The reason I've been able to #BEAT2020 is the progress we’ve made at Harappa this year. What's been most exciting is the many insights we have gained about our learners–and about online learning itself! I’m sharing 20 insights to close out 2020 in a series called #TheFirstLearners, a nod to the year when so many became online learners for the first time.

Insight#1: Motivation takes you only so far, nudges do the rest

Our “Nudge” engine has been one of our biggest achievements of 2020. A combination of marketing copy, behavioral communication and psychology-rich creatives, our “nudges” prompt the right behaviors, constantly urging learners to continue their learning.

We’ve found that learners who open nudges are 0.6 times more likely to finish a course. Further, learners who consistently open nudge emails (like those who open 2 out of every 3 emails) have a 2.5 times higher chance of completing the course within 15 days.

The best times to send nudges are Friday, 11 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm; followed by Thursday 4 pm to 5 pm, and Wednesday 5 pm to 6 pm.

Nudges that promise a Reward work well – reward nudges facilitate 0.8 times more completions than other nudges. Also, receiving personalized nudges has a positive impact on total learning time, satisfaction scores and performance scores.

Insight#2: Indian professionals value social proof

As part of the ‘Nudge’ engine we have created, we send out reminders, designed on behavior science principles, to help learners progress. One such cohort-wide nudge is the Honor Roll sent out to congratulate learners who have completed the course that week. It’s based on the principle of ‘social proof’, and it works like a charm:

1. Honor Roll nudges consistently have a 43% higher open rate than others

2. Honor Roll nudges influence learner progress 5 times more than the average learner progress, post other nudges

3. Honor Roll nudges prompt most responses from our learners: 15% write back to ask why their name isn’t included and initiate conversations with our learning managers to understand what they can do to be in the next Honor Roll. Of those who find their names, 1 in 4 write back to say ‘thank you’—the most ‘thank yous’ per email.

Insight#3: Lifelong learning is for real: don’t assume who wants to learn what!

The pandemic prompted Harappa to launch our direct-to-learner segment. In the last 6 months, we’ve learned so much—most importantly, to not assume who wants to learn what, when and at what stage of their life and career.

In the direct-to-learner segment, 57% of learners who enrolled for our Speaking Effectively course are in the 35–54 age group. Sixty percent of learners enrolled in the Thinking Critically course are between 35–54 years too. Our learners come from all walks of life: teachers, data science professionals, government administrators, first-time entrepreneurs and senior corporate managers.

Interestingly, learners in the 35–54-year-old category complete courses faster, irrespective of the length or duration of the course. They take 3 days compared to the average of 8–11 days for learners between ages 25–34.

Forty percent of the conversations with learners in the age group of 35–54 is about them requesting additional resources. To compare, only 7% of younger learners ask for additional materials. Further, 18% of learners between 35–54 re-watched course videos after completing the course, compared to the average of approximately 2% of overall learners who re-watch videos after completing a course.

Insight 4: People do want to learn resilience. Really!

This one is a personal favorite. On March 17 (a week before India’s lockdown), Harappa Education made the Embracing Change course free for everyone. As we entered a prolonged period of panic and uncertainty, many of our lives were poised to change in ways we’d never anticipated. It was only right to give the world a tool to navigate whatever 2020 would bring in—and to not keep it behind a paywall.

Since then, the course has given a vocabulary to decode and deconstruct these difficult times to more than 175,000 learners. Around 10,000 people have learned about failures and setbacks, and are building grit and resilience to navigate them every day.

But the most satisfying part has been watching my friends and peers turn to it in their most difficult times. It's helped them navigate career changes, handle college rejections, deal with extreme work schedules and cope with death. It has made them pick themselves up on days when no one ‘sees’ their struggles and no length of video calls and words of encouragement comfort them.

Here’s to the hope that this course finds a place in the lives of many more learners. And those who’ve already studied it, go on to teach it to many others.

Insight #5: Learners still care about ‘marks’!

I consider online learners of today to be early adopters of a new technology. Usually, early adopters are rebels-at-heart, excited by new frontiers and new futures. But, even the most future-forward of us have been shaped by our past.

This is most evident to us Harappa when it comes to assessments—and ‘scores’! More than anything on any other part of the learning journey, learners are highly invested in the feedback layer on the practice and assessment segments in our courses. Their engagement, probably because it leads to their scores, is highest at these points.

Encouragingly, they also ask for qualitative feedback, discuss the scores they have got and debate answers they got wrong!

In our campus and enterprise segments, three out of every 11 queries from existing learners are about details on why one of their answers has been marked wrong! Four out of every 9 queries on open-ended questions ask for more details on the feedback or a conversation to understand why a specific framework was applied to our correct answer. One out of every 16 queries is about a re-evaluation of scores.

Read the next set of insights here.

Shreyasi Singh is the Founder & CEO of Harappa Education. She is committed to building and shaping initiatives that address India's massive education challenges, at scale.

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