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How We Get a 60%+ Completion Rate In Our Online Challenges (6 Best Practices that WORK!)

First, What Is An Online Challenge?

To be clear, we're not talking about the dangerous challenges young people get up to on social media, such as a TikTok challenge.

We're talking about using challenges in your online learning environment.

Online challenges are super popular right now, from health topics (e.g.: "Make green smoothies every day for a week!") to mindset and achievement topics (e.g.: journaling, meditating, etc.) to more serious business topics (e.g.: information technology).

And they're popping up everywhere from Tony Robbins to Dean Graziosi, to Grant Cardone, and even Daymond John.

And for good reason — internet challenges can rapidly build trust and bust through potential customer objections in real-time (without the need of a sales team).

While they're ALSO a great way to attract hot leads and build an active buyers list, when paired with the RIGHT offer, they can also result in MASSIVE sales.

That’s because challenges help prospects visualize and future-pace their own transformation using YOUR product or service (while simultaneously taking active steps to achieve it).

In other words... they freakin’ WORK!

But Let's Be Honest: Do Online Challenges Really Work?

Well, it depends on who you ask, because they're easy to do wrong.

Most people make a few common but easily-avoidable mistakes when creating their online challenge. And as a result, only a handful of people complete them. (From 1-5% in some cases.)  

And you end up with a frankly disappointing amount of people upgrading to your paid product or service.

And when that happens? It's obviously frustrating, because you've put a lot of time and money into creating your challenge, and you want to get the most out of it.

I wanted to share 6 best practices that we use in our challenges which results in a student completion rate of over 60%.

Best Practice 1: "Use it or lose it"

Most people who sign up for free challenges instantly forget about them. Or they sign up in order to "do it later", which pretty much never happens. And this partly explains the ultra-low completion rate that most challenges have.

So to deal with this, right off the bat, before they even sign up, we make them a "too good to be true" offer:

  • We tell them that they can either pay $99 to get access to the challenge OR they can get it for free!
  • However, there's a "catch": in order to get it free, they agree to consume it within 7 days or automatically lose access to it
  • They must agree to this "use it or lose it" condition in order to enroll in the free version of the challenge

Obviously, only a very small fraction of people ever pay for it — mostly because they know they simply don't have the time to get through it in 7 days, and they don't want to lose it.

But the vast majority (over 99%) take the free version and agree to our "use it or lose it" condition.

"Use it or lose it" leverages a psychological phenomenon called "fear of loss" which shows humans greatly prefer to avoid losing something compared to gaining something of equivalent value.

In other words, we'll take far more action to avoid losing something we already have than to get more of it.

In this case, it psychologically pre-frames people to prioritize going through the challenge, partly because they don't want to lose access to it.

Every time we run the challenge, we have people writing to us to say they completed the entire thing on the very last day just to avoid losing it.

Example:

"Use it or Lose it" works

Our platform Xperiencify makes it easy to automate the entire "use it or lose it" process by watching to see who's completed the content and only removes those who haven't.

Best Practice 2: Add Countdown Timers

To further reinforce the time constraint that we're placing on students with the "use it or lose it" idea, we also add a 7-day countdown to the top of all course pages that they see as they go through the challenge.

We even include the countdown timer in the daily emails we send them.

This keeps the amount of time remaining "top of mind" for the student, which helps them to prioritize consuming the content.

Best Practice 3: Gamification (Part 1)

Most online education and training experiences are dull at best, which turns students off.

Xperiencify helps gamify the experience to make it highly engaging for students, maximizing their chances of getting through all 5 days.

The first thing we do is give points in exchange for action.

In fact, we start giving students points right from their very first moments inside the challenge.

What are points good for?  Well, it turns out, LOTS of things:

  • Checking tasks or actions off, hearing the sound effect, and receiving the “reward” of points releases dopamine in your students’ brains, which is fun and feels rewarding and motivating
  • It allows people to feel a sense of progress toward something VS making them wait until the end like most courses do
  • It drives a sense of accomplishment and growing mastery in students
  • And it allows YOU to customize your online course communication (through the automations) according to how little or many points your student is earning over time and show the celebrations.

We don't ever have to explain points to people. As people check off the tasks, they’ll begin to earn them, and most people are familiar enough with them in other contexts to understand them here.

