If your association’s learning management system (LMS) is only used by staff in the education department, you’re not taking full advantage of its potential. An LMS can do so much more than help you manage online courses, certification and accreditation programs, digital badges, and webinars.
We’ve come up with ten additional ways you can use an LMS to deliver more value to members and staff. As an added benefit, when members use your LMS for these purposes, they’re more likely to explore your other online learning programs.
#1 - Transform new member orientation.
New member orientation has come a long way from the days of boring two-hour PowerPoint presentations and “doorstop” welcome packages. Now you can make orientation even more enjoyable and effective by moving it to your LMS.
Moving the orientation experience to the LMS gives you the opportunity to design a new member learning journey that fits the needs and interests of different membership segments. You can also eliminate the information “overwhelm” brought on by most orientation programs, by spacing out the information into digestible chunks.
For each membership segment, identify their reasons for joining, problems they want to solve, resources they need, and how your association can help them achieve their membership goals. Keep your focus on what members will find valuable, not what your colleagues think they should know.
Design a Membership 101 course that shows them how to achieve their goals and get the most from their membership. For example, teach them how to:
- Find the resources they need on your website.
- Receive information relevant to their interests.
- Build learning habits or design a personal learning journey.
- Get the most out of a conference.
- Find opportunities for ad-hoc volunteering.
- Meet other members.
Use a variety of content formats to deliver this information, including:
- Short videos featuring staff and members.
- Tip sheets.
- Interviews with members from all segments of membership (specialty, position, career stage, age, demographic segments).
- Recorded videos from conference sessions and on-demand webinars.
- Quarterly live webcasts on a hot industry or career advancement topic with time for a Q&A session about the association.
Offer new member orientation every few months as a self-paced course so new members can progress at their own speed. But, provide an online community within your LMS so they have the opportunity to connect with other new members and veteran member ambassadors. Orientation should be more than a passive reading and watching experience. Make it an active personal learning experience by encouraging discussion and relationship-building.
#2 - Help affiliate/associate members succeed.
Associate or affiliate members—those who provide products and services to your association’s industry or profession—join your association to have a better chance of doing business with other members. However, many of them don’t know the best way to go about developing relationships (and business) with their fellow members. Some think they know how—they’re the ones spouting off their pitch and pushing business cards on any unfortunate souls within reach.
If they keep doing it wrong, they won’t see any return on their dues investment and will end up dropping their membership at renewal time. You can prevent this associate member churn by teaching them how to develop relationships and business effectively.
Design targeted orientation content for associate members that covers topics such as effective networking, relationship-building, and association marketing opportunities. Include interviews with successful associate members that explain what they did to earn their reputation and grow their business within the association. Help associate members organize online mastermind groups composed of non-competing associate members so they can help each other succeed.
#3 – Provide more effective employee onboarding.
Free up the time your staff spends in meetings with new hires by using your LMS to onboard new employees. When they join your organization, new staff suffer from the same information overwhelm as new members. Assign them only the content they need for their particular role and responsibilities.
Take a blended learning approach. Break up the content into manageable chunks—short videos and reading assignments—followed up by a meeting with HR or their supervisor to discuss questions or concerns.
By using your LMS to deliver orientation content, you’ll ensure that delivery to each new employee is consistent and comprehensive. No one will fall through the cracks because they came on when everyone was too busy to deal with them, like right before a board meeting. You can also use the LMS to track their progress and assess their understanding of the information.
Once they’re taken the orientation “course,” they’ll continue to have access to the course content as well as other resources like the employee handbook, and security and other IT policies. You can send notifications to everyone asking them to review updates to policies and track who’s completed that assignment. You can also use the LMS to provide booster training, for example, to explain how to avoid falling for cybersecurity threats, like phishing emails.
#4 - Give members a look inside the association.
Only a small percentage of members are involved in the inner workings of your association. Many others feel out of the loop. A transparent association is an inviting association. To encourage members to get involved in volunteer leadership, you need to demystify association governance and remove any fears they have about the unknown.
Give members a look inside their association by using your LMS to share reports from membership and board meetings. You could do this by recording interviews with board or committee members or doing a live newscast with a “reporter” on the scene.
If association leaders or staff visit chapters, have someone record the highlights—interviews about successful events and programs or political issues that may soon affect other states. Many associations publish a weekly video chat with the CEO or board chair. Make membership more personal by putting faces to familiar names.
#5 - Improve grassroots advocacy.
Prepare members for lobby day or individual visits to the offices of federal, state, and/or local policy makers. Provide a refresher course on issues, policies, and pending legislation and regulations. Review talking points. Help them learn how to handle anticipated objections and answer questions with role-playing videos. Raise awareness and engagement about a critical issue by promoting a five-day learning challenge.
#6 - Provide training for chapter staff and leaders.
Chapters are often run by small staffs or volunteer leaders with limited resources and expertise. They don’t always have the financial knowledge needed to keep their chapter on a sound fiscal path. They’re not event planners yet are expected to profitably host numerous events every year. And, they must manage their programs with limited marketing, technology, education, and association management knowledge.
Just when a few volunteer leaders becomes proficient with these duties, another few step up the leadership ladder to face the same steep learning curve. Teach them what they need to know with an online chapter management course.
#7 - Improve board orientation.
Board directors must understand their fiduciary duties, association governance, and other strategic concerns. But how can you deliver all this information when your time with them in person is limited?
Flip the boardroom. Make it a requirement that directors must complete training before their first meeting—or maybe even before they can be appointed and/or elected.
#8 - Offer leadership training programs.
By sharing your board and leadership development content on your LMS, all members have access to leadership training—a valuable benefit they may not receive elsewhere. Encourage or require volunteer leaders to take online leadership courses. And, use that same board orientation content for your future leader programs too.
#9 - Provide online versions of popular face-to-face content.
In their Leading Learning podcast, Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele of Tagoras recommend offering online versions of your most popular face-to-face educational offerings. Don’t worry, they’ve never seen an online learning program cannibalize its in-person counterpart. For those members who have already attended the in-person event, provide options to go deeper into the content or to explore complementary content. Look at your most popular conference sessions and see if you can repurpose them as on-demand videos, or repackage them as a webinar series or digital badge program.
#10- Enhance the conference experience.
Many associations already use an LMS, like TopClass, to manage their conferences. But fewer use their LMS to begin the conference experience before the big event and to extend the experience afterwards.
Try a blended or flipped learning approach to your conference. Give attendees who sign up for a specific track the opportunity to start their learning experience online before the event with videos, selected readings, and an online forum where they can meet other attendees. During the conference, they’ll have more time for interactive activities and discussions.
After the conference, invite attendees to return to the online program where they can explore related content, watch interviews or panel discussions, and keep the learning momentum going.
By finding different ways to invite and encourage members to participate in special online learning programs, you’ll give them the opportunity to see what else you have on offer. They’ll either return to your LMS themselves as a student or spread the word about your online learning programs.