Educational programs have done an incredible job of finding new ways to connect with their learning communities, including accelerating online education. But what to do in cases when hands-on lessons are critical to what’s being learned? And what do you do when that’s what your students want?
“Our most popular classes are still what we’re going to offer face to face,” says Liesl Dees, Community Learning Center Director at San Juan College, “and that’s what our customers are wanting more of.”
One of the ways that programs have accomplished this is by using alternative spaces that meet health guidelines more effectively than traditional classroom spaces.
We’re sharing some four of the most interesting —and achievable— types of venues your program could use for in-person classes: outdoor areas, event locations, unused commercial properties, and municipal spaces.
New student needs are continually surfacing during these rapidly shifting times. Your program can rise to meet many of those needs with a little creativity and a fresh look at your class offerings.
You may discover that with a few small adjustments, you’ll be able to lead your students, communities, and organization into a strong fall. Here we offer some points to consider as you serve the ongoing and changing needs of learners.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
The first half of 2020 has presented new challenges for educators across the country. Halfway in and we’re still affected by the uncertainties brought about by COVID-19. It feels like everything is staying the same and yet is changing by the minute.
However, some things haven’t changed — learners still need education, workers still need training, and people always need (perhaps more than ever) opportunities for personal enrichment. While official recommendations are responding to the needs of the moment, organizations still need to plan for the fall. Instructors must be hired, classes posted and promoted, class spaces reserved and all other the usual things, but in unusual times.
No matter what your fall format looks like, or where you are, or what the situation may be, here are some ways your program can prepare for the rest of 2020.
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” — Willa Cather
We have been carefully watching the effects that COVID-19 has had across the country, particularly on educational programs.
We understand the challenges that you’re working through: concerns about lost revenue, ongoing expenses, and what registration volume may look like for your organization over the near and medium-term.
While we can’t tell you when things will return to “normal,” we’re confident that normalcy will return. To that end, we’d like to share some strategies to help provide continuity for your organization and learning community over the coming weeks and months.
Instead of Cancelling
While your first reaction might be to cancel classes altogether, there are other options at your disposal that you may be overlooking.
#1: Don’t cancel, postpone
No one really wants a class to cancel. Not you, not the instructor, nor the students who were excited to attend. While they may be absent for the next few weeks during this crisis, their interest in class is unlikely to abate. If you can, consider postponing your classes instead of canceling, so that when things calm down, everyone can still get the class they were looking forward to. Postponing also allows you to keep more cash with your organization rather than refunding it all back to the student.
#2: Consider remote instruction
Follow the lead of many higher education institutions and consider temporarily shifting existing classes to remote instruction through video. Many classes and presentations can be live broadcast to attendees with affordable and accessible software solutions. From Vimeo or YouTube’s live streaming services to conferencing providers like Google Hangouts Meet, Zoom, and GoToMeeting.
For example, rather than cancel a show, one arts organization we follow is recording its spring youth drama performance and providing streaming video access to its ticket holders. A great, creative solution to the problem at hand!
If you must cancel
We understand. Here are some tips to help reduce the impact to your program.
#1 Use promo codes
Instead of refunds, offer customers credit for future classes to replace the class they’re unable to take. As mentioned above, this helps your business keep cash on hand which is more important than ever when facing unprecedented circumstances.
#2: Convert to donation
Give your students the chance to donate the cost of their class to your program rather than take a refund.
#3: Increase your online class offerings
Consider adding classes to your program that are already designed for independent learning. For community education programs, ed2go offers a suite of excellent online classes you can resell at your program.
#4: Call your insurance agent
Your organization may have insurance coverage that can help reduce the effect of the disruption (ask about coverage from “event insurance” or “business disruption insurance”). It’s certainly worth checking with your provider.
#5: Use this downtime to prepare for the upswing
While your program may be quiet over the coming weeks, this is a perfect time to start planning your next move. After lots of time stuck indoors, students will be jumping at the chance to make up for lost time. With proper planning, you can be sure to be there right when they need you.
Keep in mind that decisions made today don’t have to be final or absolute. It’s ok to make a decision that affects your immediate needs without trying to plan for the entire future. Use this opportunity to run an experiment and try something new. If it works, you may just end up with a new tool in your toolbelt!
More resources to come
While all this continues to unfold, we at CourseStorm will be researching best practices and providing resources to help affected programs make the best of a hard situation.
We genuinely respect that this situation is causing a financial burden for many programs and we’re working on a plan to help lessen the financial burden for our most heavily affected clients. We will be sharing more information about our plans in the coming week.
Until then, even if we’re technically isolated, we will all be pulling together, learning together, and adapting together.
Be well. ❤️
Imagine for a moment that you’ve found a great looking class —maybe it’s an essential piece of professional development training you’ve been waiting to take or perhaps it’s an improv class. You’ve seen it in the class catalog, and you’re about to register and just as you begin you discover —oh no! It’s already full. What now?
What Does Happen Now?
What happens next is an integral part of your registration process, and it’s universal. No matter what kind of program you’re running, your customer’s experience when their chosen class is sold out shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Do I really need a refund policy?
Well-written refund policies are vital for any business providing services to the public. A refund policy establishes expectations for both your business and customers and can protect you from potential financial losses and liability. Your policy lets registrants know what to expect should they need to cancel a registration. A signed or virtually acknowledged refund policy is also one of the best tools you can use to win a disputed credit card purchase known as a “chargeback.”
If you don’t have a refund policy now, it’s worth the time to create one, and it’s not a difficult process and it can have a serious, positive impact on your bottom line.
Think Like a Student
Almost everyone has gotten, at some time, a class catalog in the mail and experienced it by flipping through, looking at photos, skimming titles, and speed-reading class descriptions until something interesting crosses our path. The tactile nature helps us remember, and we can often recall the organization of the content enough to flip back to something that grabbed our attention.
But what do you do when your catalog is primarily online? How do you keep the same sense of discovery and catch someone’s interest while enabling a streamlined digital experience?
Like a physical catalog, it’s about vision. When you look at a class catalog through the eyes of your students, what do you see?
Do you see visions of your future? The refinished table in the middle of your kitchen? Presenting gourmet cupcakes at the next family event? Successfully reading an English language newspaper? Starting a new career thanks to a welding certification? Entertaining everyone you know with ukulele singalongs?
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to create an online catalog that helps your students find what they want —and be inspired to find something new as well!
We often hear the question, “How often should I send email marketing announcements?”*
(In fact, we got exactly that question during a recent webinar!)
While the question seems straightforward, a single, perfect answer which can be universally applied doesn’t exist. Ask a dozen companies, get a dozen different replies. There’s no consensus in spite of impressive data gathering. Ultimately, it will be a little different for everyone, but we’ve thought about this question ourselves, and we have an answer we hope will help!
If you’re like many programs, you’re running a tight ship with a small team. You are looking for ways to maximize your marketing impact in every area you can. That’s why we’re taking a moment to highlight two often-overlooked places that you can subtly market your program.
These tools are available 24/7 —and best yet, they won’t cost you a penny.
“How can I tell if this class I’m considering will be a success or a failure before I run it?”
“I have a great idea for a class!” is a phrase you’re probably all too familiar with. It might be initiated by anyone —a student, teacher, or a community or board member. Sometimes you know it will be a hit but other times you may simply not know if the suggestion is worth pursuing.
Launching With Confidence
“Should I add this class?” How can you launch a new class with confidence, knowing that you’ve done your best to ensure that it’s what your learning community wants? How do you show your director or board that it will have a positive outcome for your program?
Fortunately, there are many ways to explore how successful a class will be so you can feel like your decision to add —or not add— is a good one.