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 #6: There is a prime time for learning too!

For our learners, 11 am is the most popular learning hour followed by 4 pm (data from all learners from January–December 2000).

Lockdowns have had an impact: 4 pm was the peak learning hour from January–March 2020. Post-lockdown, 11 am became the new peak learning hour. Since March, we’ve also seen a significant increase in learning during 6 am–11 am (no-commute and learning with morning tea/breakfast works!). The morning spike dwindles after 11 am till the 4 pm peak.

Lockdowns have had an impact on popular learning days too. Before March, Wednesday was the most active learning day, followed by Tuesday. Since April, Thursdays are the most active, followed by Wednesday. Has the beginning of the week become busier for people while working from home?

Also, the weekend binge is real! Weekend learners spend more time on the platform. Sundays have the highest session duration, followed by Saturday (20–25 minutes). The average session duration on weekdays is about 15 minutes.

Interestingly, while we don't see many learners late at night, people who do burn the midnight oil have longer session durations, like the weekend learners—nearly 25 minutes, compared to 10–15 minutes during the day.

Insight #7: Well begun is half done!

Overall, our learner analytics shows that if you can break through the inertia, friction and barriers, in the beginning, learners are invested in completing the courses, programs and journeys they take on.

In our direct-to-learner segment, learners who have crossed the 25% progress mark on the self-paced courses are 3 times more likely to complete the course and have 28% less chances of dropping out.

Learners who crossed the 50% progress mark are 4 times more likely to complete a course and have 49% less chances of dropping out.

Our enterprise and campus learners show similar trends. Eighty percent of learners who got past the second module (20–25% progress) are more likely to complete the entire course. Ninety percent of learners who get halfway through the course (50% progress) go on to complete the entire course.

We learned that we need to focus on getting them started and started well. If educators can help trigger motivation, buy-in and the right behaviors at the beginning of the journey, and anticipate the challenges learners go through at that time, we can set the stage for high completion rates.

Insight #8: Slow and steady never goes out of style

The key benefit of self-paced courses is the autonomy learners have: courses can be completed in concentrated bursts, in oft-nudged long saunters with long breaks and a smooth, episodic rhythm over the first 4 weeks.

While we give unlimited access to our courses for 12 months, we do recommend an ideal path: try to complete a 4/6 hour course over a month, by clocking in 45 minutes a week, or so.

Some interesting results have emerged. Learners who take 2–3 weeks (spread over 8–10 sessions) to complete a course perform better on their skill scores. As the number of days taken increases, so do skill scores, peaking at 64% in week 3. It decreases thereafter. Learners who complete a course in 3–4 weeks are also more engaged, whether it’s using more features on the product, chatting with our learning managers or responding to our nudges.

The number of sessions also influences skill scores. Learners with high skill scores take about 8–9 sessions as opposed to learners who ‘binge’.

We’ve seen that our binge learners have both lower scores and lower engagement levels—learners who completed the course within 72 hours of starting it performed the weakest.

Insight #9: Communication and thinking skills are the most in-demand

In our direct-to-learner segment, Speaking Effectively, one of the 25 cognitive, social and behavioral skills, in our curriculum, has clearly emerged to be the most in-demand course. In the direct-to-learner segment alone, more than 7,000 unique learners have paid and enrolled in the course in the last three months, followed by Thinking Critically. Of course, this is also a function of our early hypothesis that impactful speaking is an acutely felt pain point for professional and personal success and would appeal to a wide range of learners.

Beyond these two courses, which have had the additional benefit of our active marketing push, three other courses have emerged as the clear frontrunners in terms of the trials they attract. These are Leading Self (another course from my favorite Habit, LEAD), Unleashing Creativity and Writing Proficiently.

Personal leadership, creativity and good writing are powerful skills, and we are excited that there is a growing intrinsic pull for them!

A Business Wire report in May found that there was a 606% increase in demand for online courses on communication in 2020, and we are definitely seeing that at Harappa.

Insight#10: Career services is an acutely felt pain

In our work with higher education institutions, we’ve found that from all the offerings we have had from Year 1 to final year, it’s our Placement Readiness Program that really stands out for students. This is not surprising: getting the right job with a good salary is top-of-mind for most students.

A recent survey we conducted with students aged 18–25 years from 13 different fields of study, across Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, gave us more to chew on—and work towards!

  1. Earning their own money and learning new skills is what graduates look forward to most after college

  1. Nearly half of all students lack direction, with almost zero clarity on the role, industry and company they aspire for (surprising given how many jobs feature in their dreams and conversations!)

  1. Ninety-eight percent of students believe career services are key yet only 44% are satisfied with career services available to them

  2. Industry exposure, interview prep and networking are the career services students want the most

We've reached the halfway point of #TheFirstLearners! Sharing the insights has made me get to know our learners, all over again. I do hope it's been interesting, and useful, for you!

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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