Introduction

Chapter 1

I

t might seem like the bigger your program gets, the more complicated student registration becomes. Before you know it you have dozens of spreadsheets, a database of technologies that don’t integrate with each other, and bottlenecks that slow down the process. All of this frazzles your team and frustrates your learners. Fortunately, class registration doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

With a well-designed process and the right tools, you can streamline registrations to make life easier for your team and your students. Focusing on the process helps you spot and remove bottlenecks. Then, adding automation empowers your busy team to focus on what they do best—supporting students. 

Start by stepping back to get a full-picture view of your entire enrollment system. If you consider course listings, enrollment forms, and even course promotion, you can identify opportunities to automate and integrate. Every adjustment helps to streamline and improve your process. This guide will help you sift through the chaos and introduce real solutions.

Key TakeAway
When you streamline registrations, you save time and frustration for both staff and learners.

Map Your Enrollment Process

Chapter 2

Y

ou might have some obvious registration issues that you know need to be resolved. But these often hide other bottlenecks or challenges. When you remove one, another pops up to take its place. If you start by mapping your enrollment process, you’ll begin to see how each step in the student registration journey fits together. This enables you to make changes that achieve lasting improvement. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do students find out about our courses?
  • What platform/s do they use to enroll?
  • How do we gather student information?
  • What information do we gather?
  • What happens to that information after we’ve collected it?
  • How do students pay for courses?
  • How do we notify students that they are enrolled?
  • Do we keep in touch with former students? How?

With the big picture in mind, you can start thinking about what technology you’re using. 

Why Automate Enrollment

If you’re entering data by hand or exchanging multiple emails with each student to complete their registration, it might be time to introduce automated enrollment tools. These systems help you process student data as it comes in so you don’t have to enter it by hand. That saves time and helps avoid errors. 

Some of the more basic solutions, like Google Forms or Excel Surveys, handle just the data-gathering. In that case, you’ll need a separate solution for accepting payments. More robust tools offer software integration to process payments, send enrollment confirmations, and even follow-up with important reminders before the class starts. 

If you’re only enrolling a few students and you have enough staff to handle the processing, a basic solution might be okay for now. But if your team is small or your program is growing, a robust automated enrollment tool like CourseStorm is a must.

We often see growing programs that have pieced together a handful of basic solutions into something that almost works most of the time. If your map reveals multiple disconnected tools cobbled together, it might be time for a more cohesive solution. 

 

Key TakeAway
Map your registration process to find places where automated enrollment tools can help streamline registrations.

Optimize Your Course Catalog

Chapter 3

An optimized course catalog gives students all of the information they need to make the decision to enroll. This minimizes emails and phone calls that can eat up your time. It also encourages students to act now. 

Organize your course listings by category and subcategory. While some students will follow a direct link to a course, others might just be browsing your catalog. Make it easy for them to find the classes and topics that interest them by using categories and subcategories.

Course Catalog Essentials

When a potential student clicks on a course, they should find all of the information they need. Make sure each course description gives students compelling reasons to enroll and includes a call to action. Phrases like register here, sign up now, and claim your spot, can add a sense of urgency. 

Every class description should include:

  • Class name
  • Class description
  • Category
  • Subcategory
  • Eye-catching photo
  • Interesting lead-in
  • Details about when and where the class will be offered
  • A call to action (ex. Register here, sign-up now, claim your spot)
  • A registration button or link

That last point is especially important for streamlining registrations. Each listing on your course catalog should include a registration link or button that stands out from the rest of the content and brings students to your registration form. You might also include a cart feature so students can sign up for multiple classes at once without filling out the same information over and over. 

Mobile-Friendly Course Catalogs are Essential

Keep in mind that your catalog absolutely must be mobile-friendly if you want to make enrollment easy for students. Why? Because 61% of visits to U.S. websites came from mobile devices in 2020. If your course catalog isn’t mobile-friendly, potential students might never click that registration button. They might not even see your registration button.

When your course catalog is mobile-friendly, you know that students always see the best of what you have to offer. Whether you integrate your course catalog into your website or share individual courses on social media, students can easily enroll from any device.

Key TakeAway
Your course catalog absolutely must be mobile-friendly. Don’t forget to include a call to action and a registration button.

Make Better Registration Forms

Chapter 4

We know some programs out there are still asking students to send in a physical form or make a phone call to register for a class. If you’re one of them, switching to online registrations might feel like a huge task. But it’s so worth it. Online registration is more convenient and accessible. It will help protect student privacy and can even save you money. 

When students can start registering with the click of a button, the whole process feels a lot easier. They can act immediately, which minimizes the chance that they’ll second-guess their choice or get distracted. In short, they’re more likely to enroll and feel good about the process.

Just like your course catalog, your registration forms must be mobile-friendly. Students should be able to register for your class wherever they are. Frustrate them with a form that doesn’t work on mobile, and you may lose the registration. Either they’ll move on to a site that’s easier to use, or they’ll promise to “do it later.” Too often, later becomes never.

