Free email templates to simplify communication with your students.

Author Archives: Brian Rahill

About Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.
  1. How to Build an Email List for Effective Email Marketing

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    How to build an email list is one of the great puzzles of marketing. You know you need one because everyone keeps talking about how effective email marketing is. Yet, you know from your own experience how crowded people’s inboxes have become. Under these conditions, convincing people to give you their email address seems like a big task. 

    Email is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to market your classes.

    Fortunately, building an email list can be easier than it looks. Your learners and prospective learners want to hear about upcoming classes and new programs, so you’re actually doing them a favor by giving them a chance to put themselves on the list. Let’s explore how to build an email list for effective email marketing.

    Why Learn How to Build an Email List

    Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to increase enrollment and build your program. Here’s why: 

    Email marketing is cost-effective

    Email newsletter programs, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, let you send emails for a small monthly fee. CourseStorm Core plan customers get marketing emails built in. 

    Reach your audience directly. 

    People opt in to your email list because they’re interested in what you have to offer. You can reach them directly and without worrying whether an algorithm will choose to feature your content.

    Offer seamless class registration. 

    A link in your email can take recipients directly to your course catalog or registration page. They can take action right away. This creates a seamless process for registrants and helps you keep classes full. 

    You own your list. 

    Most importantly, your email list belongs to you, not to the platform. If your social media account is compromised or advertising costs suddenly increase, you may lose access to your audience. Not so with email. Your contact list belongs to you, and you can keep your contacts if you switch to another email service provider.

    Infographic: How to build an email list

    How to Build an Email List: 5 Strategies

    Of course, actually building the list is the hard part. You might be starting with just a couple of hundred contacts, or none at all. Here are 5 simple strategies that can help build your email list. 

    1. Ask for an email on every form. Whether they’re using an online form or a paper copy, include an email address field on every form you ask students to fill out. Most students will be happy to share this information so they can get updates about their class. 

    2. Put an opt-in on your website. People interested enough to visit your website may want to hear more from you in the future. Add a banner, pop-up, or embedded form to collect their email addresses so you can stay in touch.

    3. Offer a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a useful resource that you offer in exchange for someone’s email. It should be something closely related to what you teach. For example, we offer a downloadable pack of email templates to simplify course communication.

    4. Publish a blog or newsletter. Sharing useful content in the form of a blog or newsletter can encourage people to sign up for your mailing list. They may be willing to subscribe to make sure they never miss an update.

    5. Ask for emails during conversations. Get in the habit of asking for an email address whenever anyone calls or walks into your organization.

    You can automate some of this data collection with CourseStorm. Our online registration system automatically collects an email address from every registrant so you can send emails to people in a specific class, or your entire email list. 

    Email List Maintenance: The Care and Keeping of Contacts

    Having someone’s email address is a responsibility. Learners and community members have entrusted you with their personal information. If you protect it and use it wisely, you’ll build trust. But, if you abuse the privilege, people will stop opening your emails or even block you as spam. 

    Follow a few best practices to keep the contacts you have on your list. 

    1. Get permission to add someone to your list. Asking first makes your emails less likely to be marked as spam.

    2. Write useful and interesting emails. People are more likely to read, and share, quality content.

    3. Craft compelling subject lines. Interesting subject lines help your email stand out in a crowded inbox.

    4. Personalize campaigns with name and class information. Something as simple as adding the recipient’s name to the subject can make an email feel more personal.

    5. Match emails to learner interests. Use tags and groups to organize your email list so you can easily send relevant emails.

    6. Remove inactive subscribers. If people aren’t reading or opening your emails, remove them from the list. This saves you money on email service providers and helps you focus on active list members.

    7. Make it easy to unsubscribe. Include a simple button or link that lets people opt out so they don’t have to block your emails as spam. 

    8. Send special offers only for people on the list. Make contacts feel special by offering early bird registration, sharing discount codes, or sending news out by email before it hits social media.

    9. Invite feedback and two-way communication. Questions, surveys, and other invitations to share feedback can help email feel like a conversation your audience is happy to continue.

    What to Do After You Build an Email List

    Many organizations use email lists for marketing. That could include nurturing relationships with both potential and former students. Think about what these different audiences might be interested in and create content with them in mind. 

    CourseStorm customers at the Core features level and above have access to automated class recommendation emails that notify learners of upcoming classes they might find interesting. You can also set up automatic enrollment warning emails when a class is almost full or in danger of being canceled. 

    If you want to explore other ways to communicate with students through email, these 5 email templates will help you engage students and make the most of your email list.

