Association Learning Technology Trends for 2016

The first weeks of 2016 have been full of predictions for what will be the next big thing in eLearning, but how do you mine through all the predictions to find out what will directly impact your association's digital strategy for the upcoming year? We've put together a quick summary of what the experts are saying about Association Learning Technology to help you identify the important and interesting trends that will help you to innovate and develop your education programs in 2016.


Association Learning Technology wordcloud WBT SystemsWe have already identified in our blog some of the general trends impacting eLearning, including making sure your LMS is mobile fit and ready as mobile learning is becoming more and more widespread. On our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages, we have also shared interesting posts from across the education technology sector, such as this one highlighting mobile, big data and cloud as three big trends for 2016.


But what are the association and nonprofit technology experts saying? As we know from years of partnering with associations to develop learning solutions, associations have unique and specific needs regarding the development and delivery of learning programs. We have been watching carefully and have compiled the key trends for association learning technology from leading industry analysts Talented Learning and Tagoras.


Association LMS Trends, Observations, and Predictions

The analysts at Talented Learning have spent years gathering information and feedback from associations and solution providers regarding LMS use. In their recent post about LMS market trends, observations, and predictions for 2016, there were several points of specific relevance to associations.


  1. Association-specific LMS Functionality
  2. Managing Complex Continuing Education Requirements
  3. Providing Professional Services Expertise


Firstly, the idea that an Association LMS is significantly different to other LMS solutions for corporate, academic, and continuing education programs. This is something we have long been aware of at WBT Systems, and Talented Learning identify association-specific functionality in the LMS as a key differentiation for enabling innovation in 2016.


Providing continuing education programs requires associations to manage complex requirements for multiple credit types, differing regulations and licensing rules for states, regions and countries. Association learning technology solutions must be able to handle these complexities, while simplifying administration for association executives.


Talented Learning identify the ability to provide Professional Services as a key differentiation among LMS vendors for 2016. The ability to provide insight and guidance on best practice, streamline the complex processes of implementation, integration and customization will make a big difference to the success of association learning technology projects in 2016. It will be important to choose a vendor that knows the unique needs of associations and can provide a supportive service to ease the transition to a new learning management system.


Association Learning Technology Report 2016

The analysts at Tagoras have been advising associations on successful continuing education and professional development programs for many years. They have recently released their latest Association Learning + Technology Report. The report assesses "the use of technology to enable and enhance learning in the association market and provides new insight into how associations are using technology for learning".

"Implementation of an LMS is usually a sign that an organization has made the decision to invest significantly in technology to support its learning."

The report notes 87.4.% of associations use technology to enhance or deliver learning. Recorded webinars are the most popular eLearning offering among the associations surveyed, and the report notes the growing popularity of webinar and LMS platforms for delivering learning in this format. Self-paced online learning as an eLearning format showed the most growth in medium to large associations, reflecting an increased investment in learning technology and LMS platforms as the delivery platform. An interesting point notes that the majority of associations that use technology for learning have used educational offerings to increase their organization's net revenue. Again, mobile learning features as a key trend, with the report noting, "for associations it’s no longer a matter of whether to offer a mobile version but what to offer and how soon".


With regard to other upcoming trends for association learning technology, Tagoras surveyed associations to find out about their plans for five emerging types of learning. Two of these trends seem to be of more interest to associations: microlearning and digital bagdes. Tagoras have identified these two trends in combination to enable associations to offer microcredentials. Both of these trends grow out of the increasing prevalence of mobile learning and a continued growth in social learning, offering learners the opportunity to engage in brief, on-the-go learning experiences, and to share, display, and validate learning achievements in both formal and informal settings. Tagoras notes, "Microcredentials are natural territory for associations... Learners increasingly appreciate and seek out ways to demonstrate their ongoing learning".


Summarizing these trends, it seems that learning management systems will continue to be increasingly important to associations for the delivery of online learning and the management of continuing education and credentialing programs. Increasingly, learners and members will access learning on a mobile device, so it will be important to ensure your content and LMS can support mobile learning. As such, it will also be important to ensure your LMS can provide association-specific functionality and that your chosen LMS vendor can provide expertise and professional services to ease the transition to your new association learning technology solution.


To keep up to date with association learning technology trends, make sure to follow our weekly blog, and connect with WBT Systems on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, where we share daily insights from the wider association and eLearning communities.

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