Simplify Registration Forms

Even with a mobile-friendly form in place, you can still lose registrations to choice paralysis. Offering too many options, or asking too many questions, on your registration form can leave learners overwhelmed. They might decide to do it later, and we all know what happens next. 

Avoid this sad scenario by reviewing your registration forms with a critical eye. Ask yourself:

  • Do we really need all of this information?
  • Are there fields we could combine or eliminate?
  • Can we gather this information later?

Registration Form Essentials

Of course, it’s possible to oversimplify. There are five things every registration form must do for you. These are:

  • Gather essential information about the student
  • Share relevant details about the class
  • Give learners pricing info and payment options
  • Record legal consent
  • Ask for feedback

Creating a registration form is a balancing act. You want to keep it simple, but still gather (and give!) all of the essential information. Custom forms can help you maintain the balance by adding or removing sections based on which class the student is signing up for. Setting up custom forms might sound like a lot of work, but with the right software, it’s simple. 

Key TakeAway
Simplify your registration forms to include only essential information, and don’t forget to make them mobile-friendly.

Payments and Refunds

Chapter 5

Collecting and tracking payments for classes can be a hassle. It only gets more complicated when a student requests a refund. From collecting payment information to tracking who has paid and who hasn’t, payments and refunds involve many moving parts that can slow down the registration process. 

You have a lot of options when it comes to processing and tracking student payments. If you’re still relying on cash, checks, and spreadsheets, you’re probably spending too much time on payment management. Online payment processing is a step in the right direction, but it can still be unwieldy if your payment tool doesn’t integrate with your registration software.

Ideally, you would have a fully integrated registration and payment process that allows students to click, fill out a form, pay, and get confirmation of their seat. This type of integrated system means you always know exactly how many students are registered and paid. 

While you can sometimes cobble together a decent payment system using several tools, a single integrated solution can make your life a lot easier. It also makes student information more secure without slowing down your registration process. 

Secure Payment Processing Helps Streamline Registrations

Spreadsheets, physical forms, and checks all include confidential information. That makes you responsible for storing and protecting this valuable data. Security measures can create bottlenecks, since you may have to restrict access to certain members of your team. With online registration, students can access their registration and payment information any time of the day or night.

Reputable online payment processors use encryption, so you never have to handle confidential student banking data. Look for a payment processor that: 

  • Encrypts communication in and out of your site
  • Is PCI compliant
  • Encrypts stored credit card information
  • Restricts data sharing to the minimum necessary data
  • Stores data in state-of-the-art data centers

More Ways to Improve the Payment Process

To improve your payment and refund process even more, make sure you have a clear refund policy in place. For big-ticket classes, you might also want to offer payment plans. Weekly and monthly payment plans make classes more accessible to more students. Meanwhile, integrated payment software automates the process so you spend less time chasing down class fees.

Key TakeAway
Fully integrated online payment processing makes registration and refunds easier to process.

Promote Your Courses Efficiently

Chapter 6

You might not think of class promotion as part of your registration process, but it is. Students can’t sign up for a class they don’t know about it. Once they do know it exists, they need to know where and how to sign up.

Your marketing and promotion efforts are what bring students into your registration pipeline in the first place. Getting this step right can help attract the right visitors to your course catalog or website. If you’re thoughtful about the information you share, and where you share it, students will come to your registration page with the knowledge they need to understand if your courses are right for them. 

Here are a few ways to reach your ideal audience:

  • Build an email list. People who have signed up for your email list are signaling their interest in what you have to offer. Sending consistent email announcements can help move them from interested to registered. 
  • Post on social media. You can create a social media event for your courses, post in your feed, or share endorsements from former students. Make sure you’re linking to your fully optimized course catalog, and ideally to the specific class you mentioned in the post. 
  • Share QR codes. If you’re using flyers or posters to advertise classes, add QR codes that bring students directly to your course listing. The pandemic has made QR codes more common, so it’s likely that your potential students will know how to use them.

In short, make sure all of your marketing communication leads students directly to the beginning of your registration process. They should always know how to take the next step. Don’t just link to your website, link to a specific class or category in your course catalog. Students are more likely to enroll if you always make the next step in the process clear and simple.

To Sum It Up

Chapter 7

If your registration process is frustrating, slow, or just not meeting your needs, it might be time to take a step back and review your process. Introducing new technologies might feel overwhelming at first, but the right tools can make all the difference. 

Keep in mind that streamlining registrations is an iterative process. There’s always something else to adjust and improve. As technology evolves, so will student expectations. To keep students happy, you’ll need to keep up with these changing technologies, or partner with a registration software provider who does.

A streamlined course registration process saves you time, money, and frustration. Your students will be happier. Your team will be more productive. And you’ll be ready to grow enrollments. So what are you waiting for? Start streamlining your registration process today.

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