Using Custom Forms to Communicate with Your Students

Forms Can Inform Students About Your Program's Expectations and Get Student Buy-In Early On

“Do not bring your dog to the first class. The first class is for humans only.”

Life Enrichment at Laramie County Community College in Wyoming regularly holds a popular dog training class. The instructor noticed that even though she stated in the class information that the first part of the course is for humans, a few folks would inevitably bring their dog. This wasn’t a good experience for the student, instructor, other learners, or the dog during that session. 

How did they ultimately make sure the humans were properly trained? LCCC used their registration form to inform. A simple checkbox on their registration form confirmed that students understood what part of the class was for dogs and what part of the class was for people. 

Yes, I Have Read and Understand

While you may not be dealing with furry attendees for your class, there can be a lot of expectations to communicate before the first class. While you may include details in the class description and on your website, we’d suggest that you have your students acknowledge their understanding using your online registration form. This way you’ll be sure that your students are getting the message. 

Typically, a registration form is used as a tool to gather information from students, such as basic demographics, how they’ve heard about your class, or whether they’re planning to attend in-person or via remote learning. However, it’s also an excellent way to ensure that students have received —and acknowledged receipt of— important information about your classes and your program. Your online registration form provides a way for you to share critical information about your program’s policies, class details, and even health and safety measures. 

Getting a student’s buy-in even before the purchase is complete will establish a better relationship early on and can help to prevent student withdrawal or cancellations, saving everyone time and effort. Below we highlight several topics that you may consider covering in your form: general program expectations, safety instructions, cancellation and refund policies, legal information, class location details, technology requirements, and materials management

General Program Expectations

Well-managed expectations are an essential part of an excellent educational experience. The registration form can help convey these expectations. While you can’t force someone to read the documents you provide, you can encourage people to review them and affirm that they understand and accept what you’ve presented.

Some real-world examples: 

  • Have you read the inclement weather policy?
  • Are you willing to pay for any equipment you’ve damaged?
  • Do you agree to follow the darkroom guidelines?
  • I understand that I must provide my own pressure cooker to participate in this course.
  • I am aware and have read the FAQ page of the website. 

In addition, you can include what consequences there may be for not complying with policies and agreements.

Safety Instructions

CourseStorm screen capture featuring custom questionsOf course, as in-person instruction resumes across the country, there are many new rules about safety. We also expect those guidelines to change. Students will need to be informed about how your program is managing classes, and most will feel increased confidence when your program clearly conveys safety guidelines. 

Including your expectations on the registration form will help your registrants get this information and note that they accept the class conditions. It’s a way for students to show their understanding of other measures you may take, such as temperature checks, or contact tracing should a case of COVID-19 be detected. 

Christie Goertel, Program Manager of Life Enrichment at LCCC, plans to use her online form to inform students about distancing guidelines and any other requirements. “I will be adding a question in regards to a mask because they are going to be required to wear one and acknowledge that they will do the best of their ability to maintain six feet of social distancing.” 

Such questions provide an opportunity to make sure that students have the right protective equipment for the safest class. For example, an organization could ask if a student plans to bring their own mask or if they need one provided, which reinforces that mask-wearing is the expectation.

Cancellation and Refund Policies

We suggest that every registration form includes your program’s cancellation and refund policies. You can link to the policy and have an affirmation, or you can call out specific parts of the policy to be sure your registrants see and acknowledge the terms. 

Legal Information

For some classes, this is straightforward. Some areas of study may be restricted by age, such as a brewing class. When working with animals, you’ll need students to affirm that their animals are vaccinated. For a firearms class, you may wish to remind students that they’ll have to undergo a background check before being approved. 

If there are forms that have to be sent back, like medical or release forms, your registration form can be a place to link to the information and have the registrant affirm that they’ll provide you the documents before class begins.

Class Location Details

From public parks to airplane hangars, many programs are thinking creatively about where they’ll hold in-person classes. Some locations may present unique requirements, and you’ll be well-served by students indicating that they know what to expect. If your class is outdoors, have them confirm they understand the inclement weather policy and that they’re responsible for sunscreen, insect repellent, and personal shade. You might have students verify that they are aware of the restroom situation, whatever that may be. Or simply acknowledge that they’ll need to bring something to sit on when using a location that doesn’t provide chairs.

Materials Management

One thing that will be very different from class to class is how materials will be used and managed safely, from computers to hand saws to various art supplies. Confirming the plan may be especially helpful for classes that are still adjusting to distancing and safe sharing. You can use your form to convey the way materials will be safely shared or provide students with a materials list they commit to purchasing before the class begins. 

A Valuable Communication Tool

Your online registration form is an ideal tool for two-way communication with your class registrants. A well-designed form will ensure that you’re getting the information you need and giving students the information they need. 

And, with all members of the class agreeing to the same rules before ever meeting, instructors will be able to get right down to class without spending too much time explaining the rules. (Just like the dog training class does now!) 

 


Have you used your form for something new and innovative? We’d love to hear more from you at outreach@coursestorm.com.

*Christie shared that great story while guest speaking in a recent webinar. If you’d like to know more about how her program is using CourseStorm, we invite you to watch the video!