We don't ever have to explain points to people.

We do lots more gamification too with Xperiencify, like badges, random rewards, animations & celebrations, and more.

I'll explain more about these in best practice 6 on this page. Plus, you can read more about the kinds of gamification available at the Xperiencify site.

Best Practice 4: Structure Your Curriculum to Create the Right Experience

Most people try to cram too much content into their free courses and challenges and that's always a mistake.

You should treat it more like a sample of working with you, like those free samples you get outside stores. They don't try to give away a full-size meal — and neither should you.

Give them just enough to get a specific, yet small, successful outcome.

Give them just enough to get a specific, yet small, successful outcome.

Our challenge runs over 5 days and requires students to invest 10 minutes a day to watch a video. After that, we have between 2-3 small actions to check off.

Here's an example of the actions underneath Day 1's challenge training.

Here's an example of the actions underneath Day 1's challenge training.

We also send 2 daily emails (one in the morning to check out the new content, and a reminder in the afternoon), plus one short SMS message to mobile devices in the morning.

Once all 5 days of the challenge is completed, we ask them to submit their success story in exchange for a graduation prize.

Xperiencify allows us to completely automate the entire process of gathering these stories and making the graduation prize available to them.

Pro tip to maximize consumption: We release one training per day, but Xperiencify has a feature called "binge mode" (think Netflix) where once a training is completed, the next one automatically opens and pops up a notification within the platform — "Congrats, you just unlocked the next training!"

A large proportion of students immediately roll into the next training, and the next, and the next, until they're done!

Best Practice 5: Personalization

Experiences that are perceived by the participant to be customized to them have been proven to create greater engagement.

That's why we always embed our student's first name everywhere we can inside the challenge website.

For example, we embed their first name twice into the very first part of the challenge using "tokens" which get replaced with real student data when they access the site:

We embed their first name twice into the very first part of the challenge

Another example:

Even very simple personalization like this has a positive effect on engagement, and there are many deeper levels of personalization that are possible with the Xperiencify platform.

Best Practice 6: Gamification Part 2

Above in Best Practice 3, we talked about the first part of gamification: points.

But there's so much more that's possible using Xperiencify.

First, all points have sound effects attached to them, so the students have both the tactile joy of "checking off" the points, and the auditory pleasure too.

In our fun challenge, we use a cash regular "cha-ching!" sound when 1 point is earned, because it's a business-related topic, and the sound of money being earned is appropriate for them.

And when 2 points are earned, we have a double "cha-ching" sound with applause behind it, which creates the impression that there's randomness in the system — a highly addictive piece of the gamification puzzle.

Second, we use Celebration animations wherever possible to celebrate the student's progress.

Here's an example of a celebration animation that pops up instantly once the student has completed the training on marketing:

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The student never knows exactly when a celebration will pop up, or for what reason, which creates a kind of hyper-aware state in the student, rather than the usual bored or disinterested state most online training creates.

Third, we use the Badges feature of Xperiencify to award an alumni badge to students once they complete the challenge.

This displays next to each person's name as they participate in the community areas of the challenge environment, as well as within any other courses or programs the student buys from us over time.

In other words, starting right away in the free challenge, they begin to accumulate badges which instills a strong feeling of "ownership" within them. They begin to wonder what other badges there are, and how to collect them all.

Learn more about how to use badges on online courses here.


I hope these challenge best practices have been helpful to you, and you're inspired to try them out with your next challenge in your online class.

Heads up though: to implement most of these, you'll need to run your challenge on Xperiencify's online platform, the most innovative, gamified online course and challenge platform available today.

Plus, Xperiencify offers an unlimited time free trial, which allows you to test drive it for free for as long as you need before you launch your course!

Register your free trial from the site here.

Murray loves building software platforms that make life easier for marketers and entrepreneurs. It's all he does. He's built many tools over the years and helped thousands of people start and grow their business, which is his driving motivation.

His latest project is Xperiencify -- a new LMS / online course platform that fixes the "dirty secret" of the online course industry (which is that 3% of people get results from the course they buy.) They do it with a powerful combination of psychology 🧠, gamification 🕹️ and Silicon Valley "black magic". 🥷