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Strengthening Your Fall Class Catalog

Nic Lyons

June 23, 2020

New student needs are continually surfacing during these rapidly shifting times. Your program can rise to meet many of those needs with a little creativity and a fresh look at your class offerings. 

You may discover that with a few small adjustments, you’ll be able to lead your students, communities, and organization into a strong fall. Here we offer some points to consider as you serve the ongoing and changing needs of learners.

From upskilling to reskilling, workforce training is critically important

Skills and job training are always popular. It’s expected that they’ll be even more popular this year, as people manage work transitions, layoffs, and business closures. Displaced workers may take this time to consider adding skills or exploring new career opportunities. If you already offer upskilling or reskilling classes, now is the time to make sure you have a full slate of offerings ready for fall enrollment and beyond. 

Businesses are also looking for training to increase workers’ flexibility, productivity, and resilience. Can your program offer classes like risk management, ethics, emotional intelligence, implicit bias, the gig economy, productivity, or distance management? If so, now is the time to introduce those to your catalog.

Digital skills and literacy classes are in high demand

As many services —from work meetings to medical visits— have moved online, classes serving the new “distance economy” are a critical need. From basic computer skills to digital literacy, extra training in these areas is vital for people of all situations and backgrounds.

Among those needing such training are those in the workforce, both employed and displaced.  The National Skills Coalition suggests that this education is necessary to “get displaced workers retrained quickly,” and they advocate for a national plan to “address the disproportionately low digital literacy skills among workers…that will be most impacted by job loss due to COVID-19.” 

It may be easy to become a big part of the solution if you already offer technology classes. If you don’t provide them, it’s worth looking into adding them to your catalog. 

Soft skills training is a great match for the arts

Your program can provide and advertise soft skills training for the workforce, even if it hasn’t served this market before. 

For example, the EastWest Players, a theatre company in Los Angeles, CA, has offered a personal and business development mini-course, designed for someone who’s about to re-enter the job market. Their class included exercises in goal setting, resume presentation, and personal mission statements in a supportive environment. 

Other theatre companies have created improv classes focused on interpersonal skills and quick thinking in a business setting. Public speaking, body language, and even personal presentation are skills that every job seeker and employee can use. And with so much communication shifting to digital, top-notch communication and interpersonal skills are helpful for everyone.

Leverage free online course content with class support 

It’s no surprise that many students are learning online using free resources like Coursera, Udemy, and even YouTube (like this YouTube class on accounting basics). Some students enjoy independent online learning but others report feel dissatisfied with its impersonal nature. They may feel lost, need more support than a traditional free course offers, or want opportunities to talk with others about the class material. 

These gaps provide an excellent opportunity for your program. You can help create a more meaningful and memorable learning experience using a blend of online tools and small group discussions (virtual or in-person). 

What does this look like? First, choose a topic that is in high demand. Pair an instructor with free online course content and offer a discussion/study group to augment the experience. Students would work individually on the class using the free materials and also meet on a regular schedule with your program’s instructor who would act as a tutor, guide, and conversation facilitator. (It would work similarly to a book club in many ways!) Coming together to discuss lessons and tackle hard questions may help your learning community have the best of both worlds.

There are no boundaries for remote learning

If your program has shifted to offering remote instruction, you may find that your program’s reach has suddenly expanded —possibly greatly! You can now offer classes to anyone who wants to join them, and you can also get instructors from anywhere in the world. 

York Adult Education Director Lisa Robinson’s program has an art class with a student three time zones away. She notes, “There isn’t the geographic piece anymore…One of our students is from Washington state. She’s been following a teacher on Instagram, and she’s so excited that she gets to be part of her class now because we’re doing it remotely… That’s why we’re keeping it remote in the fall, too.” 

Similarly, Florida’s Orlando Shakes Shakespeare Theatre had already been looking at ways to engage people with the theater in a different way, so when things shut down in March, they immediately offered a series of new, all-online adult acting classes. 

”We saw people register from Tennessee, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, South Carolina, and Colorado. So, people who have never even been to our theater before. And that was fantastic!” said Box Office Manager Evan Valle. The classes were so popular that they added second and third sessions, and gained new fans along the way. 

Wherever there’s the internet, there can be online learning! 

Seek out popular trends with research and surveys

Now is a good time to offer new classes, especially if you’ve been following the trends and your students’ interests. 

Checking out what’s up with Google Trends can help to create classes that resonate, from workshops about Black American history to the care and feeding of sourdough starter. Similarly, there’s no better way to know what your students want than to ask them. Online surveys, like Survey Monkey or Google Forms, are easy to make (and inexpensive to promote on social media), giving you a rapid insight into what people need at this moment.

With the recent surge in remote working, trending topics have included classes about online meeting tools, communicating effectively in a digital environment, and teaching kids at home. Similarly, at-home fitness classes have surged in popularity as gyms have closed. And guided, online cooking classes have been popular as people have more time at home.

From helping shore up the workforce to assisting folks in navigating the online world, your program can help learners expand their experience and lead richer lives at the same time. All while helping create a catalog that will bring your 2020 to a stronger close.


Send us your advice!

Are there other things your program is doing to prepare for the next season’s classes? We’re always interested in knowing what you’ve discovered works best for your program. You can email us at 

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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