Discounts and promotional codes

Be clever about how you attract students to your courses by controlling how discounts are advertised and allocated. In an ideal world you’d never have to give students a discount. They would all flock to your courses at full price. But discounts can form an integral part of your marketing strategy. Used well, they allow you to attract students who would not otherwise have enrolled. Used poorly, they represent income you give away to students who would have happily paid full price.

Discounts in onCourse take a variety of forms: promotions, concessions and membership based discounts

Discounts based on meeting a set criteria – concessions or memberships

These are the discounts you think of when you imagine children, seniors, disability card holders or unemployed discounts. These are discounts which can be given either as a percentage of the course fee, or as a fixed dollar figure. If you decide to give a percentage discount you can also set the minimum and maximum dollar discount which can be given. So you might to decide to give 10% off for seniors but cap it at $50 so that $800 course doesn’t start to be discounted too heavily for you. Or a 2% discount which gives at least $5 off that $100 course so it doesn’t appear too stingy.

These types of discounts can also apply to members. Memberships can be sold or given away for free, and might be used for a gym style membership e.g. all exercise classes for free for six months after purchase, or might be broad scale e.g. 10% discount on all classes for college members. Membership discounts can also apply across relationships, for example and employer might buy a membership which entitles their staff to discounts on certain classes.

Image: The discount details of a six month computer club membership
Discount policy for a membership

Discounts can be given a start and end date. You might want a discount to continue indefinitely or you might want it to be a special one time offer valid for a certain period. onCourse gives you the choice.

Importantly, you are able to set the list of classes which may receive the discount. This might be every class you run, just your computer courses, or just one course you choose. This gives you flexibility to offer discounts where you think they will be appropriate, useful and affordable. You may be able to offer lower discounts to outsourced courses given your margins or it may not be helpful to offer seniors discounts to pre-natal sessions.

With all this flexibility, you can offer discounts to your students in exactly the way you choose. For instance:

  • all students under 25 receive 10% off all courses – these are often people with lower disposable income and discounts are a useful way to attract them
  • all students who attended a course last term automatically get 20% off selected courses this term
  • all students with a senior’s card receive a $20 discount off any of the daytime arts and craft classes

Generally, the concept of a concessions applies on a long term basis and are based on your college’s fees and charges policy. Concessions are automatically applied to fees on enrolment if a student meets the conditions you have set. They can be available to students enrolling online, or just to students enrolling via the office. If you wish to give a special deal to a certain group of people for a limited time only, it is more suitable to create a promotion.

Image: Processing a membership discount automatically in Quick Enrol
automatic discount applied in Quick Enrol


Promotions are another type of discount with a string attached. The student must know a particular word or code in order to obtain the discount. You might decide to perform a letterbox drop in a particular area with postcard sized teasers for your new dance classes. They explain that the recipient can get a 5% discount by going to the web site and typing in ‘WALTZ’. When they do this, the web site alters and shows the courses with fees crossed out and the discounted price alongside in red. The idea is to:

  • create the feeling of an offer targeted to a particular group of people, so the recipient feels special.
  • track the effectiveness of your letterbox drop
  • use an expiry date to create urgency
  • micro-market: use different strategies for different demographics

You might distribute your promotional codes by using:

  • targeted printed material
  • an email mailout to existing or potential students
  • SMS
  • an alliance with a club or user group – such as a deal with a local RSL that gives their members a discount through a code in their newsletter

Remember, the point of promotional codes is not to keep the code secret and prevent recipients telling their friends about it. The effectiveness of your marketing is greatly enhanced by potential students telling as many people as possible about this great deal they can get by typing in a ‘secret code’.

Image: A student using a promotional code to access a fee discount on the web
Discount from promotional code