The high drop-out rate in online courses is a well-known industry problem: Following an online course until the end, no matter how interesting it may be, requires discipline and good time management, which makes many people quit the course early. At iversity, we worked a lot on solving this issue through UX, but only when we started producing courses ourselves, we could address the problem from all angles.

In 2016 we started working on a course on agile management together with Safari Consulting, an innovation consultancy from Mainz, Germany. Having written my master‘s thesis on the hero‘ s journey, I was familiar with the “secret pattern” that is used in Hollywood to make movies exciting and successful, and I suggested to apply this pattern to this online course as an experiment to see whether this would increase the retention rate.

Instructional Design

While in regular courses the expert talks “down” to the learner from a “know-it-all-position”, we wanted to send the learners on a journey and allow them to explore the topic themselves, guided by an expert that acts as a mentor. With our in-house production team we crafted an experience concept that would approach this objective on two levels:

The course videos would tell a fictional story of a protagonist who is facing a challenge that our learners potentially know from their own work lives. The instructional design would be crafted around a project that the learners have to complete throughout the course by applying the exact same methods that the protagonist has learned. Each course module would contain assignments that build up to a coherent case study throughout the course. The results would be shared across the learner community and could be discussed among peers.

The Plot

Marc is a product manager in an average bluechip company. He just screwed up a huge innovaton project and got one last chance to fix it before the board will shut down his department. Being exhausted and desperate, he takes a rest at a lonely hotel in the countryside, where he meets Stefan, an innovation consultant who is there to prepare for a seminar.

Stefan starts to coach Marc on agile business development and shows him a way out of his innovation nightmare. Together they spend some very productive days walking step by step through an agile sample project on autonomous driving and thereby prepare Marc for the application of agile principles in real life.


“Agile Management” was based on the assumption that a course with a storyline and a project-based instructional design would perform better in terms of user engagement and activity than courses without a narrative and with isolated assignments.

Comparing the engagement numbers of “Agile” with those of a more conventional management course with good qualitative learner feedback, we found that in “Agile” the en- gagement rate for content consumtion was about twice as high, the learner activity in assignments and excercises was even four times higher than in the course with a conventional concept.

Also our concerns, a fictional narrative might not be accepted by corporate learners proved to be wrong. »Agile« was well accepted even by bluechip companies and became the most successful iversity course in terms of user engagement and learner feedback.

Role: Product Lead
Year: 2016– 2017