Members have always looked to your association as a premier provider of professional development. But don’t be surprised to see LinkedIn, Coursera, Udemy, and other for-profit learning platforms encroaching on your turf and trying to usurp your educational role in the industry. Sure, these platforms have money and momentum on their side. But, associations still have the advantage. You already have member relationships with industry employers—now it's time to make them your educational content partners.
Learning platforms: the new corporate training partners
It’s hard to imagine a job that hasn’t changed over the last few years, or won’t change in the coming years. Everyone needs to learn new skills. A report from the Association of Talent Development found that 56 percent of organizations offer upskilling and/or reskilling training to their employees. But, a third of the organizations surveyed don’t offer the training their employees need.
However, according to Deloitte research, most employees are not satisfied with corporate training. We all know that creating effective educational programs is a challenge—a never-ending one since you always need fresh, relevant content. Employers are seeking new training solutions and finding them in for-profit learning platforms, like Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Skillsoft, and Udacity.
These platforms provide “business-relevant” and “the freshest, top-rated” online courses. In fact, LinkedIn Learning adds more than 70 new courses each week on average. Here are a few examples of how these platforms position themselves as “leading the charge in helping companies reskill and redefine talent beyond traditional education and training.”
• Employers subscribe to platforms, like Udemy for Business, so they can provide their employees access to online courses and host their own proprietary content on the platform.
• IBM’s partnership with Coursera allows its employees to pursue learning paths and digital badges related to data science.
LinkedIn Learning’s enterprise team subscribers have access to:
• Learning Pro: companies can publish their own content and create custom learning paths.
• Skills Insights: companies can analyze their employees’ skills and promote LinkedIn courses based on the skills gaps they discover.
• Collaboration and Q&A features that help learners interact with each other and with the content author or publisher.
• Integration partnerships with external content providers, such as Harvard Business School and CreativeLive for Business.
What happens when companies—perhaps one of your member companies—encourage their employees to pursue training on LinkedIn or Coursera? These platforms get a new user (customer) and will do all they can to keep them in their ecosystem and away from your association’s LMS.
You may not have the resources these platforms do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be in the game. You have advantages over these upstarts.
Why associations make better educational content partners for member companies
LinkedIn, Coursera, and the others are big businesses casting a wide net. They don’t know your industry or profession. They don’t know your members. Your association is an industry expert. In fact, you are your industry.
You understand your market. You already have relationships with your market. You’re not only an education provider to your market, but also a provider of other resources and services, such as career centers and job boards, news and information, research and standards, and advocacy.
You are already provide opportunities for blended and social learning with supportive peer networks in online communities, in-person chapter and national association events, study groups, and formal and informal mentoring programs.
Your motivation is quite different from LinkedIn’s. You exist to further your industry’s progress. You’re cognizant of the bottom line, after all, you need to earn revenue, but you are driven by your mission.
Become the preferred educational content partner for employers
Creating educational content is a challenge for associations too. There’s never enough time and money to do all you wish. However, you can get access to more time and money if you collaborate with member companies on educational content.
Member employers are a ready market for co-developed content. If the content is designed for your market, and not specific to the collaborating companies, you can generate additional revenue by retaining the right to sell it to others.
Involve member employers in curating content too. Work with them to create learner pathways for their employees from your existing educational content.
Set up portals in your LMS for educational content partners. Give them access to learner analytics so they can track their employees’ progress. Keep an eye on what LinkedIn and other platforms are doing. Match their offerings as best as you can, but play to your strengths as your industry’s association.
The benefits of educational content partnerships for associations
Partnering with member companies has other benefits besides the resources they can provide to help you develop and deliver learning content. These partnerships boost the brand awareness and authority of your association’s professional development programs. Employees who use your LMS to access their company’s training content are exposed to your other online learning programs.
Most importantly, educational content partnerships benefit your association’s industry. Employers have help bridging skills gaps. Employees gain the skills and knowledge needed to move their careers forward. Member companies improve productivity, quality, safety, and customer satisfaction. Association mission accomplished!