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Best Practices

Is Your Registration System Costing You Students?

Abigail Green

October 17, 2023

We get it: you’re busy. Maybe your organization is understaffed. And keeping costs low is always important. Given CourseStorm’s many years of experience in the education business, we understand the stressors that many community and arts education programs face. 

We also know that if you don’t have a functional, streamlined registration system, it can actually cost you money and time. An inconvenient registration process can also negatively affect the student experience, and cost you repeat customers and referrals. 

Every day, we hear from customers what’s working for them and what’s not when it comes to course registrations. Here are some real-life examples.

Every day, we hear from our customers what’s working for them and what’s not when it comes to taking registrations for their courses. Here are 5 ways that your existing registration system may not be serving you, and what you can do about it. 

5 Registration System Mistakes You May Be Making

These real-life examples from our customers show a few of the ways an inefficient registration process can cause problems for your educational program’s staff as well as for people who are trying to register for your classes. 

1. You are taking registrations manually. 

If you’ve always had people sign up in person or over the phone, you may not see any reason to change what seems to be working just fine. However, the manual method can actually cost you students—or a whole class. 

“We would cancel classes sometimes because we thought they were undersold and they really weren’t.” – Kit Burke-Smith, Garrison Art Center

Before CourseStorm, Garrison Art Center in New York would manually update Google Sheets to keep track of registrations. “We used to sometimes oversell a class or miss a registration that came in over the phone or in person. And so we would cancel classes sometimes because we thought they were undersold and they really weren’t,” said Kit Burke-Smith, education director. Now, signups that come in via their CourseStorm registration website are automatically tracked in the software and class rosters are updated in real-time. 

2. The administrative burden of your registration process is too high. 

If you run a large seasonal program like a summer camp, you may have a lot of people trying to register at once. That’s the case for Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, which runs several very popular summer youth programs on campus. Each spring, up to 500 students register for classes that sometimes sell out in minutes.

One customer streamlined a lengthy process that required training volunteers to run a phone bank to take registrations. Now, anyone can register online by themselves.

Program manager Christie Goertel used to spend weeks preparing for registration day, including training staff volunteers. “I had 5 people in the office doing in-person registrations and a phone bank with 10 people answering phones.” She learned the hard way that only 49 callers can be placed on hold or it will crash the phone system for the entire campus. 

Since switching to online registration with CourseStorm, “I don’t have to do any of that anymore,” she said. “It’s taken a huge weight off my office.” The online registration platform allows people to register whenever they want, even at the same time, without staff having to facilitate it. 

3. Your registration system doesn’t integrate with your other systems. 

Several of our customers in the arts use donor management platform Little Green Light. So they may have someone’s contact information if they, say, attended an event or made a charitable donation. But anyone who registered for a class had to be tracked in a different system. 

CourseStorm combines all of that information. Our integration with Little Green Light means that data flows smoothly between the two platforms. That eliminates the need for tedious data entry and automates confirmation emails sent to each contact. 

4. You use an online registration platform, but it’s made for events. 

Not every arts education program is still using a manual registration process. Some programs do use an online registration tool. However, if you’re using event registration software like Evite, Cvent, or RegFox, for example, you’re missing out on the benefits of software specifically designed for course registration. 

Registrants’ information is not saved, and you usually can’t email students directly (unless you pay additional fees). There’s a downside for the students as well if you use software for events vs. course registration. They can’t access course-specific information, contact instructors directly, or get on a waitlist. Course registration software like CourseStorm has all of these features and more. 

5. You take online payments, but the platform is made for retail. 

Similarly, some programs already allow students to pay for classes online. But many times this process is set up as a retail transaction. This means that someone registering for a class has to enter a shipping address (irrelevant) and can’t easily change their payment method or choose a payment plan (inconvenient).

Again, course registration software improves the process not only for the student but also for your organization. For instance, CourseStorm’s universal transfers feature makes it easy to transfer a student’s payment to a different class, and refunds, waiting lists and payment plans are built into the software as well. 

Download our new case study and find out how Garrison Art Center grew enrollments by more than 100%

What If Our Students Don’t Know How to Use an Online Registration System? 

Finally, let’s debunk a fear you might have about switching to an online registration system. For example, organizations that teach classes for older learners sometimes assume that online registration is not for them. Some even have firsthand examples of customers who have said they can’t or don’t want to navigate an online registration system. 

To address the first concern, older people today are more tech-savvy than ever. Pew Research Center found that seniors’ use of technology has increased significantly over the past decade. Of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64, 96% of use the internet, as do 75% of those 65 and older. The pandemic also proved that seniors will adopt technology when it benefits them. Video calls, online learning, and telehealth became part of everyday life for people of all ages. 

Older people are more tech-savvy than ever. But if some students are resistant to registering online, you can do it for them and still get the benefits of the technology.

But what if you have people who are not computer-savvy enough to register for your classes online, like some of our customers do? Burke-Smith has a workaround for these students: “I do it for them.” 

By entering the registration info into CourseStorm—whether the student is providing it in person or over the phone—an organization still gets all the benefits of the software on their end. Instructors have access to their class lists, registration numbers can be monitored in real time, they can send marketing emails, and more. 

To find out more about how CourseStorm helped Garrison Art Center grow their classes and enrollments by more than 100%, download our case study.

Abigail Green

Abby has overseen content development for higher education degree programs related to education, technology, business, and healthcare. One of her first jobs after college was working with children’s programs for the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She is an experienced and versatile writer and editor whose work has been published by Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore Alumni Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.

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