  2. Why Students Love It When You Offer Payment Plans for Classes

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    These days it seems like pretty much everyone is offering payment plans. Whether you need a new water heater for your home or just want a trendy new sweater, payment plans help make purchases possible. If your organization offers big-ticket courses that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, it might be time to consider offering payment plans to students. 

    Payment plans make it easier for students to afford professional credentials, certifications, camps, trips, and long-term enrichment programs. They can register now, rather than waiting to save up the full purchase price. And modern technology means that setting up payment plans can be easy for organizations too! 

    Why Offer Payment Plans to Customers?

    You may not think of your learners as “customers” but during the registration process, that’s exactly what they are. They’re shopping for a good or service, in this case an educational experience or credential. Your job is to make it easy for them to make the purchase that fits their needs. 

    Your students don’t want to miss out on classes just because they don’t have the full purchase price in their pocket right now. Payment plans allow your students to take the classes they need when they need them. 

    Offering payment plans for higher priced classes allows students to register when they want to, rather than when they have the full fee in hand. And it shows you care about your students.

    The result is that students choose the right time to take your classes based on their needs, not their bank balance. Classes offer learners an opportunity to enrich their life and even advance their careers. Those are opportunities that should be available to as many people as possible. 

    Yet, many people have experienced new financial stresses under the uncertainty of the last few years. Costs are increasing everywhere and budgets are tighter. Your students and your organization both feel that pinch. You may even need to raise prices to meet new circumstances. Offering payment plans can help smooth this transition.

    Setting up installment plans shows you care for students. You understand that everyone has different financial circumstances, and you want to be inclusive. It acknowledges the financial pressures some learners face, and shows that your organization will treat learners with respect. That makes your organization look good, even to students who don’t need a payment plan right now. 

    The Benefits of Offering Payment Plans

    Offering payment plans can seem like a new administrative burden. But the right technology makes it easy. Besides, this flexibility brings some real benefits to your organization. 

    1. Offer higher-priced classes with less risk. Often, big-ticket classes are more costly to produce. You may need to retain instructors with specialized skills, pay to maintain licenses and accreditation, get special insurance, or provide facilities and equipment over the long term. Setting all this up is a financial risk for your organization, but payment plans keep money flowing month after month.

    2. Gauge level of interest. It’s sometimes hard to tell why registrations are lower than expected for a specific class. Are students just not interested, or is the price scaring them away? Payment plans help remove some of the price burden so you can more easily gauge interest.

    3. Register more students. Spacing out payments makes classes more affordable since students don’t have to come up with a lump sum. That means you may get more registrations and be able to reduce class cancellations

    How to Avoid Potential Drawbacks of Installment Plans

    The obvious danger with payment plans is that a student will fail to pay the whole amount. One way to avoid this problem is by setting up the plan so that the full amount is due before the class starts. Learners can hold their seat with a deposit, but must pay in full before the start date. For longer-term classes, you can spread the payments out a little more, but still require full payment before the end of the class. 

    CourseStorm does not charge any additional fees for payment plans, to students or programs.

    Depending on your payment processor, you can sometimes incur additional costs for taking payments in installments. Make sure you ask about any payment fees or administrative charges before offering payment plans to students. CourseStorm does not charge any additional fees for payment plans. There is no cost difference to students between courses paid in full in advance or on payment plans.

    Setting up and administering payment plans can be labor intensive, unless you have the right tools in place. Many organizations never take the plunge because they think set-up will be difficult and they dread the administrative complication. Fortunately, unless you’re still using manual spreadsheets and mailed checks to handle registrations, those problems should be a thing of the past. 

    How to Offer Payment Plans and Never Miss a Payment

    Ideally, your registration system has built-in payment processing. The best course registration and payment tools also have payment plans built in, so students automatically get charged when a payment is due.

    Adding a payment plan in CourseStorm

    At CourseStorm, payment plans are built-in and easy to use. We manage all the technical details for you so you get consistent automatic payments. For any class that costs more than $100, you’ll see a handy button that lets you configure payment plans for that class. You can have different plans for different classes or choose not to offer the option at all.

    When students register, they can opt to pay the full amount upfront, or sign up for automatic charges. The system will auto-schedule payments based on the time left between registration and the date the registration must be fully paid off. 

    You can even set up custom payment schedules if you have a student in special circumstances. This kind of flexibility means you can work with students to meet their unique needs and help overcome hardships that might otherwise prevent them from registering. 

    You Know Your Students Best

    Payment plans are increasingly common for educational programs, and many customers have come to expect them as an option for higher-priced opportunities. 

    Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you offer payment plans. Whatever you decide, we’ve made it easy by integrating them directly into CourseStorm’s class registration and payment software. For more on how CourseStorm works, or to experience our surprisingly simple registration software for yourself, start your free trial today. 

