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  1. How to Convince Your Nonprofit Board You Need Class Registration Software

    Your nonprofit arts education program has grown and your classes are in high demand. A small but dedicated team of staff and volunteers keeps things running, but they’re getting overwhelmed with administrative tasks. The process of registering students for classes using a cobbled-together system of free tools just isn’t efficient enough anymore. 

    Now, you want to convince the board of directors that your arts education program needs class registration software.

    Factors to Convince the Board You Need Class Registration Software

    When education directors at arts nonprofits start considering class registration software, many face the challenge of convincing the board of directors to make the investment. Our clients tell us there are four key factors they need to address to convince the board: 

    1. Budget and Return on Investment

    Nonprofit organizations often operate on tight budgets. At the same time, they have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to them by donors and funders. Your board will want any class registration solution to maximize return on investment. 

    2. Transition Management

    Adopting a new system means training staff, volunteers, and participants on how to use the software. Nonprofit organizations need software that is easy to learn and accessible from the devices stakeholders already use. A board may hesitate to make a change in case the transition is too much to handle. You need a solution that minimizes disruption and improves the user experience.

    3. Benefit to Participants

    Nonprofit boards are often especially concerned with how new technologies will support or benefit participants. They want to invest in tools that help them better serve their target population. Often, they choose investments based on whether they can improve the participant experience or boost satisfaction.

    4. Reporting for Impact Tracking and Decision Making

    Clear and accurate reporting is a special concern of nonprofit boards, because their impact and investment numbers help them secure funding and grants. An easy reporting system provides the right information at the right time. 

    Getting the Board on Board

    Building and administering an easy-to-use registration software for nonprofits has given us an inside look at what they need most. We created CourseStorm’s simple class registration software to be the solution boards could get excited about. Let’s take a closer look at what our system can do for your arts education program and how you can communicate the benefits to your board. 

    CourseStorm Class Registration Software

    Benefit #1: Return on Investment

    When budgets are tight, many organizations keep struggling with cobbled-together free solutions because they’re concerned about the investment of a yearly or monthly fee. CourseStorm ensures you only pay for the students you actually get. Our per-registration fee structure means that seasonal or periodic programs never pay for software they’re not using. 

    Benefit #2: Transitions Made Simple

    Many registration tools require in-depth training and lots of technical guidance. We believe a new solution doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, we’ve designed and refined CourseStorm to be as simple and intuitive as possible. As one of our customers recently said, “If you can use email, you can use CourseStorm.” 

    Adopting new software should be as simple and intuitive as possible. One of our customers said, “If you can use email, you can use CourseStorm.” 

    Even though our software is amazingly easy to use, we will still offer all the support you expect from a quality software solution. Email support and live group webinar onboarding guide you every step of the way. 

    Benefit #3: Ease of Use for Participants

    Participants get frustrated when they have to use multiple systems just to register for a class. Programs that ask students to bring cash or call to register during set business hours may drive them to look for other options. CourseStorm combines course registration and payment in one easy tool. Learners can register for classes, make payments, and even manage their account from their computer or smartphone at any time of the day or night. 

    They also get automated reminders about upcoming classes, an easy way to register multiple people in a single checkout, and the ability to join a waiting list if a class is full.

    Benefit #4: Reporting Made Simple

    Tracking registrants with manually built spreadsheets or multiple software systems invites errors into your reporting process. CourseStorm offers easy reporting at the push of a button. Whether you’re wondering how many students attended a particular class or looking for how this year’s registration numbers compare to last year’s, you’ll find that information easily. 

    We have a new AI-powered reporting feature in the works that even helps you build the exact report you’re looking for. You don’t have to be an Excel expert or use complicated form fields to find the data you need. 

    Google Forms: An Imperfect Solution

    Many nonprofits rely on Google Forms or similar solutions to help them collect information for course registration. While Google Forms is free to nonprofits, it’s also not built to handle the full course registration process. 

    Course registration is more than a form. It involves marketing, student communication, and payment processing. Class registration software does all of this, alleviating administrative burden.

    Course registration is more than a form. It involves elements of marketing, communication with registrants, and payment processing. Google Forms is great at collecting information, but it can’t process payments, doesn’t provide an accessible student portal, and can’t customize your reporting. 

    It may seem like a budget-conscious solution, but the added administrative burden creates added costs. Participants may also get frustrated when they can’t find, change, or pay for their registration without calling your office.

    An integrated registration and payment solution saves everyone time and reduces frustration all around. 

    Drop-in or Call-to-Register Inconveniences Students

    Speaking of ways to frustrate participants, asking students to call or drop in to register demands time and resources they may not have. It forces them to register when you’re open and have a staff member available. This may mean they delay registration or don’t bother to sign up at all. 

    Some programs try to solve this by asking registrants to pay on the day of the class. This puts the burden on instructors to collect and manage money. They have to track who has paid and potentially turn away students who forget or don’t have the right payment method available. This uses up valuable class time and may alienate students. 

    A fully online registration and payment system ensures that every learner is fully registered and paid before class begins. Instructors can focus on teaching so learners get the best possible experience. 

    Convince the Board to Streamline Class Registration with CourseStorm

    Cobbled-together systems built out of free tools make registration inefficient and frustrating for both learners and nonprofit organizations. To remove these challenges, you first have to convince the board that class registration software is worth the investment. 

    CourseStorm offers a streamlined solution with flexible payment options and accurate reporting. It’s user-friendly for staff, volunteers, and participants who can access essential information from their desktop or mobile devices.

    Show your board how easy class registration can be. Sign up for your free trial of CourseStorm today.

  2. CourseStorm’s New State of the Arts Report Will Help Arts Education Programs “SOAR” in 2024

    Arts and culture play an important role in our lives. Millions of people in the United States participate in the arts each year, both by attending performances or exhibits and by creating art themselves. Arts education has a measurable positive impact on children both academically and socially. And arts organizations provide economic value for communities, among other benefits.

    The pandemic hugely impacted arts organizations, forcing many to close. Of those that survived and thrived, many were CourseStorm customers. We dug into our data to find out why.

    The pandemic had a huge impact on arts organizations. Many of them were forced to close, such as community theatres whose revenue was based on live performances. Many arts organizations that survived and even grew were those offering education programs, camps, and classes. And many of them were CourseStorm customers.

    We dug into our data from more than 1 million class registrations from hundreds of arts programs to uncover patterns and strategies to help other education programs flourish. We’re sharing this exclusive data from CourseStorm along with insights from other trusted industry sources in our new State of the Arts Report, which we’re calling “SOAR.”

    What’s in the State of the Arts Report (SOAR)?

    Our goal in publishing this report is not only to showcase what’s working for CourseStorm customers, but to share insights and strategies that can help any arts education program thrive.

    Our new report, SOAR, not only shares what’s working for our customers, but also offers insights and strategies that can help any arts education program thrive.

