There comes a moment where you have to ask yourself: is my online course successful?
Sooner or later, you’ll have to take a good hard look at your work and decide whether your efforts have paid off. For this matter and in any business, Data* is your friend. Subjectively, it might be what you wanted, but having an outsider’s perspective can tell you if you’ve reached your goals. Usually, we’re talking about revenue and the number of learners for online courses, but you can identify other metrics that matter to you.
Data offers detailed information about how well your target audience responds to your marketing messages. Speaking of audiences, it can tell you when you’ve done a good job identifying and selling to your buyer persona.
The last part is essential if you don’t want to stop at creating just one course. For the next one, you’ll need even better tactics and an improved overall strategy. That’s why it’s preferable to think about measuring performance before you start creating the course. But it’s never too late to trace your steps and see what has worked best for you.
For all of this, you need a strategy.
*I’ve been waiting for ages to insert a punny Star Trek reference.
How do I measure performance?
You don’t need to be a marketing specialist to assess how your course is doing. What you do need is a strategy.
Let’s take measuring learning progress as an analogy. To do this, you need to have three key things:
- What are you measuring? — a skill
- How to measure that? — a quiz
- Where do you do that? — a learning management system
Go ahead and apply the same logic to your courses. If you want to measure the success of your Facebook ads, for example, all you need to do is open the Ads Manager and see if the conversion rate is good enough for your domain. But don’t stop there! Your learning platform also tells you a lot about the performance of your course. So you have your marketing platforms on the one hand and your LMS analytics on the other.
Marketing analytics and course performance
Whether incorporated into your learning management system (LMS) or not, any marketing tool shows you key metrics and how well your campaigns are doing. Let’s say that you’re launching a new course, and you’ve done quite a bit to promote it. One, there’s the email campaign, second, you’ve set up affiliate links so that influencers can share it with their audiences, and third, you’ve directed people to your course landing page through social media.
For email, you have key metrics such as open rates, which show you which emails have been more successful in garnering your audience’s interest — and you should try to replicate that in the future. For traffic, your best friend is Google Analytics, which offers detailed statistics on the traffic you’ve managed to bring to your site and which channels have been more successful than others.
For affiliate links, Google Analytics is a great tool, and your LMS should also allow you to set up these links and manage referral traffic. All in all, you’ll need to dig deeper and use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Which brings us to…
Read more: 6 DOs and DON’Ts of online advertising
LMS analytics tell you most of what you need to know
LMS analytics offer a holistic view of how well your course is doing, so you don’t have to use guesstimates based on just the number of learners or other “surface” statistics. My favorite thing about this is the reports feature.
Think of it like Christmas (or any other holiday) for your inner geek — you get to see daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual statistics based on different categories. So you can have a launching day stats, or launching week, or even one month after the launch fest.
Let’s see what the most important reports that help you analyze your course performance are:
Since you sell courses on your learning platform, there’s nothing easier than seeing the revenue they generate in any given period. This report allows you to see which tactics have worked best, including offering discounts, offering courses for a limited time, etc.
This one helps you analyze how well your affiliate marketing strategy is going by generating referral lists in a timeframe of your choice.
These are general statistics that help you track the number of users and enrollments and other relevant information. It’s good to follow these numbers daily as it tells you a lot about enrollments — maybe you’ll notice that people tend to buy your course and start learning on Saturday, for example, which means you should be more active on that day.
Similarly, you can have an overview of course enrollments from launch day to launch week and even months after the event. This report helps you see important fluctuations in the number of users and whether specific promotion tactics have been more successful than others.
Sometimes you need more advanced data, in which case you’ll need custom reports in which you select a variety of fields, use filtering options, sort and group data by different parameters, and choose the chart output. For example, I can run more advanced affiliates reports to see users grouped by commission rate.
Analyzing the performance – an example
Let’s take an example of how you can analyze your course performance for one week, using an email marketing example.
Imagine that this was the launch week, which defines the first seven days after the official launch. For this purpose, you’ve created a campaign in which you’ve sent a series of emails to potential learners using an email platform such as MailChimp.
You notice that the performance of emails is reasonable, taking into account key metrics such as the email open rate. One email, in particular, did better than the rest because it had a catchy subject, so naturally, people clicked on it. What’s more, Google Analytics confirms this since the biggest traffic source to the course landing page for that week was email marketing.
Once you go to your learning management system and run a revenue report and a course enrollments report for that particular week, it’s clear that this strategy has worked out in terms of other key metrics: number of new users gained and money that the course has generated.
On the other hand, it might be possible that the affiliate marketing side hasn’t performed the way you wanted it to. You might want to make some changes, such as collaborating with other people or offering your existing collaborators more incentives to promote your course.
As with anything you do, creating online courses comes with an opportunity cost. It’s only natural that you want to know if your investment has panned out. Thankfully, the analytics tools that are already a part of your marketing platforms and learning platform can give you an idea of what works best so you can replicate this success.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and INDIE. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.