A significant percentage of students engage in the course for social reasons and do not plan to do all the work required to finish. Some are drawn by the fame of the professor or are intrigued by the course topic. They might want to find out what all the fuss is about. Others know a thing or two about the topic and want to clean up some blind spots they have or dig into only a part of the course.
Most reports about online courses have focused on the percentage of students completing a course compared to how many signed up at the beginning.
Regardless of the reasons students take a course, they follow a few identifiable trajectories. Only a small percentage of students stay “on track” with each lesson to complete a course. Staying on track requires a student to digest both the video lecture materials and suggested readings while performing the quizzes and other assignments on time. Many students who complete a course fall behind at times or miss assignments along the way.
Either way, completing the course merits respect if not credit. Certificates of completion are worn as badges of honor and have led directly to jobs for some students.