    SOAR offers data-backed answers to questions like: 

    • What are the best days to offer arts classes?
    • Which are more popular, daytime or evening classes?
    • What type of arts program remained popular and even grew during the pandemic?
    • How far in advance do people register for kids’ classes during the school year vs. the summer?
    • Where should arts programs focus most of their digital marketing efforts?
    • What percentage of students are returning vs. new, and how do you keep them coming back?
    • How do you reduce class cancelations?

    SOAR also includes valuable insights about the economic and academic benefits of arts education to the greater community.

    Where Does the Data Come From?

    CourseStorm has more than a decade’s worth of data from 1 million+ class registrations. This includes more than 250 customers in the arts, including Garrison Art Center, Miami Theatre Center, and Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra. 

    CourseStorm has more than a decade’s worth of exclusive data from 1M+ class registrations, including hundreds of customers in the arts.

    In addition to sharing exclusive findings from our customer database, SOAR includes the newest data from industry sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, the Brookings Institution, and more.  

    The robust report contains timely information and actionable strategies to guide arts organizations during this pivotal time in arts education. Whether you’re still struggling to bounce back from the pandemic or have more enrollments than you can manage, SOAR can help you navigate your challenges and thrive going forward. 

    Who Is SOAR for?

    This report is for anyone offering noncredit, open-enrollment enrichment classes in the visual or performing arts, or any programs offering similar classes outside of the arts that want to learn from their peers. It’s especially geared toward nonprofit arts and culture organizations that want to make data-informed decisions about:

    • How to save time and be more efficient
    • How to make their programs more cost-effective and profitable 
    • Where and when to promote their classes 
    • How to better serve their students 
    • How to reach more people and grow enrollments 

    We hope the data in this report helps you make your classes even better and more valuable to your community. If you need support to ease your administrative burden and grow enrollments, CourseStorm is here to help.

    Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get early access to the State of the Arts Report!

  3. Best Class Registration Software for Nonprofits

    Any nonprofit arts organization that offers classes or other educational programs to the public needs class registration software because it takes the burden off of administrative staff and streamlines the signup and payment process for students.

    The right class registration software for nonprofits addresses the challenges of many arts organizations, including:

    • Resource and staffing constraints. Whether your education program is a one-person show, run by volunteers, or requires part-time hires, the administrative burden of handling class registration is too much. You need software that will allow you to take a lunch break.
    • No streamlined financial system. You are wasting time collecting and organizing payments, have difficulty in issuing refunds, and your bookkeeping is complicated.
    • No integration with other systems. For class registration software that truly simplifies things for nonprofits, it needs to integrate with your existing donor management platform. No duplicating efforts or records, just a streamlined flow of data between the platforms.
    • No time to learn a complicated new registration system. The right class registration software for nonprofits is easy to use for administrative staff, instructors, and students alike. You want something that you can start using right away, with minimal training.

    Some arts education programs are still struggling to recover and grow enrollments again after the pandemic. Other programs may have more classes and students than they can manage. In either case, the right class registration software for nonprofits will help you streamline the registration process, automate as many tasks as possible like payments and waiting lists, and save you time and money.

    In this post, we’ll take a look at four key features to help you decide which class registration software is right for you.

    Streamlines and automates with online payments, customized registration forms, and more

    Streamlined financial system that simplifies payments and refunds for staff and students

    Integrations with other software to store and view customer data all in one place

    The support you need to get you and your staff up to speed quickly

    CourseStorm

    Impossibly Simple Class Registration Software

    Save time. Enroll more students. Perfect whether you offer classes in-person or online.

    A screenshot of CourseStorm's homepage. A hand is using a laptop to register for a class through CourseStorm's platform. Test includes Impossibly simple class registration software.  Save time. Enroll more students. Perfect whether you offer classes in-person or online.

    CourseStorm was designed to provide online registration that’s impossibly simple for people to use to sign up for classes. It’s easy to use, just a few clicks from start to finish, to increase your enrollments with no additional work on your part. We also created a streamlined process for programs to handle payments, refunds, and transferring students between classes, even if they’re different prices.

    Create a sample course catalog in just a few clicks — no credit card needed.

    Key Feature 1 – Streamlines and automates with features like online payments, customized registration forms, and self-serve waiting lists

    The best class registration software provides a hands-off process that streamlines the registration experience for the student so that they are empowered to complete registration and payment online on their own without unnecessary calls to your staff.

    The ability to customize registration forms can help you gather information while making the experience more pleasant for students.

    An example of a customer registration form that can be built with CourseStorm.

    Let’s say you’re offering a kids’ theatre class that includes a field trip to see a play. You will want to collect emergency contact information for each student. You can easily customize the registration form in CourseStorm to include this.

    Our waiting list feature allows programs to enable students to add themselves to the waiting list if a class is full. Then, if a spot opens up, they’ll be automatically emailed with a link to register.

    Key Feature 2 – Streamlined financial system that simplifies payments and refunds for staff and students

    Online registration and payment software simplifies payments, eliminating time spent collecting and organizing payments that come in by check or over the phone. Students pay online when they register, without any need for help from your staff. CourseStorm also makes it easy to transfer students between classes, even if there’s a difference in cost. And, because we know schedules and plans can change, we make it easy to issue refunds when necessary with just a couple of clicks. CourseStorm also makes it easy to give students discounts with promo codes, and reduce the barriers to registration by offering payment plans for big-ticket classes.

    Screenshot of CourseStorm's payment plan option

    Key Feature 3 – Integrations with donor management platforms and other software give you a complete view of customers’ activity all in one place

    In addition to everything listed above, your nonprofit could benefit from class registration software that integrates with the tools you’re already using. CourseStorm makes it easy to manage class registrations, donors, and campaigns with useful software integrations.

    PatronManager Integration

    PatronManager is a ticketing, fundraising, and marketing solution designed for arts programs. It’s used by theaters, music venues, festival organizers, and others who need to manage events. The PatronManager-CourseStorm integration gives nonprofits a more detailed picture of their patron, participant, and donor base.

    Little Green Light Integration

    Little Green Light (LGL) is a donor management software that helps nonprofits improve fundraising and donor relationships. The Little Green Light-CourseStorm integration lets CourseStorm class registration data appear automatically in LGL. Use it to include learners in appeal campaigns, manage communications, and send invitations for special events.

    Other Useful Integrations for Nonprofits

    Integrations with other software solutions can streamline data management so staff and volunteers can spend more time moving the mission forward. CourseStorm integrates with WordPress using a custom plugin, and with Mailchimp, Google Suite, and other essential tools through Zapier.

    Integrations that work with CourseStorm's software.

    Key Feature 4 – The support you need to get up to speed quickly and train your staff

    The right class registration for nonprofits is easy to use and requires minimal training. You want something that volunteers and staff members alike can quickly get comfortable with. That way you can spend less time training and more time serving participants.

    A good class registration software streamlines the training process to simplify the user experience. CourseStorm offers a comprehensive Help Site. Get answers to your questions 24/7/365 from our help articles and videos. We also offer email and phone support for certain plans. All customers have access to onboarding videos. Depending on your plan, this may be live or on-demand recorded webinars.

    Screenshot of CourseStorm's robust Help Site

    Create a sample course catalog in just a few clicks — no credit card needed.

