10 min read

Top 10 tips for learner retention
Master the art of learner retention to increase profits for your online teaching business.

You may already know all the tips for attracting new learners to your classroom, but once you have them, do you know how to keep them returning for more? The challenge of running a successful online teaching business continues even after a learner enrolls in a class. Instead, retaining them and ensuring their success is equally crucial. 

New family insights

Our data suggests that 27% of new families, with learners taking their first class, change classes or do not sign up for another class only 7 days after their first attendance. The reasons are different for each family, but our research shows that these are the main reasons:

  • 40% of new families who do not retake a class or sign up with the same educator within 30 days of their first class said their learner didn’t participate enthusiastically
  • 30% of new families whose learner participated in a recurring weekly class who did not return within 30 days said they weren’t sure their learner would learn something new each week

Unfortunately, this number grows to 47% after 30 days. For Courses specifically, 31% of new families stop attending after 30 days. So, how can you avoid these common pitfalls?

In this article, we will delve into the top 10 tips and tricks for online educators to master the art of learner retention.

Tip #1: Create engaging and interactive content

Our first tip happens before you log into your online classroom. One key element in retaining online learners is to keep them engaged from the time they enter the classroom until they wave goodbye at the end. 

Before class

If you have a new learner signed up for class, send them a welcome email letting them know how excited you are to meet them and what they can expect from the class.

Start the class on the right foot with an icebreaker question on the classroom page that learners can think about while waiting to be admitted into the classroom. Doing so gives learners time to prepare an answer or look up information before the class.

During class

Utilize approved interactive elements, such as videos, animations, and interactive quizzes to make your content engaging. Encourage all learners to participate verbally or via chat if that is what they prefer. If you have a loud class that has been together for a while, consider addressing new learners directly so they have an opportunity to join in on the conversation. Make note of what works and what doesn’t so you can adjust upcoming lessons.

After class

Share a highlight or additional materials on the day’s topic on the classroom page. You could also ask a question and encourage learners to share their ideas to keep up engagement after the live class is over. The goal is to keep learners involved in the conversation so that they look forward to the next meeting.

Tip #2: Make communication a priority

When new families register for a class, they don’t always know what to expect. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want an educator to share with you? 

At Outschool, effective communication is the backbone of any successful online learning experience. When you have a new learner register for a class, send them information about how they can prepare for their first class and what to expect during the first meeting. You could even ask if they prefer to go by another name and if there is anything you should know before you meet. 

Ensure that families know how to contact you with questions and be available to answer them. Promptly address queries and concerns to make learners feel supported and connected to the learning community. Making learners comfortable ahead of time goes a long way.

Tip #3: Prepare families for the first class

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the most recent class listing standards, now is a great time to do so. With new features rolling out all the time, there is always a chance to update your listing to ensure families know what to expect. 

Adding a weekly breakdown and ensuring that weekly class listings are updated regularly keeps families aware of what their learning will be doing during each meeting. (Please make sure you know which changes need approval and which do not.) Being transparent and setting clear expectations from the start is important, especially when teaching academic classes that may include homework, grading, and assessments. 

Transparency is vital in online education. Since families do not get a chance to meet you in person or talk with you during class, clearly outlining the class objectives, expectations, and assessment criteria can create a sense of confidence for new  families. You want to ensure that families know how to find the class materials, so surpass their expectations by sharing that information with them directly. 

It is also important to help learners understand the time commitment required and the level of engagement expected. By setting realistic expectations, you reduce the chances of learners feeling overwhelmed, ultimately contributing to a more positive learning experience and improved retention rates.

Tip #4: Provide constructive and informative feedback

For classes with a new topic each week, families want to know what to expect for the week ahead. While you may think you’ve already taken care of this by including the information on the class listing, this is a great opportunity to go the extra mile. Message families after class letting them know how their learners did, what they learned, and what to expect next time. Parents want to know their learners will learn something new each week.

Keep in mind that constructive feedback plays a pivotal role in learner success and retention. Timely feedback not only helps learners gauge their understanding but also fosters a sense of continuous improvement. Be specific in your feedback, highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement. A personalized approach makes learners feel valued and motivated to stay committed to their studies.

