign that they are applying what they've learned.

So, some practical next steps:

Think about common phrases you use when coaching or teaching your students … write those down.

Think about frameworks or strategies you teach … write those down.

Take what you wrote and create a spreadsheet and each time you notice your students saying/doing those things, give it a checkmark or a plus sign – or anything, really–to indicate that it was done.

Overtime, you’ll see that either the checkmarks increase to show that students are changing their behavior to align with your teachings and process or that the checkmarks don’t increase because their behavior is not changing.

If the data is positive, this just informs you to do more of the same. Courses are ever-changing and adapting to meet the needs of their students, so it may not look exactly the same forever and ever (and it shouldn’t, honestly) but we can use similar strategies that students resonate with.

If the data isn’t in your favor, this informs you that something needs to change. There’s a disconnect somewhere and now we need to dig a little deeper to find it. It doesn’t mean that your course is a failure and your strategies are trash, because some of us go there first, I know, but NO. It simply means we need to find the roadblock.

Data is your friend, and if you’re able to use it to inform yourself of your course effectiveness, not only will your course and business be better for it, but you’ll also make that bigger impact you dream of making.

If you’re overwhelmed at the idea of collecting and analyzing this data, please reach out to me. I know it can be overwhelming, and frankly quite scary because you’re kind of opening yourself up to all kinds of feelings, but that’s exactly what I’m here for. I’ll walk through this with you and remind you that the data points to nothing more than opportunity for growth.

I hope today’s episode brought a little clarity and community to your next level course journey. If you enjoyed listening, please consider subscribing and leaving a review and If you’d like to connect, be sure to find me over on instagram @ericanashdesign or on my website at I would love to hear from you.

All right you guys, go forth, educate, and change lives. I’ll see you next time.


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