    Eliminate Up to 80% of Your Time Spent on Administrative Tasks

    By now, we hope you have all the details you need to make an informed decision. The right software can make a big difference for your nonprofit’s education program. It can simplify the work of staff and volunteers while creating positive experiences for participants.

    We designed CourseStorm as the streamlined and simple solution for community, arts, and nonprofit organizations. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Start your free trial of CourseStorm today and see for yourself why so many nonprofits have chosen CourseStorm.

  4. Marketing Trends 2024: Reach More Students In the New Year

    The New Year is just around the corner. Have you considered your marketing strategy for 2024? A lot of the marketing trends shared by experts are geared toward big companies with large marketing teams and even larger budgets. The business pundits are all talking about AI-driven strategies and big data. It can seem like smaller, nonprofit arts and community education programs are on their own. 

    That doesn’t seem right. You need to know how to enhance customer satisfaction and engage with potential students. That’s why we’re highlighting the consumer trends and marketing strategies that actually matter for programs like yours. 

    This is about so much more than what to post on social media. It’s about what your learners value and how they’re willing to spend their time and money. Connecting the dots between your offerings and student desires can help you keep registrations high through 2024 and beyond. 

    Consumer Ideals Influencing Marketing Trends in 2024

    Current marketing trends center around consumer values and needs. People want to do business with brands, including education providers, who value sustainability and community. Lean in to what your organization does best. 

    Local Focus

    Most education providers focus on providing educational opportunities to people in a specific city, region, or state. Yes, you may get the occasional online learner from somewhere else, and yes, you may want specific marketing campaigns for remote audiences, but remember that the core of your mission is to serve your local community. Good ways to help people find your classes is by partnering with a local business and by optimizing your website for “near me” searches

    Sustainability

    Environmental impact has become a serious concern for many consumers over the last few years. You can see it in the trends toward electric cars and minimal product packaging. 

    The youngest generations are most concerned, with 75% of Gen Z shoppers (those born between 1997 and 2010) saying sustainability is more important than brand names. If you have made an effort to make your office as paperless as possible, offer classes in upcycled art, or install solar panels on your roof, make sure you tell your students about it. 

    Quality of Life

    In general, Americans are anxious about the future, overly stressed, and feeling disconnected. Your classes may not directly solve these problems, but you can highlight the proven benefits of art, community, and lifelong learning

    Education programs are uniquely situated to deliver what many learners crave, connection with a group of like-minded people. Highlight the community aspect of your courses. Share stories of students who made friends or strengthened relationships by taking your classes. This can be especially helpful if you offer creative aging programs. Many seniors are isolated and seeking connection and opportunities to build skills. 

    Speaking of Relationships

    The 2024 Consumer Experience Trends Report from experience management company Qualtrics reveals that people are putting a higher value on human connection. Local education providers are uniquely qualified to give students a personalized experience. 

    It starts with approaching course marketing as building an ongoing relationship with students you hope will come back again and again and make referrals to your program. When you build real relationships with students, they’re also more likely to share their feedback, which you can use to improve and market your program to others. 

    Content Marketing Trends 2024

    It’s not enough to just tell potential students about your classes. You need to build a relationship through brand experiences. Make no mistake, you do have a brand, whether or not you regularly use that term. Your brand includes what you do, what you talk about, and how you talk about it.

    Key marketing trends for 2024 list

    In 2023, the average American was exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. There’s no indication that number will decrease in the coming year. So it’s important to make your marketing messages count. 

    We sometimes fall into the trap of writing really bland course descriptions or social media posts. This happens when you’re not comfortable with content creation or when you’re over-relying on generative AI like chatGPT. 

    People want to get to know your brand and understand your course offerings. Inject some personality into your messaging. Think about how you’d describe any given course to a friend and aim for that tone.

    Advertising Trends to Reach Students in 2024

    Between online and traditional media there are dozens of ways potential students can learn about your programs. Try to spread your marketing messages across multiple platforms to make sure you’re reaching as many people as possible. 

    The rise of AI and the ubiquity of the internet has led most consumers to expect near-instant access to information. If you don’t already offer a streamlined online registration and payment platform, you absolutely can’t delay any longer. Learners expect to be able to register and manage their registrations and payments at any time of the day or night. 

    Build a strong website and make sure students can find it with a search engine. Then branch out to print flyers, social media, partnership marketing and other efforts. Make sure your website and social media platforms answer all of learners’ most commonly asked questions. 

    Also, if you don’t already use video, it’s time to start. Short (30 seconds or less) videos are an advertising trend across pretty much every social media platform. These don’t have to be high-production-value masterpieces. Authenticity goes a long way in video content creation.

    What to Offer to Attract Students

    Which classes to offer depends on your program, population served, and local competition. However, all programs can benefit from offerings that add value to the student experience.

    • Course Bundles – Offering a set of courses for a lower price is an easy way to give students more value for their money. Bundling courses does more than save students a few dollars. It also helps them understand how your courses fit together and find the ones they care about.

    • Payment Plans – Lower the barrier to entry for your biggest ticket courses with payment plans. This shows students you care and are willing to accommodate their needs.

    • Loyal Student Subscription Plans – Subscriptions can give dedicated students access to all the courses that interest them. 

    It’s easy to envision how subscription plans would work for digital courses. A student pays a one-time fee and gets access to your full library. But what about in-person courses? It turns out you can use subscription plans there as well. 

    Offer students early-bird registration for courses in the topic they’re subscribed to. For example, aspiring artists might purchase your “Masterworks” subscription to get discounted registration and early registration everytime you release a painting-related class. 

    Pricing Classes and Programs for 2024

    Most in-person course providers can’t beat the prices of the big course aggregator websites. The good news is that you don’t need to. The reality is that modern customers value quality above all else. In fact, the list of what convinces people to purchase looks like this. 

    1. Product/service quality
    2. Customer service support
    3. Low price

    If you can deliver on quality and customer service, price is less of a factor. So investigate the market and charge what your classes are worth. Lean in to the value of community, relationship building, and individual feedback your courses can provide.

    Stay Informed of the Latest Marketing Trends

    Here at CourseStorm, simplicity is part of our mission. We don’t want you to waste time scouring the internet for current marketing trends. You have more important things to do, like build student relationships and deliver quality courses. 

    That’s why we keep an eye on what’s working for arts education and other community ed programs, so we can share what you need to know. Subscribe to our blog to get the latest marketing trends and advice delivered right to your inbox. 

  5. Why You Should Promote Experiences as Gifts and How to Do It for Christmas Shoppers

    With the holiday gift-giving season approaching fast, arts organizations are looking for ways to promote their classes to Christmas shoppers and those celebrating other winter holidays. The good news is that many people are already on board with the idea of giving experiences as gifts. What holds them back is often the logistics. It’s easy to stick a video game under the tree, but how do you package violin lessons? 

    Help holiday shoppers give the gift of an experience like classes or tickets to a performance by highlighting all the reasons these make great gifts.

    Arts organizations can help holiday shoppers give the gift of an experience like classes or tickets to a performance by highlighting all the reasons these make great gifts.

