Added to Medium, October 12, 2017
One of the important parts of planning education programming in museums is the school group registrations. Early in my career, I had limited knowledge of the registration process since I was still learning more about the education part of my role. I always understood the significance of managing registrations for school programming, and continue to learn more about the registration process as I move forward in my career. We determine how many materials are needed for school programs, how many staff or volunteers are needed for each program, and when the space is needed for school programs by using the number of registrations we have in the school year. Before the discussion of registration is addressed, there are also many steps education departments in museums take when booking programs for the year.
To effectively have a smoothly run educational department, an organized system has to be in place for every step in the process from conception of programs to the delivery of the programs. I especially learned more about the significance of each step while I was the Long Island Museum, and learned their process. Each museum have similar and different processes depending on the size of the museum and funding, however I am more familiar with the processes of the museums I have worked and currently work in so I am able to explain the process based on my experiences.
When museums plan for educational programs (public school, private school, homeschool, camps, etc.), education departments use educational standards teachers use for their own classrooms as well as materials available from their museums. Once the programs are planned, a marketing plan is organized and executed to be sure local schools and other schools within the region are familiar with programs museums can offer.
Collaborations between the education department and communications department is vital in delivering the museum’s options in educational programming. The layout of the programs not only has to be visually appealing but communicate accurate information about the programs. Once the final decisions are made, the brochures are distributed and other promotions are shared on the museum’s website and social media outlets.
As the calls start coming in for registrations, an organized system is very significant to keep track of school groups. Documents are filled out with information on what schools are interested in visiting, the name of the teacher signing up for the program(s) as well as contact information such as phone number and email, the approximate number of students participating, and the program(s) he or she is signing up for. Teachers and other leaders are most likely to register months in advance whenever they have the time to register so museum education departments need to keep this in mind when completing the registration process and sending out reminders.
Also, an arrangement for payments is made ahead of time so the education department knows how the school is paying for the deposit and/or program fees. Education departments a lot of times know beforehand which payment method schools prefer especially if the schools have signed up for programs in the past.
Once the information is written down and saved in a Word document, the information is indicated on the calendar so the entire museum staff knows what is expected. Education staff also make sure that reminders and special instructions (directions and expectations for the programs) are sent to the teacher, or whoever is the main contact for the registration process. When the day arrives, museum education staff arrange to run the check-in process as smoothly as possible to have the students participate in the allotted time for the program(s). It is also important to be as flexible as possible since things do happen that may prevent school groups from arriving on time so having an efficient check-in process is especially helpful in these cases. I have personally went through this process a number of times as a museum educator.
The process I am most familiar with is using the G Suite, also known as the Google Apps, and keeping track of the information on Microsoft Office documents. G Suite has a couple of items such as Gmail and Calendar for communication; Drive for storage; and Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites for collaboration. When I was at the Long Island Museum, I used the Google Calendar to not only make note of what dates schools are interested in coming but also learn about what is going on in other departments at the museum since it is shared by the whole museum staff. Once I received the required information, I made a notation on the Google Calendar to show the school, number of students and the grade level, and the program they are interested in. Also, I make sure all of the information is filled out in the form created on Microsoft Word including contact information of the main teacher who signed up for the program or programs.
Meanwhile at the Maritime Explorium, I continue to learn about how the G Suite is used among the rest of the staff. The G Suite is used for more that registrations for school programs and other programs such as birthday parties and workshops. It is used to send emails and keep track of instructions for programs such as set up and the constructivist lesson plan.
While learning and recalling the registration processes used, I did a little research on my own about other software available to assist in organizing reservations.
There is a company, Double Knot, which creates software that provides online solutions for various administrative tasks especially online management of events, programs, memberships, ticketing and admissions, facility reservations and online fundraising. Their focus is to make sure museums and other non-profit organizations spend more time on delivering their missions.
Double Knot has a field trips and mobile classroom reservations online booking software designed to create an availability calendar that reflects even the most complex schedules in addition to support for blackout periods and flexible scheduling by day, week or month. It also displays a searchable reservations calendar that lets individuals begin the booking process with a single click. The software provides a way for museums to accept both online and offline payments for programs. Also, this software provides a simpler school group check in process by scanning a single group ticket.
When teachers book with museums that use this software, each reservation can trigger an email to the education department staff so they can call to touch base, learn more about the group, and answer any questions. Then those who complete the reservation would receive an automatic confirmation with all of the information needed especially museum staff contact information and any special instructions for them to follow prior to the trip.
By figuring out the best way for one’s museum to run the registration process, the education departments will be able to effectively fulfil the educational component of their museums’ missions.
What software or process do you find works best for your museum or organization? Has there been significant changes in how the registration process is done when and if your organization switched?