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Zenva students reveal the secret to completing online courses

Besides creating content for our online courses and tutorials, I also spend a fair amount of time looking at data. If I was teaching in a classroom, it would be easy to see who’s paying attention, who’s bored and which parts of the lectures should be improved, but online educators don’t have that luxury, so we have to rely on data and interviews to improve our content.

On Zenva Academy I can easily see student completion rates for each course and individual progress, and what every online educator is gonna tell you (and if they don’t, they are lying!) is that completion rates are quite low in general in the online education industry.

The students who watch 100% of the material are just a few and I was very curious to know their secrets. How did they manage to do what most people don’t? I take a lot of courses myself and even though I finish some, I left most unfinished.

That’s why we decided to run a survey that was answered by over 300 of our students to discovery their secrets to completing their online courses.

Why completing an online course?

Let’s go one step back. What’s the value in completing an online course? The answer to me is “it depends”. If you enrolled in a course just to learn one thing in particular, you might be ok with just watching the videos that relate to that particular topic and then move on with your project. I treat some courses and some technical books that way.

Some other times, when it’s a topic you really want to become an expert on, watching the entire course will give you obviously more knowledge.

But there is also a psychological aspect to completing a course. Our brains have in-built systems that makes us feel good when we do things that are good for us. If you’ve completed a course (assuming you are happy with what you learned and with the course itself) the feeling of accomplishment is great!

If you’ve never completed an online course I recommend you give it a try and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

So what is the secret to completing online courses?

These are some of the key elements that repeatedly appeared in our survey results. All the responses ended up in two main groups, so we have not one but two secrets!

I hope you find it useful towards completing your courses.

1. Make a Plan

This is a recurring answer. Students who complete their courses make a plan. Some students dedicate 1 hour a day, some others have fixed days of the week or weekend where they work through the lectures.

Time allocation is key. And yes, time is scarce, but you can also make your own time when you plan for something.

Action #1: Grab a weekly planner or calendar and book sessions to work on your course.

Action #2: Enter in your calendar an approximate completion date for the course.

From our students:

Set a schedule for yourself when taking online courses. Maybe and hour or two every couple of days. Follow along with a few parts of the course then practice what you have learned. Then take a break for a day or two and allow you mind to absorb what you have learned. If you are having a hard time understanding something, just give it time. It will come to you eventually. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google is always there to help you as well. The most important thing is…don’t give up! Stick with it! If you give up, you just wasted all that time that you spent and you will regret it.

Make a habit of learning at least 1 LECTURE a day and chose the subject or course which is of your interest

I took the course only when I aimed at completing it. I assigned time for it. So having self-set goals and having attainable goals is very important.

Biggest problem I faced was being distracted, so to overcome that I set scheduled times to study and stuck to it. I guess sticking to it is the harder part, but if it is something you want you will find the time.

It is very important to improve our existing skills  and add new skills to our skill set in todays fast changing industry where technologies/frameworks become outdated in short period of time.Internet has given us the power to learn everything we would like to learn,and most of the times its for please make best use of these resources.With even one hour of time everyday for such online courses,one  can easily learn new technologies.

2. Think of the end goal

Many students that completed a course did so because they really enjoyed what they were learning. Some others did so because they needed the knowledge that was being taught for a particular project or for work.

Sit for a minute and ask yourself, do you really want to complete this course? is it something you enjoy? is it something you need? If you don’t want to complete it, then don’t, but if you do think it’ll be good for you then keep the benefits in mind.

Action #3: Write down the main benefit for you in completing the course: a new job, a new project, a new game. Keep the final goal in your head if the course gets boring.

From some of our students:

I think the number one priority for finishing any course is the need to finish it. I needed my course ASAP as I am doing a project based on the technology that made me finish up quickly.

Think about how you want to use it and play with the supplied code to see if you can make what you want.

It’s really hard to self learning, t’s very difficult i know, but just think about this… right there, in the market, in the streets a lot of people is learning what you dont, and this people, not are genius, not are rich that can afford to not work, they are people like you, the only difference between you and them, it’s very very simple, they want more than they have, do you like your actual situation? If the answer is no, what are you waiting? make the choice to improved to be better and never never give up, because it’s not a problem to going down, the problem is that you stay there and never stand up and walk.

I just make my goals and seek for them. I don’t refuse often I just do it. Because every thing we do has at least a little challenge to us and it makes us getting better.

My intent to finish my own App,… My own project press me to finish

It is very important to improve our existing skills  and add new skills to our skill set in todays fast changing industry where technologies/frameworks become outdated in short period of time.Internet has given us the power to learn everything we would like to learn,and most of the times its for please make best use of these resources.With even one hour of time everyday for such online courses,one  can easily learn new technologies.

Interest..Nothing other than that. If you don’t have interest to do any course please don’t join.

Keep focus in find the real thing you like to do, because our lives depends on that to live and work happily

I finished the course, 100%.. mainly because I needed the info it provided for my upcoming project.. moreover the course is really good

Never get discouraged and once you improve, the world opens up new doors of achievement.


Unlock your certificates on Zenva Academy

Whenever you complete a course on Zenva Academy you are awarded with a PDF certificate that can be verified via URL.


In order to obtain a certificate go to My Courses, then click on “Completed Courses”and “View certificate”. To save the certificate just click “save as” on the View certificate link. You can also share your certificate in LinkedIn by clicking “Share certificate on LinkedIn”. (Note, this will not export it to your Education section in LinkedIn, it will just share it on your wall. We strongly recommend you manually add your completed courses to your Education section in LinkedIn).

 Do you have other tips to finishing online courses? Write it on the commenting area bellow.

Published by

Pablo Farias Navarro

Founder of Zenva - the world's leading platform to learn programming and game development, which features a community of over 400,000 learners.Pablo is also a member of the Intel Software Innovator program in the Asia Pacific Region, and the Oculus Start program, which features upcoming developers and startups in the VR space.

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Greg Malone
Greg Malone

Brilliant assessment and recommendations, Pablo. Learning is both an art and a science, complicated somewhat in that online learning requires extraordinary self motivation and commitment to goals. Keep up this great effort.


I pretty much agree. Your online courses are actually among the first I have actually finished. There is a motivation behind it, but also the level touches right on my offset. Meaning I actually understand the stuff, but with that what I know, it more easily extends what I try to understand. It got me way further into understanding Unity3D and C# than most other courses I have tried (and sometimes paid for as well). Thanks for this great opportunity and I hope I will be able to update this comment in some time saying I grew as a person,… Read more »


Thanks for your comment Mark, it’s great to hear you’ve found the courses helpful so far 🙂 and congrats for completing the basketball one!


Hi im going to opt the python course
But it is just 24hours of video tuts and 12courses included
Does that mean the basic part is not included in the video tutorial
I’d be glad if i can get the whole information on my mail