    If you want Christmas shoppers and other gift-givers to consider purchasing classes for friends and family, you first need to highlight all the reasons your classes make great gifts. Then you have to support the gift-giving experience by helping them package their gift in a way that feels meaningful. We’ll address this one step at a time. 

    Reasons to Give Experiences as Gifts Rather Than Stuff

    Consumer Reports found that, among all age groups, people derive more happiness from experiences than from material goods. The desire for quality time with friends and family has increased more than ever since the pandemic. Even so, Christmas shoppers may not think of your classes or performances as possible gifts unless you explicitly make the connection for them. 

    Giving experiences as gifts gives the recipient skills or memories that last a lifetime. It’s also more eco-friendly and a great last-minute gift option!

    Here are some ways you can frame your marketing messages to reach Christmas shoppers and other gift-givers: 

    A gift for a lifetime. As children grow up, they may fall out of love with this year’s trending toy, but they’ll always have the skills they learned in pottery class. Creating something with your own hands is exciting no matter what your age. Young children can get a kick out of making art to hang on the family fridge, while teens may be excited to learn how to knit a scarf themselves. Creative aging programs are built upon the idea that older people want to continue to build skills as they age, as well.

    Give the gift of connection. Our world is suffering from a loneliness epidemic. A new poll found that nearly 1 in 4 adults feel lonely, with the rates highest among young adults ages 19 to 29. Participating in art classes and activities helps provide a sense of community and connectedness. This is especially important for certain populations like veterans

    It’s more eco-friendly. A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of U.S. consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. If you know your community is environmentally conscious, play up that angle in your class marketing efforts. An educational experience beats unwanted material goods ending up in the trash. 

    Experiential gifts are a smart last-minute option. Let’s face it: the holidays are a busy time of year. It can be tough to shop, wrap, and ship gifts in time. If you have rolling admissions for your classes, open seats at an upcoming performance, or other opportunities available that would make good gifts, let your customers and community know. Then all they have to do on the actual holiday is give the recipient a card or email notifying them of their gift.  

    Experience Gifts for Couples: Classes They’ll Love

    Offering couples classes is a great way to attract customers who want to give experiences as gifts. Cooking classes, ballroom dancing, and jewelry making are all good gift experiences for couples, but those are just the beginning. Mixology classes, a terrarium workshop, or anything else couples can do together make great gifts. 

    From cooking classes to jewelry making to mixology, offering couples classes is a great way to attract customers who want to give the gift of quality time and connection.

    CourseStorm’s head of marketing, Nic, and her husband attended a restorative foraging class in their community. Guided by a sustainability expert from a local university, they walked around outdoors and identified lots of native and non-native plants and learned about how to process acorns for acorn flour. “It was fascinating to learn about foraging through this lens and to try something new,” she said. 

    Pro tip: Offering couples classes is also a great way to boost your website’s SEO and help people find your classes online. “Couples classes near me” is a very popular search term, so if you offer couples classes, be sure to state this clearly on your website, in your online course catalog and course descriptions, and on your social media platforms. 

    For more specifics, read our article on how to promote couples classes for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays throughout the year.

    Christmas Shoppers Want Something to Wrap

    Even Christmas shoppers who are already convinced that giving experiences as gifts is a good idea may hesitate because they want the recipient to have something to unwrap. Many people find joy in watching someone unwrap a gift. This is especially true for people giving gifts to kids. Help shoppers overcome this obstacle by offering something tangible to go with the experiential gift. 

    • Branded merch – If you already have branded merchandise, offer a magnet, mug, tote bag or tee-shirt to anyone purchasing classes as gifts during the holiday season.

    • Gift shop merchandising – If your organization has a gift shop, set up a small section with inexpensive gifts relevant to different classes. This could include pencils and a sketchbook for an art class, an adult and child apron set for a cooking class, or Shakespear magnets and stickers for a theater class.

    • Printed certificates – Printed certificates can be placed in an envelope or even wrapped in a box with some tissue paper. Print some fillable certificates on high-quality paper and give them away with gift orders. 

    Many people find joy in unwrapping and watching others unwrap a gift. Help holiday shoppers by offering something tangible to go along with the experience they’re gifting.

    Even if your organization doesn’t offer these things, with a bit of imagination, you can help your customers come up with a tangible item to gift alongside the experience. Here are just a few ideas: 

    • Paintbrushes, pencils, or pastels along with a sketchbook for someone you’re gifting a session of art classes

    • Funny Shakespeare magnets or stickers for a teen you’ve signed up for theater camp

    • An adult and child apron set to go along with a grandparent-and-grandchild cooking class

    • A basket of colorful yarn for someone enrolled in a knitting or crochet class

    • A monogrammed journal for a person you’re giving a writing class or poetry workshop

    • Safety glasses or work gloves to go along with a wood or metalworking workshop at a makerspace

    For more creative and unique ideas to go with your experiential gifts, check out UnCommon Goods and MoMA Design Store. Visitors can search by interest, price range, recipient, and even eco-friendly products.

    Making it easy for people to give your classes as gifts, such as by offering group registrations and promo codes, is a smart marketing strategy all year round.

    Making it easy for people to give your classes as gifts is a smart marketing strategy all year round. Consider offering discounts or promo codes to encourage gift-giving, and allow group registrations to simplify the process for students who want to give and take a class with a loved one. CourseStorm has all of these features and more.  

  6. Creative Arts Classes in Theater, Music, and Art For Veterans

    Honoring our veterans is about more than parades and bumper stickers. It’s not something that should happen just on Veteran’s Day or Military Appreciation Week. We honor our veterans when we offer them support all year round. Classes in theater, music, and art for veterans give them a point of connection, an opportunity to learn, and a chance to share their unique stories and viewpoints. 

    Arts organizations across the U.S. offer classes in theater, music, and art-making for veterans to foster connection and self-expression. 

    Organizations across the country have made a special effort to provide these valuable experiences for veterans and their families. Here is a closer look at how arts programs are supporting those who served and some thoughts about how your organization can start offering classes in art for veterans.

    Art as a Tool for Connection

    Anyone can benefit from art classes. Engaging with the arts provides stress relief, can improve social connection, and empowers self-expression. All of these have been linked to better mental and physical health. 

    These benefits might be especially valuable to veterans. Many veterans find that transitioning back to civilian life can be stressful. Service members who have benefited from the structure and camaraderie of military life may feel lonely and disconnected outside that system. The stresses of military service can also create unique mental and physical health challenges. 

    Dedicated programs in art for veterans can help ease the transition back to civilian life.

    When organizations offer dedicated programs in art for veterans, they help ease the transition. Even veterans who served years or decades ago carry stories and perspectives that can be expressed through art.

    Veterans in Our Communities

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 16.2 million veterans in the United States. That equates to about 6.2% of the adult population. Some states have a greater proportion of veterans than others. In Alaska, Wyoming, Virginia, and Maine veterans make up around 10% of the population. California, Utah, New Jersey, and Massachusetts hover around 4%. 

