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How to Reduce Class Cancelation Rates To Keep Students Happy

Greg Shula

November 15, 2022

You want to deliver on the promises you’ve made to students. That means offering quality classes and minimizing cancelations. Although weather or illness will sometimes result in last minute schedule changes, you try to keep your class cancelation rate as low as possible. No one likes to call off a class due to a lack of registrations. 

Yet, sometimes it really is better to cut your losses and not hold a class so you can preserve resources and energy for something else. Your goal shouldn’t be to eradicate cancelations entirely. Focus instead on keeping your class cancelation rate at or below average. We’ll show you how. 

Average Class Cancelation Rates For Informal Ed Programs

The industry average rate of cancellation for non-credit, open-enrollment courses is between 10 and 15%. The most common reason programs cancel classes is because they don’t have enough sign-ups. 

CourseStorm customers enjoy a much lower than average cancellation rate of 6.25%. (We’re pretty sure our built-in marketing tools and simple registration process have something to do with those numbers.)

We’re proud of that result, but we also recognize that getting cancelation rates down to zero is probably an unrealistic goal. Sometimes interest just isn’t there, or the timing is off, or you’re trying something new that didn’t quite work out. In fact, a cancelation rate lower than 5% might actually be cause for concern! Here’s why. 

Why Some Cancelations Might Actually Be A Good Thing

We all know that failure is part of the learning process. The author Ken Robinson once wrote: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Programs that are innovating by offering new classes, modalities, or formats are more likely to miss the mark now and then. They’re not sticking with what’s safe, so they don’t always get an ideal result.

Too few cancelations can indicate that you’re not experimenting enough. Lack of experimentation may keep enrollment steady in the short term, but it can also cause your program to stagnate. What’s working now may not work forever. Rather than wait until the situation is critical, it’s better to test ideas before you need them. 

Ways to experiment with classes: 

  • Class days and times – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday tend to be the most popular days for courses, but might your students appreciate a Saturday class or a Monday evening session? Adjust days and times to find what works. 
  • Subjects – Try expanding your course offerings to cover related topics and subjects. If you usually offer painting classes, try a ceramics course. If you offer CPR, maybe your students would also like a survival first aid course.
  • Modalities – Online courses became more popular during the pandemic and demand for those courses is still high. Test out online, blended, synchronous, and asynchronous options.
  • Structure – If most of your classes are standalone, try offering a series. If you usually offer a six-week course, see what happens when you structure it as two half-day seminars instead.
  • Marketing – Test out different marketing messages and platforms. How you market a class can impact cancelation rates as much as the material of the class.

These experiments may cause a temporary spike in cancelations, but they could also reveal important information about student needs and preferences. You can’t be so worried about your class cancelation rate that you pass up all opportunities to innovate.

4 Ways to Reduce Class Cancelation Rates

Although some cancelations are inevitable, and even desirable, needing to cancel too many classes can be a problem. The students who did sign up for those classes may get frustrated or see your program as unreliable. Here are a few ways to reduce elevated class cancelation rates. 

  1. Spread the word. Before students can sign up for a class, they need to know it exists. If your cancelation rates are high, check whether you’re doing a good job of getting the word out. Strengthening your email marketing, social media presence, and other marketing efforts can help you get more registrations. 

  2. Reach out to current and former students. Social media and advertising may help you reach new students, but don’t forget about current and former students. They’ve already shown interest by enrolling in other courses. Send an email to current and former students with customized class recommendations for them. CourseStorm automatically sends these recommendations.

  3. Ask for help. If a class is in danger of being canceled, let students know! It might seem embarrassing to admit that a class doesn’t have enough registrations to continue, but students will appreciate the heads-up. Low enrollment warnings can encourage students to spread the word to friends and family members who might become loyal students. Again, CourseStorm can send these automatically.

  4. Make registration easy. Even if a student is excited about your class, a complicated registration system can stop them in their tracks. You can tell this is a problem if you get a lot of clicks on the registration button, but few of those potential students follow through. Look for ways to simplify registration forms and streamline the registration process so more students will sign up. 

By about 20 days before the class start date, you should know if you have a low registration problem. By that time, if you’ve done all the outreach suggested above and registrations are still low, you might need to cancel the class. We’ve created some email templates that will help you announce a cancelation without upsetting students

Keep Class Cancelation Rates in Perspective

If handled well, canceled classes can be a source of information about your students. Don’t let your fear of canceling classes prevent you from experimenting, but do be aware of how your class cancelation rate compares to industry averages and adjust accordingly. The result will be a stronger program that continues to meet student needs for years to come. 

Cancel fewer classes with CourseStorm. Our simple and streamlined class registration software makes it easy for students to enroll in your classes. That improved experience leads to more registrations for your program. Contact us today to learn more or start your free trial to experience it for yourself.

Greg Shula

Greg has spent a decade analyzing business and marketing performance metrics of the companies he has worked with. He uses his analytical mind and investigative skills to find trends and simple answers from complicated data sets. Greg is also an amateur photographer who loves to capture nature from new perspectives.

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