How to Design Excellent Onboarding Experiences for New Students

First impressions are everything.

The first experiences your students have after signing up for your course are a make-or-break situation.

If their excitement of joining your course turns to confusion, overwhelm or disappointment when they get started, then the chances of dropout runs high.

As a course creator, your job is more than giving your students “the goods,” as in lessons and info.

You are an experience designer.

Your onboarding process is one of the most important parts of your student’s learning journey.

It is also one of the most overlooked and underrated parts of most courses.

Having those first steps be inspiring and engaging is crucial.

It sets the stage for the journey to come.

Put more thought, intention and care into guiding your students’ onboarding experience, and you’ll increase the likelihood of student success and engagement.

What to include in your student onboarding experience

1. Make them feel welcome. You want them to know that they made the right choice when paying you money. Make them feel seen. Take them under your wing and keep their excitement high. At the same time, tell them the honest to goodness truth on what to expect, what will be required to succeed and how to get the most from your course.

2. Give them a tour and show them know how to use it. Just because you know how your course works, doesn’t mean anybody else will. If somebody doesn’t know where your lessons are or how your community works, they’re much less likely to participate.

3. Have them introduce themselves and share their intentions (motivations/why) for doing your course. We recommend all courses have a community component. Having your students share in the community forum will make them feel more accountable to show up and do the work. It also sparks inspiration and courage in others to participate too.

Things to consider

1. Only deliver one action step at a time. Don’t have them go make their profile, introduce themselves, do their first progress log and take the community forum tour all in one video or page. Break those up into mini steps so that it’s easy and doable. Mini successes keep people coming back for more. Overwhelm doesn’t.

2. Keep the onboarding videos short and sweet. Don’t blab on and on. We recommend writing a script so you stay on track. You should also find a way to keep the onboarding experience enjoyable, entertaining and exciting. This is a new chapter in their life, remind them of why that’s awesome.

3. If your course has a theme, then this is your chance to bring them into this new world. In The Great eCourse Adventure, we’re all about giving your course a theme to help bring it to life. Your onboarding experience is their first taste of the story and journey you’re enrolling them in. Give them a memorable taste of what’s to come.

Our onboarding upgrade

We are currently going through an onboarding upgrade of our own, which is why we’re writing about the topic here.

In contrast to what I’ve shared up above, our previous onboarding process for the Great eCourse Adventure was all located on one page. It had too many calls-to-action. It didn’t teleport you to your rightful place on the mountain. It was in need of an upgrade.

The new one we’re working on will be a 4-part onboarding experience.

The Four Onboarding Videos

I’m still working out the scripts and storyboards, but have a pretty clear idea. Here’s how our new onboarding experience will be laid out.

Video 1: Ranger Boss Lady welcomes you to the adventure. She lets you know you’re in the right place, gives you a sense of the wild journey you’re about to embark upon and lets you know that the next few videos are prerequisites for starting the adventure. She then gives you a clear action step, which is to go create your profile so you’ll be recognized if you don’t make it off the mountain… alive.

Video 2: Ranger Boss Lady talks about the importance of community. She gives you a sentimental speech on the power of the group climbing the mountain together (in Ranger Bossy Lady style, fashion and flare). Your call to action is to introduce yourself at the campfire (forum) to your fellow adventurers. Bonus bajillion if you do it on video.

Video 3: Hubert takes you on a magical rowboat ride to Basecamp. This old timer has been around the mountain for quite some time. On the way to Basecamp he tells you straight up what to expect from the journey, how to get the most out of it and lays the path in front of you. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He also mentions the power of keeping a journal through the process. He leaves you with a call to action to go enter your first Progress Log in the campfire (forum) to start your journey off.

Video 4: Brad & Andy welcome you to the community campfire. We give you a tour of the community forum and platform so you know where you’re going and how to navigate the new world. Your call to action at the end of the tour is to head over to Basecamp and begin your ascent to Launch Summit.

Final thoughts

Each of these videos will be well thought out and scripted. Though we’re aiming to pack a lot into them, the goal is to keep them super interesting and under 2.5 minutes. We want to keep people excited and moving forward.

I hope our learning process helps your learning process.

If you get something good from this article, let us know what it is. We’d love to hear from you!

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