    While older males make up the majority of the veteran population, arts organizations might be interested to know that the number of female veterans is rising. By 2040, women will make up 17% of the veteran population

    Also, while many people associate military service with war, the second-largest cohort of living veterans served during a time of relative peace. So although all veterans make sacrifices to serve our country, these are not always combat related. Before you create a program for veterans, consider who you hope to serve.

    Meeting Multiple Needs With Art for Veterans

    Veterans may share the common experience of military service, but each is a unique person with unique needs. A diverse range of theater, music, and art for veterans programs help meet those needs in creative ways. 

    Community and Connection – Organizations like the War Memorial offer Veterans Artmaking classes as an opportunity for veterans to meet and connect with each other over art. While veterans are welcome to attend the full range of events, classes, and activities at the War Memorial, this artmaking class offers a special opportunity just for them. 

    Sharing Stories – The CreatiVets songwriting program partners veterans with musicians and songwriters who can help them tell their stories through song. Playing these songs for friends and family can enable veterans to tell stories they might not otherwise have shared. 

    Serving Multidimensional Needs – Veterans experiencing incarceration have found opportunities for self-expression and healing through theater performances organized by the Marin Shakespeare Company. In these programs, veterans incarcerated in California state prisons take part in theatrical performances led by a registered drama therapist. 

    Personal FulfillmentVetRep’s Acting and Playwrighting Classes offer veterans a chance to express themselves and share their talents. In addition to classes, the program offers live theater events, script competitions, and a podcast featuring long-form conversations with veterans in the arts. 

    Career and Vocational Supports – Organizations like Nobel Desktop offer graphic design and mobile graphics bootcamps for veterans who want to quickly learn arts and design skills to support their transition to a new career. GI Bill-eligible veterans can use their benefits to help pay for programs like these. 

    How to Offer Classes in Art for Veterans

    Reaching veterans in your community might sound like a big challenge, but it might be easier than most organizations realize. Follow these best practices to develop an arts program that meets the needs of veterans. 

    1. Don’t Assume – The demographics of the veteran population are shifting. Don’t assume that all veterans are male, served in combat, or have service-related health conditions. You can certainly create programs to serve those specific populations, just know that many service members fall outside of those categories.

    2. Get Insight From a Veteran – The best way to create arts programs that serve veterans is to ask them what they need. If you don’t already have veterans in your organization, reach out to your community and ask for input. You can also contact a local veterans service organization or the local branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    3. Plan for Your Purpose – Decide how you hope to serve veterans with your arts programs. Are you supporting mental health, creating community, or offering career support? Clearly identify your purpose and include it in your marketing materials for the class. 

    In short, avoid making assumptions about veterans’ backgrounds and seek input from veterans themselves to tailor programs to their needs. By actively involving veterans in the planning process and recognizing their diverse needs, you can offer classes that make a meaningful and lasting impact on their lives.

    For more on how to develop classes with particular audiences in mind, learn about how to develop and use student personas.

  7. Smart Student Retention Strategies to Keep Learners Coming Back to Your Classes

    Keeping the customers you have is easier than attracting new ones. People who have previously enrolled in your classes already know and trust you. Offering high-quality courses is a good start, but this alone is not enough to create student loyalty. You also need smart student retention strategies to keep learners — and their friends and families — coming back for more. 

    It all comes down to each person’s experience with your organization. The right student retention strategies can keep them engaged from registration through follow-up. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to enroll in your program. Then, offer support and a sense of community to keep them coming back.

    We’re sharing some useful student retention strategies we’ve discovered over years of helping learning experience providers like you. 

    Through our years helping learning experience providers register and retain students, we’ve discovered some useful student retention strategies. Now we’re sharing them with you. 

    But first, we need to make an important point: every program needs to think about student loyalty, even if you offer courses learners are unlikely to repeat.

    Student Retention Strategies Matter, Even If You Offer One-Off Courses

    When you provide learning experiences, it’s not always obvious why student loyalty is important. You might be teaching professional development courses that students take only once in their career. Maybe you offer a retirement planning class, and people only plan for retirement once. This can make it feel like student retention strategies aren’t necessary for you. 

    Retention is about more than repeat business. It’s also about creating a community of people who will happily recommend you to others.

    However, even programs that offer one-off classes can benefit from thinking about student loyalty. Retention is about more than repeat business, it’s also about building a community of people who will happily recommend you to friends, family, and coworkers. 

    If you have done the work of creating a high-quality experience, students are more likely to recommend your program. Increase the odds even more by putting smart student retention strategies in place.

    Smart Student Retention Strategies: 6 Tips for Education Programs

    6 Student Retention Strategies to Apply Today

    1. Set Clear Expectations

    Some surprises are good. Others, not so much. Offering a better learning experience than students expected is a good surprise. In general, though, students should know what to expect when they enroll in your classes. 

    Tell them upfront about any prerequisites, the expected time commitment, and what tools or materials they’ll need. If you don’t clearly communicate these details, some students might drop out part way through a class. Others might power through, but choose not to register for another class or recommend your program. 

    Well-designed course catalogs and registration forms can help you avoid unpleasant surprises. Make sure you include all the details that students need to succeed.

    2. Make Registration Easy

    People tend to avoid unpleasant tasks. The more time-consuming and difficult something is, the more likely you are to put it off until tomorrow. Even if you offer an exceptional class experience, students may not re-enroll if they know the registration process will be difficult. 

    Make class registration as easy as possible by simplifying registration forms, offering online registration, and integrating secure payment options. When you make registration simple, students are more likely to enroll again and again. 

    Features like mobile registration, online payments, and friends and family registration are more than conveniences, they’re student retention strategies. 

    3. Create Feelings of Belonging to Keep Student Retention High

    Your third grade teacher was right: People won’t remember what you say, only how you made them feel. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. You can improve student retention by building a learning community. This is especially important for online classes where students may not get the chance to socialize. 

    You can use social media or email to: 

    • Post instructor profiles
    • Share snapshots of classes in session
    • Show off the results of a session (artworks from an art class, food from a cooking class, shelters built during a survival class)
    • Ask students to share photos of themselves using their new skills in their community
    • Host Q&As or free information sessions
    • Publicly congratulate students on their successes

    Even online students tend to enroll in courses that are close to home. By claiming your place in the community, you invite students to engage more deeply with your programs. 

    4. Show Students What to Do Next

    Adult ed and enrichment classes are often designed to stand alone. A student could take just one course and learn the basics about cooking, accounting, or wilderness survival. But if you want to keep students coming back you need to show them how your classes fit together. 

    Highlight connections between courses by: 

    • Grouping classes together in your course catalog 
    • Emailing current students a list of related classes based on their interests
    • Asking students in feedback surveys if they’d like information about related classes
    • Asking instructors to mention upcoming classes to their current students

    To improve student retention, you need to let students know what other classes you offer.

    5. Keep the Conversation Going

    Asking someone for their feedback helps build trust, especially if you demonstrate a real willingness to change. At or near the end of each class, invite students to fill out an evaluation form. Not only does this show students that you care about their opinion, it also makes you aware of opportunities to improve your courses. 

