When I was 27 and a stay at home mum,  I signed up for a distance learning degree. All went well until I got hit by post-natal depression. I kept pushing through, determined to keep going.

One day I received back an assignment I’d worked really hard on. The mark  was 15% lower than I’d expected, and had only one comment: The student needs to work harder at mastering the content.  

I was enraged. Here I was, short of sleep and up to my elbows in baby vomit  and the lecturer couldn’t be bothered to turn back two pages to check up my name. I was simply ‘the student.’  I gave up the course soon after that.

It’s been the same with every online course I’ve ever signed up for too. I’ve bought Udemy courses –  and although I start them, I never finish. ☹ I’ve bought short courses from Daily Om and never even opened them. In a rush of January enthusiasm, I bought a subscription to Masterclass, and haven’t gone beyond the second lecture in any of them, even though they look so interesting.

It’s not just me. 90% of people who begin a Mooc drop out. The average completion rate for most paid online courses hovers around 50%. That’s a hellofa lot of wasted potential.

If you’re a focused, goal driven person you probably have a better chance of completing an online course as you’re racing against yourself. But if you’re not goal driven, or if you’re ADD as I am, it’s so easy to get distracted and to push it to the back burner. You’re getting useful information, but in a world full of information, this is often not enough to lure you back. You need to be fed with energy to keep you engaged and motivated. But where to get this energy?


Maya Angelou — ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

My University lecturer made me feel like just nothing more than a string of numbers on front of a file. What I wanted from him was a sense of connection. I wanted to know he was supporting me and was  invested in seeing me complete my degree. I wanted to feel seen.

From this experience I’ve learned that if I want my students to complete the courses I teach online, I have to build a relationship with each one.

I have to work at not just building trust and connection, but at giving them an infusion of creative energy to power them through the next section.

I don’t always get it right, but when I do it almost invariably guarantees that the student finishes their course. I have a high completion rate – over 80% of the students on my 5 month Basics of Creative Writing course complete it in the required time.

We’re starved for real connections in the online and the real world. Creating them is the most important part of my job.



Tagged: connection between teacher and student, Maya Angelou, online courses, teaching online

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