  3. How the Right Enrollment Tool Can Save You Time and Effort

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    You wouldn’t use a hammer to try to cut a board. Instead, you’d reach for a saw because it’s the right tool for the job. The same is true when you’re registering students for classes. You need an enrollment tool that can get the job done. 

    Some education providers reach for what’s familiar. They use Excel Surveys or Google Forms to gather information and populate spreadsheets. Those tools are fine if you have plenty of time and energy to spare. Just like a handsaw would be fine if you only had one board to cut. 

    But if you need to work at volume, you can save time and effort by grabbing a power tool. Just as a circular saw can speed up your carpentry project, CourseStorm’s automated student registration software can streamline enrollments. 

    What You Need From an Enrollment Tool

    You need information to register a student for your class. Most education providers use some sort of form to collect that data. Once you have it, you need to transfer it to your database so you can manage classes and track attendance and payments. 

    Your enrollment tool should include a registration form and payment processing to create a seamless experience for the student.

    Speaking of payments, modern students expect to be able to register and pay entirely online. So your enrollment tool should include both a registration form and a payment processing tool. Ideally, those two are integrated to create a seamless experience for the student. 

    Course management is challenging enough without having to juggle dozens of paper registration forms and spend hours entering data into a spreadsheet. You certainly don’t want to miss registrations because students have to mail in payment or turn a student away because they haven’t paid by the class date. 

    While both Excel Surveys and Google Forms can help you collect information, they’re less helpful when it comes to payment processing. Let’s take a closer look at how these tools compare. 

    Enrollment Tool Comparison Chart: Excel vs Google Forms vs CourseStorm

    Excel Surveys as Enrollment Tools

    Some organizations choose Excel Surveys because they’re already familiar with Excel and feel comfortable with the software. Plus, there’s no extra fee for Surveys if you already use Microsoft 365, which includes Excel. 

    Basically, organizations create a survey form with question fields. They then share the link to the survey with prospective students. The information automatically fills an Excel spreadsheet as attendees fill out and submit the form.

    This all sounds straightforward, but you run into problems when it comes to taking payment. There’s no integrated payment option. So you’ll need to send your students to a third-party site to finish registration, which means you may need to manually match registrations with payments. 

    Healthcare organizations should be aware that Excel Surveys and Google Forms are not HIPAA compliant, whereas CourseStorm is.

    The forms also aren’t very mobile friendly, which can disrupt the student experience. And be careful if you are a healthcare organization subject to HIPAA or other privacy standards. This method is not HIPAA compliant. 

    Your ability to manipulate the data once you have it will depend on your level of skill with Excel. If you’re already an Excel pro, graphs and reporting might be easy. Everyone else will face a steep learning curve. 

    Subscriptions to Microsoft 365 start at $8.25 per user per month; discounted plans are available for nonprofits

    Google Forms for Enrollment

    Google Forms is another solution you might choose because it’s familiar. Organizations that already use Google for internal email and word processing might try Google Forms for registration. The good news is that Google Forms is somewhat smoother than Excel Surveys and has some added tools that make it easier to manage your registration information.

    You still get shareable links, customizable survey fields, and cloud storage. You can also view charts and graphs in real time without any special effort. 

    Once again, payments are a challenge. You’ll need to link to a third-party payment service. This takes users away from your form and onto another website. 

    Like Excel, Google is not automatically HIPAA compliant. Organizations that need this level of security may have some extra work to do (and money to spend) to abide by privacy regulations. Access to support is limited and mostly involves community message boards. 

    Google Forms are part of the Google Workspace suite, which is free for nonprofits and individuals. For-profit businesses pay around $12 per month. 

    CourseStorm, the Integrated Solution

    CourseStorm’s online class registration software is specifically designed to support education businesses by combining registration and payment processes into a single tool. It streamlines the way you handle registration by providing an easy-to-use, customizable, secure, and comprehensive registration and payment system. CourseStorm’s software can integrate with your existing website and connect with Zapier to streamline automations. 

    The fully customizable registration and payment forms are secure and HIPAA compliant. They keep all of a student’s information together, even offering group registration for families or friends taking classes together. 

    Before CourseStorm, Westside Christian Academy spent 40+ hours manually pulling data and creating Excel spreadsheets for their summer camp registration.

    Westside Christian Academy in Westlake, Ohio, chose CourseStorm to save them time with registration for their summer camps. Last year their executive director spent 40+ hours manually pulling data and creating Excel spreadsheets. She is thrilled to have CourseStorm to make the process easier. “It’s beautiful—it’s like it’s made for me!” she said.