    When the class is over, your student retention strategies kick into high gear. Ask students to opt-in to email marketing about upcoming courses. That way you can email them when your new course catalog comes out or when registration opens for classes that might interest them.

    More programs are also starting to interact with students via text message. They’re a powerful student retention strategy because they give you a direct line to your learners. 

    And remember that social media is more than a way to remind people about upcoming classes. You can use it to stay connected with learners and build community. 

    6. Remove Barriers to Student Retention

    Think about what might actively prevent learners from registering. An amazing learning experience might as well not exist if students can’t access it. So think about what might prevent them from finishing a course or re-enrolling. 

    Pro Tip: Money can be a barrier for many students. Help minimize this worry by offering payment plans for big-ticket courses. You might also show your appreciation to returning students by offering special discounts. Also, consider group discounts or family discounts to encourage referrals. 

    The Most Powerful Student Retention Strategy

    Ultimately, the most powerful way to improve student retention is to offer high-quality classes worth coming back for. Build an engaged community of learners, keep them informed about your other course offerings, and make it easy for students to register — and re-register, so they keep coming back class after class.

    Among CourseStorm customers, 33% of registrations come from returning students. Learn more insights like this in our free report. 

    Don’t let a focus on new students keep you from nurturing relationships with former and current students. Among CourseStorm customer programs, 33% of registrations come from returning students. Balance your marketing efforts between existing and prospective students. Read more surprising insights like this in our free State of Informal Learning Report.

  8. Want More Students? How a Local Business Partner Can Help

    As an education provider that serves and cares about your community, you want to reach as many learners as possible. But you can’t do it alone. Working with a local business partner can expand your reach, help people discover your classes, and grow your registrations. Outdoor retailer REI, for example, offers classes on mountain biking and wilderness survival. A bookstore could host a cooking class based on a new cookbook. And a clothing boutique might be a great place to offer a jewelry-making class.

    All of this works because, in many ways, your goals overlap with those of local businesses. You both care about the community and you both want to grow. Working together toward those goals can create unique offerings that delight and educate both of your audiences. 

    Partnering with a local business whose goals overlap with yours can introduce a whole new group of people to your classes.

    Yet many organizations are missing this opportunity. Some haven’t really thought about what a partnership might look like. Others just aren’t sure how to approach a local business partner. Our goal is to help you see what opportunities are out there and make a plan for how to act on them. A whole new group of students is waiting for you. 

    3 Ways to Work With a Local Business Partner 

    There are actually several ways that you can partner with local businesses to expand your reach and register more students. Here are three ways you might structure partnerships. 

    1. Guest speakers or presenters. Representatives of a local business can speak or present to your students during a class. These local experts offer unique perspectives and build the credibility of both your organization and their businesses. 

    2. Community sponsorship. In traditional community sponsorship arrangements, A local business may donate food, supplies, or funding for your students. They might even cover the cost of holding a particular class or event in exchange for a mention in your advertising materials. 

    3. Venue partnership. This is the opportunity many programs miss. Imagine a paint and sip class at a local bar, a textile arts class at a downtown clothing boutique, or a parenting and child development class at your local toy store. 

    Keep in mind that a well-crafted partnership is more than an exchange of resources. It also expands the potential audience for your community classes. In return, the business gets more visibility. They also build a reputation as the go-to place for information or resources about a particular topic. In short, the best partnerships provide benefits to both your organization and their business. 

    Partner with a local business to get more students: Ad for a free Ukelele Class at a music store

    Who Benefits From a Local Business Partnership?

    With a well-designed local business partnership, everyone benefits. You expand your audience by tapping into the business’ client base. The business gets greater visibility with your students. Meanwhile students and customers get a class or experience that neither organization could have provided alone. 

    By building relationships in your community, you create a more supportive environment for everyone.

    From a wider perspective, the local economy benefits because students spend their money with local organizations and businesses. By strengthening relationships in your community, you build a more supportive environment for everyone. These may sound like grand claims, but everyone benefits from a more-connected community. 

    How to Choose the Right Local Business Partner

    Your goal in choosing a local business partner is to find a business with customers who match your ideal student audience. Look around at small businesses in your area and think about what their customers might be interested in learning.

    For example, you might offer: 

    • Writing classes at a bookstore
    • Movie appreciation class at a local movie theater
    • Wilderness survival courses at a campground
    • Business classes hosted at a local business
    • Parenting or child development classes at a toy store
    • Textile arts classes at a local clothing boutique
    • Music lessons at a music store or record shop
    • Flower-arranging class at a home decor store

    The class you offer doesn’t have to overtly connect to the product or service the business provides. Instead, look for a match in mission. For example, your local vintage clothing store may be excited about the idea of sustainability. Maybe they’d be willing to host a class on recycling, sustainable living, or the environment.

    Your potential local business partner might also have some ideas. Ask them what they think might interest their customers and look for ways to help make those classes possible. 

    Sell the Idea to a Local Business Partner

    Some local businesses will immediately recognize the benefits of partnering with you. Others may need some convincing. You can help them make an informed decision by offering essential information in a useful way. Follow these guidelines to start building your partnership.

    Explain how the business could benefit: e.g., “If you hosted a class in your cafe, I’m sure students would buy coffee while they’re here.”

    • Be clear and specific in your request. Instead of: “Would you be willing to host a class for us?” Say: “Do you think your customers would be excited to take a music appreciation class right here in the music shop?”

    • Explain how the business could benefit from the partnership. For example, “If you hosted a class in the cafe, I’m sure students would buy coffee and snacks from you while they’re here. They might even come back at other times throughout the week.”

    • Give them time to think. It might seem easiest to just walk in and talk to someone during business hours, but that also puts that person on the spot. They might be busy serving customers, or the owner might not be there that day. If you visit in person, bring a written letter or follow-up with an email that outlines your idea. 

    Networking events are a great place to find local business partners. The people at these events are likely to be open to new business opportunities, and you can talk to them without interrupting their workday. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or look for community business networking events on Facebook to find networking events in your area.

    Strategies to Make the Most of Your Partnership

    Whether you’ve set up a guest speaker arrangement, venue partnership, or community sponsorship you’ll need to work together to achieve the best results. Here are some strategies to help you make the most of your partnership:  

    1. Get aligned on goals. Talk about what each organization hopes to accomplish so you can help each other reach your goals.

    2. Clearly outline expectations for each partner. Have a meeting where you outline each group’s responsibilities and a timeline for achieving them. Who will handle course content, materials, setup and cleanup, marketing, etc.

    3. Cross-post on social media. Ideally, both organizations will post about the upcoming class on social media. If you create a Facebook event for the class, make sure your partner is set up as a co-host. Share the registration link and any other details they need.

    4. Mirror your marketing messages. Use the same course description and registration link across all of your marketing materials. If each organization creates its own marketing messages, you might end up confusing audiences.

    5. Reach both audiences. Both your organization and the partner business should market to their own audience through email, social media, signage, and their websites. Each of you should promote with the same energy you bring to your own programs and events.

