“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. ❤️
I had been running my own web development company for several years when I hired an enterprising young software engineer named Matt James. I didn’t realize at the time that this programmer would not only become the leader of our product development team but, ultimately, the designer of what would become CourseStorm, a business we would cofound. In 2015, Matt became CourseStorm’s first employee and has kept his eyes on the horizon since — always growing in ways to best impact and guide the company. As his leadership skills have expanded, so have his responsibilities, and today, I am excited to name Matt the Chief Operating Officer of CourseStorm!
This occasion has provided me with a chance to reflect on our decade of work together across two different companies. Growing a startup is hard work, and having Matt as a co-founder has made all the difference in our success. I’d like to share some of the essential lessons I have learned from Matt during our time working together. They’re excellent lessons for both business and life.
CourseStorm helped a diverse not-for-credit education program improve its students’ registration experience and customer satisfaction, and free up staff time to focus on growth.
Shasta College was founded in 1950 in Redding, California and is committed to serving its community through education. Its Community Education and Business Training Center offers educational opportunities for personal enrichment, professional development, and career training. The business training center provides workforce training to businesses while Shasta’s enrichment classes range from finance, health and fitness, computers, cooking, creative arts, parenting, and day trips to regional events. Shasta College not-for-credit programs not only provide lifelong learning to the region but also help keep California’s workforce competitive in an increasingly competitive global market.
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.
Orono, ME, February 12, 2020: Maine technology company CourseStorm announced a partnership agreement with leading ticketing, fundraising, and marketing solution for the arts, PatronManager, a Patron Technology product. The partnership will enable PatronManager clients to register students for classes and workshops with CourseStorm while automatically bringing in customer data to PatronManager with a planned integration.
Syncing contact and registration information from CourseStorm’s streamlined class registration system into PatronManager will provide a more detailed picture of an organization’s supporters, helping create stronger, more profitable relationships for programs in the arts.
As members of CourseStorm’s Product Team, we’re always looking forward to what we can build next to make managing registrations even simpler and make our user experience even better for programs around the country. But it’s also important to take a minute and look back at what we’ve been able to accomplish thanks to feedback and input from CourseStorm users!
Here’s a recap of some of the top updates we released in 2019.
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.
AUGUSTA, ME: Governor Janet Mills recognized four Maine businesses as recipients of the Governor’s Award for Business Excellence during a ceremony at the Blaine House in Augusta on December 18, 2019, joined by Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson.
Maine technology company CourseStorm received the Innovation Award, which celebrates and recognizes business excellence through entrepreneurship and innovation. The 2019 award seeks to celebrate and highlight elements of the State’s ten-year strategic economic plan, with four new award recipient categories. Other businesses recognized were Rwanda Bean with the Welcome Home Award, Luke’s Lobster with the Heritage Industry Award, and Bigelow Brewing Company with the Rural Revitalization Award.
“We are very grateful to be recognized,” commented Cofounder and CEO Brian Rahill. “We’re excited to be helping with the State’s economic plan in a couple of ways. We are creating high-skilled jobs as we build our own great team, and we’re helping people continue to train and retrain for new work by connecting them to continuing lifelong learning here and all across the US. We started this idea in Maine and are proud that CourseStorm is connecting people to critical educational opportunities across the entire nation.”
CourseStorm helped Manchester Community College’s Workforce Development and Community Education program achieve a substantial increase in the number of enrollments through a streamlined, easy-to-use registration experience.
Manchester Community College (MCC) located in Manchester, NH has a finely tuned program focused on workforce development. Their learning community includes those looking to gain skills, pursue career advancement, or maintain professional certifications. These opportunities are key for their mixed audience of rural and urban students.
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!