EdTechIntelAfter years of steadily picking up steam, online learning is experiencing undeniable explosive growth. The market is racing toward $1 trillion, with the corporate e-learning space expected to skyrocket 250% in the coming years. As e-learning continues to expand beyond the walls of academia, another game-changing phenomenon is going mainstream in a big way: artificial intelligence (AI).

AI has dominated headlines in the first five months of 2023. Thanks in no small part to ChatGPT, the AI narrative has shifted from a story about human obsolescence to something a lot more exciting: how AI helps us complete tasks faster and, in many cases, better. Deloitte found that more than 50% of companies will utilize AI and/or automation technologies in 2023. Meanwhile, workers across industries are embracing generative AI. When one Fortune 500 firm paired employees with AI tools, those workers reported more job satisfaction.

It’s difficult to name an industry that won’t be enhanced by AI. That includes e-learning. However, the real innovation is in pairing AI with behavioral science. By doing so, we can understand what truly motivates online learners, build courses optimized for the digital realm and, ultimately, crack the code on the “completion rate problem”—raising the percentage of learners who finish a course from just 3.1% to 65% or more.

That completion rate boost means more ROI for creators, who in 2022 spent $320 billion on courses that 97 of 100 students never finished. Better completion also improves learning outcomes and opens the door to the transformative experiences that students deserve. Read on for six ways that AI and behavioral science are powering the world’s most effective online learning programs.

Using AI and behavioral science to unlock higher engagement and real ROI
Like the online learning market itself, the e-learning AI space is on a tear. Today, AI tools for online learning represent $1 billion in value; by 2030, that number will eclipse $80 billion. But despite that hockey stick growth curve, there’s an even bigger opportunity at play: Pairing AI with behavioral science.

Why the need for behavioral science? Because AI alone isn’t enough to determine what motivates someone to purchase and complete an online course. To answer that question—and solve the “completion rate problem”—the most successful people building AI businesses are leveraging open large language models (LLMs) similar to the ones you find with OpenAI. This is the foundation; the next step is building vertical solutions on top. These LLMs are then trained on aspects such as sentiment analysis and empathy categories. When layered on top of AI, this achieves a vertically integrated solution.

Through this pairing of AI and behavioral science, we’re finally able to optimize courses for completion, delivering real ROI for creators and unlocking unlimited intellectual potential. Here’s how you can leverage this innovation right now to build the world’s best online learning program.

Reduce your risk by aligning with your audience
With completion rates stuck at just 3.1%, brands are seeing incredibly low ROI—that is, if they’re lucky enough to see any at all. This missed potential stems from investing in the wrong curriculum. By leveraging AI and behavioral science, creators can learn what to build before spending a single dollar on course development.

1. Understand what motivates your audience: Whether it’s a student body, a segment of a workforce or a customer base in need of training, it’s critical to understand your audience before creating your course. Today’s AI insight engines help creators take a deep dive into who their learners are as people. The insights go well beyond surface-level demographics. By pairing leading-edge AI with behavioral models, the most effective tools can pinpoint an audience’s ambitions, goals, motivational factors and other forces that impact their likelihood of sticking with a course.

2. Know what to build: The combination of AI and behavioral science is also helping creators design programs aligned with what their end users really want. The most advanced tools can even identify which business models work best in each creator’s industry, category and segment—allowing you to invest in what will deliver real ROI.

Structure your course for completion
Along with alignment, the other component of high-performing online courses is ascension, or a structure that allows students to reach the desired end result. This is another area in which AI and behavioral science are transforming e-learning outcomes.

3. Build an optimally-structured course: A decade of research has taught us that what works in person doesn’t necessarily work online. Thanks to AI tools, there’s no more guesswork—and no more replicating classroom curriculum with the hopes that it’ll deliver the same experience in the digital arena. AI course builders can now identify the precise structure that will boost completion and engagement rates by up to 17X. This paves the way for true ascension.

Optimize completion and course performance
A major benefit of online learning is the ability to continually improve and optimize curriculum. With AI, creators can not only identify friction points but generate optimized content that quickly boosts performance.

4. Analyze performance in real-time: The most effective AI tools are combining behavioral science models with performance data from a creator’s LMS. Using this real-time data, AI can identify friction and drop-off points—and identify key enhancements to boost completion.

5. Optimize content using generative AI: Creating content can be incredibly time-consuming, and more course creators than ever lack an education background. Luckily, generative AI has stepped in to automate content creation. Generative AI tools are now capable of rewriting scripts, editing content and implementing suggestions. The result? Underperforming content can be quickly overhauled and optimized.

6. Prevent learners from heading to Google: Learners often turn to search engines to find answers rather than waiting or revisiting previous sections of a course. We’re seeing the emergence of ChatGPT-like tools designed to curb this dropoff. These in-course chatbots give learners real-time answers based exclusively on an organization’s training data—eliminating the need to run to Google.

The most successful AI startups work directly with Learning and Development Departments to create custom LLMs that consist solely of the creator’s existing content library, training materials and data sets. AI and machine learning tools organize the data, which allows chatbots to provide real-time answers to learners straight from the organization’s content library.

As recently as a few months ago, a course completion rate of 65% was unheard of. So was reaping real ROI from online learning programs. But, with advanced AI tools, these goals aren’t just possible; they’re fully replicable. Through a combination of advanced AI and proprietary behavioral science, e-learning innovators are helping creators build the world’s most powerful online learning courses, certificates and curriculum—the kind that generate real ROI, increase engagement and transform learners by teaching them life-changing skills.


Scott Duffy is an entrepreneur and business strategist. He is the Founder and CEO of Courus, an AI and Machine Learning Platform that helps creators build online courses, improve engagement, and increase ROI. Connect with him at www.courus.ai.