    By now, we hope you’re ready to start looking for local business partners for your community classes. If you need some inspiration, maybe these unusual course offering ideas will help get your thoughts flowing in the right direction. 

  9. Creative Aging: Why Arts Educators Need to Engage Older Learners Now

    You’re never too old to learn something new, and it’s never too late to embrace your creativity. That’s the idea behind creative aging: art programs for older adults that enhance their quality of life through music, visual arts, and other activities. 

    If you’re an arts organization, library, community center, or anyone offering educational programs to the community and you are not serving older adult learners, you’re missing a huge opportunity. 

    By 2030, older adults (aged 55+) will be the dominant age demographic in the United States. By 2034, older adults will outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history, according to Census Bureau projections. 

    Heather Ikemire, executive director of Lifetime Arts

    “If you want to meet the needs of your community, if you want to engage new audiences and attract new funding, it makes a lot of sense to be thinking about how to provide quality arts learning experiences for older people,” said Heather Ikemire, executive director of the nonprofit arts service organization Lifetime Arts

    But first, there are a few things you should know about reaching an audience of older learners. 

    What Is Creative Aging?

    In case you haven’t heard it before, the term “creative aging” describes the use of arts and cultural activities to improve the quality of life for older people, Ikemire explained. The field encompasses many different approaches and is practiced all over the world. Lifetime Arts recently hosted the 2023 International Creative Aging Summit, which had 400 participants from 26 countries. 

    “While the approaches to the work vary, in its broadest sense it’s recognizing the power of creative expression—engaging older people in activities centered on creative and social engagement, and the power that has in terms of supporting quality of life, the process of aging well, and also transforming cultural mindsets around what it means to age,” said Ikemire. 

    Creative aging programming can happen in multiple disciplines (music, film, visual art), in multiple spaces (libraries, museums, senior centers), and remotely or in person.

    Creative aging programming can happen in multiple disciplines, including music, film, theater, and visual arts, and in multiple spaces, such as libraries, museums, veterans homes, and more. Classes for older adults can happen remotely as well as in person, and can be free, paid, or subsidized programs. 

    Key Characteristics of Older Adult Learners 

    Older people are living longer and seeking meaningful ways to connect and continue to learn skills. But a watercolor class for adults aged 55+ should not be identical to a class for school-aged students. There are several factors that differentiate older learners from their younger counterparts:

    Adult learners are autonomous and self-directed. “They vote with their feet,” as Ikemire put it. Educational programming has to speak to them and their interests or they’ll go find something else. The best way to offer programs they want? Ask them! “It’s incredibly important to listen to the older adults in your community,” Ikemire advises arts organizations. 

    Older people are goal-oriented. They’re not just looking for a hobby or something to fill the time. They want to learn and develop skills. The creative aging model used by Lifetime Arts focuses on professionally led instructional arts programming designed to build artistic skills over time. Participants have an opportunity to practice something and then keep applying it so they can see their skills improve.

    They are seeking connection. There’s a reason creative arts programming typically takes place over a period of many weeks rather than one-time drop-in sessions. “There is evidence that shows that building social connection over time can actually lead to significant physical and mental health benefits for older people,” said Ikemire. Art classes for the elderly help to reduce social isolation and loneliness, among other advantages.

    In a recent survey, 42% of U.S. adults aged 55+ said they were seeking more social connection in their lives.

    A recent report on aging surveyed more than 28,000 U.S. adults aged 55+ and found that 42% said they were seeking more social connection in their lives. That percentage increased with age.

    They may have barriers to participation. These may include physical limitations, such as hearing or vision impairments or an inability to stand for long periods. Transportation could be an issue, or time of day if they don’t drive at night. Or, there might be another popular class in the community that meets at the same time as yours. 

    Seniors are not necessarily tech-averse. If you’re offering an online class, or even online registration for an in-person class, you might assume that rules out older learners. That’s not necessarily the case. While some seniors may be unfamiliar with technology, many are more tech-savvy than ever, thanks to the pandemic. That said, there are some best practices for working with seniors that we cover in our post, 6 Tips for Teaching Tech to Older Learners

    Opportunities for New Revenue Streams

    Offering arts programs for seniors not only benefits older learners in a community, but also can boost the bottom lines of the education programs. “It can be a really wonderful earned revenue stream for some organizations,” said Ikemire.

    Many arts centers, museums, and theaters are empty during the day. This is especially true for an arts organization that has primarily been serving younger people with weekend classes and afterschool programs. Welcoming older learners into your space during daytime hours is a good way to bring in new audiences. 

    “When you see creative arts programming in action, it’s joyful. It’s incredibly powerful.” – Ikemire

    Ultimately, these programs thrive when there’s institutional buy-in. A big part of making that happen is seeing these programs in action. Invite your staff, your board members, or other stakeholders to see creative arts programming in action. 

    “When you see it, it’s joyful. You get it right away. It’s incredibly powerful,” said Ikemire. “And there are incredible opportunities to grow audiences, to increase your budget, to find the funders for your work, and also to spark intergenerational connections between young people and older people.”

    Examples of Successful Creative Aging Programs

    When done right, arts programming for seniors can boost revenue and student loyalty. Here are a couple examples of successful programs for older learners.

    Two people painting at Rumriver Art Center in Anoka, MN, which has thriving creative aging programs

    Rumriver Art Center, Anoka, MN. Photo credit: Larry Weinberg

    Rumriver Art Center

    Previously only providing youth classes, Rumriver Art Center in Minnesota decided to expand their program offerings to include arts education opportunities for adults 55+. These programs attracted so much interest that they had to add more classes and staff. 

    Over the course of two years, the center’s creative aging programming budget increased from zero to over 25% of their annual budget. Many of the students later became teachers, volunteers, and even employees after attending classes.

    Forever Learning Institute

    Another example of a thriving education program dedicated solely to older adults is the Forever Learning Institute (FLI) in South Bend, Indiana. For 45 years, FLI has engaged older learners through a robust catalog of enrichment classes covering all sorts of topics including dance, technology, literature, and foreign languages. The classes are taught by an all-volunteer faculty. 

    FLI is home to the Silvertones, a musical glee club for ages 50+, that performs at various community locations throughout the year, as well as the Solid Silver Dancers, who learn and perform dances from the 40s, 50s, 60s, disco, Broadway, and more. The course description for that class describes it as “a dance workout that is easy on the knees and made especially for us seniors. But still fun and sassy!” 

    It’s worth noting that courses that incorporate movement are especially important for older learners. Numerous medical studies have shown that the more physically active you are as you age, the healthier you’ll be for longer.

    Creative Aging Resources for Arts Organizations

    There are numerous resources for organizations interested in learning about and implementing creative aging programming, many of them free. The best place to start is Lifetime Arts’ website, The Creative Aging Resource. The site includes articles, case studies, presentations, and research on a wide range of topics related to arts education for older populations. 

    Lifetime Arts also offers Creative Aging Foundations On Demand, a free, self-paced online course designed for institutions and individuals seeking to run arts programming for older adults. The course includes instructional videos, practical program design principles, and information on developing partnerships with other community organizations serving older adults.

