“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
The first half of 2020 has presented new challenges for educators across the country. Halfway in and we’re still affected by the uncertainties brought about by COVID-19. It feels like everything is staying the same and yet is changing by the minute.
However, some things haven’t changed — learners still need education, workers still need training, and people always need (perhaps more than ever) opportunities for personal enrichment. While official recommendations are responding to the needs of the moment, organizations still need to plan for the fall. Instructors must be hired, classes posted and promoted, class spaces reserved and all other the usual things, but in unusual times.
No matter what your fall format looks like, or where you are, or what the situation may be, here are some ways your program can prepare for the rest of 2020.
It used to be that the biggest barrier for an adult learner was finding the class. As many programs move online, new challenges have arisen for some learners, including using new technology to access education and community.
We recently received the following question, “We cater to many senior citizens who have trouble with the whole concept of online classes. They can’t sign on…what can we do to enable them to partake in all that we are offering?” Given the value in both the educational content and the ability to connect with other people, it’s worth going the distance to help less tech-savvy older learners have successful online experiences.
CourseStorm’s Chris Suggs, who taught basic computing to older adults as an AmeriCorps volunteer, helped identify seven things your program can do to get senior learners who aren’t comfortable with technology connected.
As of April 21, 2020, the Senate passed a bill providing an additional $310 billion in funding to restart and expand an emergency small-business loan program. This bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President. However, it is anticipated that funding could be available by the end of this week.
These additional funds will expand the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Many educational providers are considered small businesses, and we urge you to look into applying.
If you are eligible, it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible. Funds are expected to be fully dispersed quickly and are being given on a first-come-first-served basis.
Here at CourseStorm, we’ve been carefully watching how lifelong education programs are being affected by this unprecedented situation brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.
We know it’s hard to find answers to the big question that nobody expected to ask, “How do I manage my educational program during a pandemic?”
We’ve been working hard to provide resources and materials to CourseStorm customers as they’ve responded to the needs of their students. We know that every lifelong learning program has been working to adapt to closures.
We listened to our customers’ questions and we’ve done the research. We know that every lifelong learning program has been working to adapt to closures and social distancing during this unprecedented situation. It’s a challenge, and we’re meeting it together.
And so we’ve created a resource to help, the COVID-19 Recovery Guide: How to manage your educational program during a pandemic. This guide contains advice on how to manage your education program in this troubled time —from transitioning to online classes to finding financial assistance— so that you’re well-positioned to come out the other side stronger than ever.
We recently announced we’d be helping CourseStorm customers more deeply integrate with online classes. As many of you are turning to new ways to accommodate your students, we are prioritizing CourseStorm feature updates that can make the biggest impact for you.
To that end, today we’re announcing a beta program for two new features — both designed to make running online classes easier: customizable receipt emails and file attachments.
We’ll be rolling out both of these features to all CourseStorm programs very shortly, but if you’d like early access, let us know, and we’ll enable these tools.
We are streamlining registration for online classes.
From the beginning, our mission at CourseStorm has been to streamline access to education. It’s what drives our entire company every day. It’s built-in to our pay-as-you-go business model, the smooth design of our software, and the deliberate decision to focus on lifelong learning. In short, it’s in our DNA.
And we’re confident that the customers we’ve served across the US would agree we’ve done an excellent job. On average, CourseStorm customers have seen a 12% increase in registrations year-over-year as we continually add new ways to help them reach more learners.
In our continual effort to expand access to education, today we are announcing yet another way to help programs reach more learners: deeper integration with online classes.
From our founding, CourseStorm has prided itself on being a committed partner with each program we’ve served. As we witness the unprecedented effect the COVID-19 situation is having on educational providers across the nation, our team has been working around the clock to identify ways we can help our customers through this difficult time.
The vast majority of our customers are small, non-profit organizations that lack the financial cushioning of larger institutions and are, therefore, feeling a disproportionate impact on their programs. We have been awed by the creativity and determination of our customers to adapt to the situation rapidly, but we’re also keenly aware that more help is needed.
In honor of that spirit, CourseStorm has created the COVID-19 Education Relief Fund to help alleviate economic injury related to the disruption of our customers’ programming.
“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.