    You can share your registration form with parents or students as a link or embed it on your website. Plus, integrated email marketing lets you easily communicate with registrants. Both you and your students get automatic notifications about low and nearly full classes so you can cancel fewer classes. Automatic waiting lists help keep classes full. 

    All that for no setup or monthly fees—just a small per-student registration fee. CourseStorm is easy to use, but if you do need help, our customer support team is here for you. 

    Choose the Right Enrollment Tool

    Whatever method you choose, automating class enrollment saves your staff time and effort. Students appreciate the easy process and take more classes, and your staff is free to focus on more important things, like growing your program. In fact, CourseStorm customers enjoy an average 18% increase in enrollment the first year, and 15% each consecutive year that they use our impossibly simple class registration software.

    Want to see first-hand how CourseStorm automates the registration and payment process? Schedule a demo, or contact us to learn more.

  4. 6 Benefits of Enrichment Classes for All Ages

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    Education doesn’t stop when the school bell rings or when graduation is over. In fact, everyone is constantly learning, whether that’s through a formal class or informal exploration. People who take a lifelong learning approach to life may seek out enrichment classes for personal growth, to build new skills, or connect with others in their community. 

    What are enrichment classes? Typically non-credit, they can cater to any age or interest of learners in your local community.

    What are enrichment classes? Afterschool programs, adult ed classes, workshops at your local makerspace, lectures at a senior center, and educational offerings at a theater or museum can all be considered enrichment programs. Enrichment classes are non-credit and typically outside of core subjects like math and reading. They can cater to any age or interest; the common theme is that the majority of learners come from the local community. 

    Below, we explore 6 benefits of enrichment classes that community education programs can use in their marketing campaigns, to encourage donations, or to inspire your team by reminding them that they’re doing important work.

    Benefits of Enrichment Programs for Your Community

    Are you wondering why is enrichment important for students? Enrichment classes fill needs that for-credit courses and other educational programming just can’t. Enrichment classes also strengthen your community and your organization’s place within it. Here are 6 ways enrichment classes benefit learners and communities.

    Top 3 Benefits of Enrichment Classes: Connection, Community, and Confidence

    1. Connect people who might not meet otherwise

    Enrichment classes have an amazing way of bringing people together. They might be students with different majors who would never cross paths otherwise, or they could be members of your wider community who work in different areas. Bringing these people together enriches everyone. It leads to lateral thinking, unconventional partnerships, and a sense of community connection.

    An innovative program at the University of Texas at Austin called Lifelong Learning With Friends gives adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities access to the university experience through stimulating and fun post-secondary education opportunities. “Reverse inclusion” means that neurotypical UT college students learn alongside their neurodiverse peers.

    2. Claim your place within a wider community

    Enrichment classes also help your program build relationships with the wider community. When people in the community depend on your program as a source of education, they have tangible examples of the value you offer to the community. This makes them more likely to support, donate, and lobby on your behalf. 

    Many community colleges have begun offering non-degree credentials that address the needs of local employers and industries. Forming partnerships with local businesses is a win everyone: the educational institution, learners, and the community. 

    3. Improve soft skills and confidence

    Many learners are focused on how education can help them find a new job or earn a raise in their current one. But technical classes aren’t the only way to do that. Enrichment courses help learners improve soft skills. From creativity to communication, problem-solving to public speaking, enrichment classes present fun challenges that help learners improve their skills. 

    Lifelong learning has been shown to boost confidence and build soft skills like creativity and communication. 

    Learners don’t leave these skills in the classroom. They bring them out into the community. Plus, lifelong learning has been shown to boost confidence and self-esteem. It also gives people hope and purpose, which can help them face the stressors of life.

    4. Prevent the dreaded “brain drain”

    Enrichment classes can keep kids from backsliding during summer breaks. Research has shown that kids can lose an average of 20-27% of their school-year gains during summer vacation. Keeping them engaged and learning can help prevent some of these losses.  

    The same principle can help seniors in retirement. Research has shown that seniors can improve their cognitive health by learning something new. It’s more effective than just socializing. So your enrichment program can benefit both the oldest and youngest members of your community.

    5. Give every learner the chance to shine

    Traditional academic subjects may not be everyone’s idea of a good time. Students who struggle with math or reading may excel in classes focused on arts or performance. Those who hate sitting through a whole class period may blossom in a dance or gymnastics class. Offering a variety of types of classes invites more people into your learning community. Encouraging a more diverse community benefits everyone

    To get a better understanding of the different kinds of learning and where your program fits in, check out our free resource, A Complete Guide to Types of Learning and Why We Need Them All.