Tip #5: Facilitate learner interaction

One of the key components of the Outschool ACE Teaching Framework focuses on creating a sense of community in the classroom. Creating opportunities for learner interaction is crucial in online education and can go a long way in learner retention.

In addition to asking icebreaker questions, you can incorporate group projects, discussion boards, or collaborative assignments during class to encourage learners to connect. When learners feel they are in a safe, inclusive environment, they typically get more out of the learning experience, which leads to happier learners and more enjoyable classes. 

Remember, learner interaction not only enhances the learning experience but also helps in building a supportive community.

Tip #6: Keep classes fresh with lots of variety

As an online educator, having a learner walk away with new knowledge is not the only goal. You also want as many learners as possible excited to share what they learned with friends and family. (Word of mouth is a great marketing tool!) To do this, you want to find new ways to keep learners excited about the lessons.

Diversify your lesson plans and assessment methods to cater to different learning styles and preferences. Instead of relying solely on traditional lectures and exams, incorporate a mix of quizzes, essays, presentations, online games, and practical projects. Doing so makes the learning process more engaging and allows learners to showcase their skills in various formats, increasing their sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Tip #7: If scarcity exists, let families know

With the pause feature in recurring weekly classes, families may not always realize they could lose their spot. When a family pauses, consider letting them know how many open spaces are available and that you hope they will return soon. If, by pausing, they open a spot for someone on the waitlist, let them know that as well. 

Let your currently enrolled families know that by pausing it’s likely they’ll lose their spot. Instead, remind families that if they keep their spot they will have access to that week’s recordings and resources. 

Families want to stay informed about classes their learner enjoys and not miss out on future opportunities.

Tip #8: Create bundles

We’ve discussed the benefits of funneling classes before as a strategy for retaining learners, but have you ever thought about bundling your classes with 1-on-1 tutoring? You can do this in a variety of ways!

If you have a new learner who enrolls late to class, reach out to the family with the option to join a 1-on-1 session (or group of sessions) to get them up to speed. For learners that have been with you for a while, but aren’t grasping concepts you’re teaching, share constructive feedback with the family letting them know that you offer help in a 1-on-1 environment. 

Sometimes, you have a learner who knows everything about the topic you’re teaching. If that is the case, let their family know that you would love to have them present to you during a 1-on-1 meeting. Not only will this empower the learner to research the topic further, but it may minimize the number of interruptions during the group class.

Tip #9: Offer a “next class”

Just because a learner doesn’t enjoy learning about one topic you teach, they may really like you as an educator. It may be that they already know the information you’re teaching, it’s too advanced or not advanced enough, or it might be a topic they are not interested in. That’s okay! 

During class, focus on the lesson and ensure you’re engaging with the learners throughout your time together. When sharing feedback with the family, be sure to let them know that you offer other classes that may be a better fit for their learner. 

Keep in mind that learners have different learning styles and comfort levels. Some may enjoy meeting new people each week, while others like working with the same learners for the school year. To combat this, give families multiple options of classes to choose from. Don’t make them have to search for them on their own.  

Tip #10: Think outside the box

Just because everyone else is teaching about the same topic or because it is what is currently trending doesn’t mean you have to too. Consider creating classes around what you know and do best but with a little extra oomph. 

For example, don’t just teach the times tables, turn it into a game using cards, dice, or silly songs. If you teach history, think of ways to incorporate games like Minecraft where learners can build the cities and empires they are learning about. Looking for a new way to help struggling writers? Choose a role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons to get their imagination flowing. The opportunity to create exciting, engaging classes for Outschool learners is wide; you just have to think outside the box.

In the dynamic world of online education, mastering the art of learner retention requires a multifaceted approach. We hope that these 10 tips serve as a comprehensive guide for you with the tools to not only attract learners, but also to retain those you are already teaching.

More from Outschool

How to price your Self-Paced classes

Learn the formula to maximize your passive income opportunity by pricing your Self-Paced classes for success.

The top 10 reasons why you should offer Self-Paced classes

Find out why creating Self-Paced classes is a win-win situation for you and your learners.


Teach on your terms

Set learning free