    “Creativity is a human right for all of us throughout our lifespans.” – Ikemire

    “This is a time for us as mission-driven organizations to think about how we can provide programming that can really enable all people, including older adults, to age well, to age in community, and to still contribute,” said Ikemire. “Creativity is a human right for all of us throughout our lifespans.”

    CourseStorm counts a number of community education and arts organizations among our customers. Our mission is to streamline access to education to empower personal growth. Learn more about us and get in touch today to see how we can help your organization.

  10. 6 Easy SEO Tricks to Make Course Listings More Visible on Google

    The secret to search engine optimization is that there is no secret. But a few easy SEO tricks can make your course listings more visible on Google. Not only will they help students find your course pages, they’ll also make those pages more user friendly and attractive for learners. 

    You might be wondering why we’re focusing on Google specifically. The answer is pretty simple — Google searches account for more than 85% of the global search market share. Optimizing for Google search is a high-impact way to increase the visibility of your courses across the internet. 

    We’re not going to tell you to hire a pricey SEO firm or rebuild your entire website from scratch. Instead, we offer real changes you can make today to improve your SEO performance. Because when it comes to search engine optimization, small changes can make a big difference.

    What Is Search Engine Optimization?

    Let’s start by defining our terms. Search engine optimization is the content, formatting, programming, and hosting decisions that help you show up first in search engine results. 

    For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to talk mostly about on-page SEO. That is, the changes you can make to content on individual pages of your website to improve your ranking. We’re not going to get into programming and web development. Although, if you really want to up your SEO game, your web developer probably has some suggestions.

    Easy SEO Tricks for Your Course Catalog

    Easy SEO Tricks to Quickly Make Course Listings More Visible

    These easy SEO tricks can apply to any page on your website, but we’re talking about how they can help with course listings because increased course page visibility often leads to more registrations for your program. 

    1. Digitize Your Entire Course Guide

    Printed course guides are still a powerful tool. Sending them directly to potential students can help interest them in your programs, but a print catalog can’t improve your SEO. Some programs try to get away with uploading their course catalog as a PDF on their website, but that won’t help either.

    Uploading your course catalog as a PDF does not help SEO since search engines can’t read the contents of PDF files.

    First, search engines can’t read the contents of PDF files. When your course catalog is a PDF, you miss multiple opportunities to rank in search for course types and individual classes. Second, it creates an accessibility barrier. Some people are anxious about downloading files that could potentially infect their computers. Others don’t have the bandwidth for big downloads. 

    Worse, if someone is visually impaired, their assistive tools may not be able to read all PDFs. 

    When people can’t read your content, they’ll spend less time on your site, which means Google will assume you were unable to meet the user’s needs. The search engine will be less likely to show your content in future searches.

    So, putting your course catalog online is good for potential students and for SEO. Without this step, none of our other easy SEO tricks really matter.

    2. Choose Keywords That Fit Each Course

    Keywords are a core element of search engine optimization. Search engines look for keywords to tell them what a page is about. If the keywords on your page match the ones a potential student typed into their search engine, you’re more likely to rank. Keep in mind that the most powerful keywords aren’t individual words at all. They’re keyphrases. For the blog post you’re reading now the phrase “easy SEO tricks” was one of our keywords.

    The most powerful keywords aren’t individual words, they’re keyphrases. Aim for at least 3 per page.

    For each page of your course guide, you should have a minimum of around three keywords. One, the primary keyword, should tell visitors the topic of your course. You can mix in a few secondary keywords to add context. 

    For example, if your keyword is “Beginners Acting Class for Kids,” you might include phrases like:  

    • Drama class
    • Acting training
    • After-school activities
    • Improve public speaking

    You can use Google Trends or other keyword research tools to find the right words. 

    3. Optimize Titles and Descriptions

    The most powerful place to include keywords is in your title. Let’s say you have a course that helps behavioral health professionals get certified. Your title should probably include phrases like Behavioral Health Professional Certification Training or Certification Training for Behavioral Health Professionals.

    Your secondary keywords can show up in your description. Don’t get carried away here. In the early days of SEO, the more you used a keyword, the better you ranked. Now, it’s all about context. 

    Your course description should be interesting and informative. Any keywords it uses should be grammatically correct and make sense in context. They should help the visitor understand what the class is about and whether it’s the right choice for them.

    4. Customize Your URL for Each Course Listing

    This is an easy SEO trick that many people miss. Every page in your course guide has a unique web address. It probably looks something like this:  https://coursestorm.yourprogram.org/course/name-of-course/

    Make sure that the slug, or URL, for each course page contains your keywords.

    The part we’re interested in for SEO purposes is the text between the last two backslashes. This is known as the slug, and it’s a unique identifier for your page. You want to make sure that the slug includes the keywords for your course. So, if you have a course on How to Draw Animals your slug should be something like /how-to-draw-animals/. 

    Here’s what to avoid when choosing a slug: 

    • Don’t use an internal course number. /290340u57/ might make sense to you, but it doesn’t tell Google anything about your course
    • Keep it short. /how-to-draw-cats-dogs-chickens-pigs-with-artist-sarah-smith/ is too much and misses the keyphrase
    • Use real words and recognizable phrases, i.e. don’t shorten how to draw animals to /hw-to-drw-anmls/

    Most website content management software includes an option to customize your slug. Take the extra moment to do this and you’ll instantly improve SEO.

    5. Organize Your Course Catalog in a Meaningful Way

    Google doesn’t just look at individual pages. It also considers how those pages fit together. This is another case where improving SEO also improves the user experience. When you organize your course content in logical ways, both Google and your potential learners can easily find what they’re looking for. 

    Organize your course guide into logical categories and subcategories. Categories might include broad topics like: 

    • Career Development
    • Personal Enrichment
    • Business and Skills Training
    • High School Completion
    • Technology
    • Summer Camps
    • Health and Fitness

    Subcategories are more focused but still encompass multiple classes. So under Personal Enrichment you may have subcategories like: 

    • Arts and Crafts
    • Cooking
    • Outdoor Experiences
    • Personal Finance

    Try to choose categories and subcategories that your average student (or their parent) might search for.

    6. Include Location Information

    Mentioning the city and state where your class is located can make your listing more likely to rank for “near me” searches. So if someone types in “personal finance classes near me” your course listing is more likely to pop up in their search. 

    Skip this step, and you could be left off the list. It’s probably not enough to include the location of your organization on the contact us page. Make sure it appears on every course listing. 

    Think Beyond Easy SEO Tricks to Keep Improving

    The easy SEO tricks we’ve shared here will get you started. They’re a quick way to improve user experience and get seen on Google. But they’re just the beginning. Keep in mind that SEO is always evolving. What works now may not be a best practice in three years. Watch the headlines to make sure you never miss an update. 

    CourseStorm can help you create a user-friendly, search engine optimized course catalog.

    Our simple course registration software helps you stay organized, lets you customize your URL, and features location information for every class. For more tips on reaching more students, read our post on course catalog examples that boost enrollment.

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