    6. Bring in new students and keep existing students engaged

    If your organization offers for-credit courses or diplomas, enrichment classes can serve as a lead magnet for these higher-investment programs. They give students a fun and accessible way to experience your program. Even offering a free course can pay off in the long run. 

    Offering enrichment classes can keep students engaged and attract new learners between sessions or semesters of for-credit courses.

    Engagement leads to enrollment. If your organization offers semester-based learning or seasonal programs, you probably experience some enrollment melt between sessions. Offering enrichment classes can keep students engaged during the off-season so they’re more likely to re-enroll during the regular term. 

    Use These Benefits of Enrichment Classes in Marketing

    Knowing the benefits of enrichment classes is one thing. Spreading the word about them is another. Help learners and community members see the value of your program by talking about these benefits. Not only could it help you sell more classes, it can also show your commitment to the community. 

    Of course, none of the benefits of enrichment classes can be realized until students enroll. Make registering for your enrichment classes easy with our impossibly simple registration software. We offer everything you need to register students, manage class rosters, and keep students engaged with your program. Start your free trial or contact us today.

  5. 4 Easy Ways to Integrate Your Website With CourseStorm

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    You worked hard to create a website your organization can be proud of. It displays your brand colors, shows off your logo, and strikes just the right tone with your audience. The good news is all of that can remain in place when you become a CourseStorm customer, thanks to website integrations that allow you to seamlessly move students from your site to your CourseStorm-hosted class catalog. 

    Website integrations let you give up the burden of dealing with course registrations and financial transactions, but keep the benefits of a branded site that students instantly recognize as yours. They make course registration seamless for students and simple for you. Before we share the five easy ways to integrate your website with CourseStorm, let’s talk about how integrations can simplify the registration process.Read more

  6. What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy and How Can It Improve Your Classes?

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    As an instructor, your main goal is to help students learn. That may sound simple, but meeting the needs of a class takes planning. Building courses around a clear structure can make a big difference to the student experience. Bloom’s Taxonomy is one way to do that.

    But what is Bloom’s Taxonomy and how can it help you offer a better student experience? Think of it as a framework that helps you structure your classes. Although it’s not the only option out there, it is widely recognized as a useful tool for instructors. Learning more about it can help you provide a better learning experience for students.

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  7. 6 Tips for Teaching Tech to Older Learners

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    The pandemic triggered a boom in online classes. More programs added online learning, and for many, virtual classes are here to stay. This offers convenience and accessibility for learners, but some—including seniors—may feel left behind by newer technology. Figuring out how to teach technology to seniors now seems more important than ever.

    Programs don’t want seniors to miss out on learning opportunities, but sometimes computer-based learning really is the best choice. To help find a solution, we turned to former CourseStormer Chris Suggs. Chris taught basic computing to older adults as an AmeriCorps volunteer. He shared six thoughtful tips on how to teach technology to seniors.

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  8. What’s a Brand Promise and Why Does Your Education Program Need One?

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    Geico promises you will quickly save 15% or more on car insurance. Walmart assures you that their low prices help you live better. Canva claims their online graphic design platform makes it easy to create professional designs. These companies have built reputations around their brand promise—their commitment to their customers.  

    Your organization should have a brand promise too. Being able to articulate what makes you stand out from your competitors and what students can expect from your program is critical to building a successful brand and establishing long-term student loyalty. We’ll share the steps for finding your brand promise and offer some examples to help get you started. 

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  9. Why Accessible Content Benefits All Students

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    Accessibility should be a top priority for any course content creator. Accessible content helps everyone access and engage with your lessons, whether you’re teaching in-person or online. That allows you to reach more learners and offer more engaging educational experiences. 

    When you hear the word “accessible,” you may think of ways to make a building or website more user-friendly. This may include adding wheelchair ramps or using easy-to-read color combinations. When it comes to course creation, accessibility has much broader applications.  It’s about supporting every potential student regardless of their physical, cognitive, technological, situational, or socioeconomic challenges.

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  10. 6 Thoughtful Ways to Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week

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    Your program couldn’t exist without your instructors. You can have the best marketing, the simplest registration system, and the most interesting course offerings, but it’s teachers who make your classes possible. In this post, we’ll explore how to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to show appreciation and respect to all educators.

    This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, 2023, which makes it a great time to show your instructors how much you appreciate them. Saying “thank you” is especially important right now. Many educators have had to navigate new ways of teaching and extra challenges over the last few years.

    Teacher appreciation doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Sincerity and thoughtfulness go a long way. We’ve put together a list of ways your adult or community education program or arts program can celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.

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