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What Can Your Program Learn from a Canceled Class?

Nic Lyons

May 3, 2019

Oh, the class cancelation. Everyone winces and sighs when they have to send that email or make that call. It’s never fun to make or deliver the decision which will inevitably disappoint someone (especially if it’s you).

Realistically, an “enrollment not met” cancelation is something that happens from time to time to many organizations. However, a canceled class offers lessons of its own that will help improve your program, if you are willing to learn, resulting in fewer canceled classes in the future.

What new lessons and opportunities can come from a class cancelation? Here are eight to consider.

1. A Chance to Weed the Garden

While it’s great to have a large number of offerings in your course catalog, it’s not good to have underperforming programs, which is the ultimate description of a canceled class. Think of it like weeding a garden – you’re only keeping the classes that will bring you a bountiful harvest.

2. A Time to Track the Trends

By keeping a list of classes which have canceled due to low enrollment, you’ll know which classes are potentially problematic before scheduling them. Over time you’ll be able to notice registration trends which allow you to better tailor your offerings. How quickly can you tell if a class will be successful or not based on past performance? Keeping track can help.

3. A Push that Prompts an Action

When a class is canceled, it should prompt a review of all courses with low enrollment, not only a review of the canceled one. If there are similarities, it could be worth a deeper dive into why these are low-performers. Alternatively, if the class is similar to a successful one, you may explore the differences that seem to make one more popular than the other. (For example, is it the teacher? Is one at night and the other in the afternoon? Is one hands-on and the other lecture-style?)

4. A Nudge to Ask for Feedback

While you’re assessing internally, this is also an excellent time to give your whole mailing list a chance to provide feedback on your program and its offerings. In ten questions or fewer, you could ask about their interests, invite them to rate classes (especially those which are at risk or have already canceled) based on their interest level. Ask where students find out about your classes and if they’ve even heard of the classes with low-enrollment. Use the data to refine future catalogs and marketing efforts both.

5. An Excuse to Go the Extra Mile

Just because you’ve canceled a class doesn’t mean your relationship with students is now void! An extra special customer service treatment could transform their experience with you and create evangelists of people who didn’t even get to take the class they planned to. For example, if there’s another program offering a similar class, you might leverage your professional relationships to see if your students could attend that class for the same cost. If there’s an online option, you could create a space where students could take the course that way.

6. An Invitation to a New Experience

If you cancel and there’s no possible replacement class, invite affected students to transfer to another class — and make it worth their while to try something new! Encourage and incentivize them to try a different option in the catalog. Play class concierge and help your students discover something new and exciting! Consider offering a discount for the replacement class you’re suggesting.

7. A Moment to Make Students Feel Valued

You have the option to handle a class cancelation in a way that reinforces how much you value your students! Craft a process that engages students early on if enrollment is low and remain in regular communication while a decision is made. Keep the process as transparent as possible.

8. A Reason to Design a Great Process

If you don’t have a process, now’s a great time to make one. Create a low-enrollment warning and cancelation process while you’re feeling the pinch. Craft the formula to determine how many students a class needs to run. Find a way to make the “class will run” enrollment requirements consistent and transparent. Write down what you create and publish it on your website where students can find it if necessary.

Ultimately, while nobody wants to have to cancel a class, it provides an extraordinary moment for you to stop and take stock of what this particular class is teaching your program. From creating fantastic student experiences to weeding your catalog, you’ll find that even a canceled class can foster the perfect environment for learning something new! Canceling a class doesn’t have to be a disaster either. Read our article on How to Cancel a Class Without Upsetting Students so you know when to cancel a class and how to do it. Plus we provide an email template for communicating with your students. 

Want to cancel fewer classes? CourseStorm makes it easy to see how class registration is going and can even send low-enrollment emails automatically!  Try it for free.

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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