Good dietary habits have a way of disappearing around the holidays. It’s just as easy for learning habits to fall off the wagon too. Encourage members to get the most out of their time away from work: offer holiday specials that promote online learning.
Holiday time for adult learners
Depending on their profession or employment situation, members may have a few weeks off over the holidays or no time off at all. They may be away on vacation. Or, they may be home, but their kids are home too so their time is occupied.
Their workplace may be open or closed. They may be busier than usual because they’re covering for absent colleagues, or because they’re dealing with end-of-quarter or –year deadlines, or other event calendar-driven tasks.
But some of them may be at work enjoying a more relaxed pace. Finally, they have time to spend on all those things on their “maybe someday” list. Or, their office is closed so they’re home with free time on their hands—time they can spend learning. Why not take advantage of that?
Holiday e-learning specials and “gift cards”
If enough people in your audience have a relaxed schedule during the holidays, promote a few Holiday Specials. Look at your online programs. What could someone accomplish over a few days or a few weeks? How could they earn continuing education credits? Or a digital badge? Perhaps they’ll have enough time to complete a:
• Webinar series
• Short course
• Package of microlearning modules
• One (or more) steps of a learning pathway
Encourage members to check their professional development budgets. If they still have money to spend, suggest they purchase the equivalent of professional development gift cards (or credit coupons) to share with their staff. The gift of learning lasts forever.
Promote online learning with New Year specials
Now’s the time to promote new habits and new January programs. Before the year ends, coordinate with other departments to send out messages and content about building learning habits and developing professional development goals for the new year. Encourage members to make this their year of transformation.
Put together some evergreen content—tip sheets, blog posts, and newsletter articles—about study strategies, learning habit development, industry reading resources, and other professional growth recommendations. Colleagues who have to scrounge for blog and newsletter content will be happy to tap you for professional development advice for members.
How you can attract new learners by lowering the barrier to entry to existing programs? You could promote some of your less expensive and less time-consuming programs. Or, offer free samples of a mini-course to give them a taste of what they’re missing.
Show members (and others in your audience) the way to go forward. Sometimes, people don’t know how or where to begin, especially if they’re just starting in the profession or industry. Offer free self-assessments so they can see where they need to improve their skills and knowledge.
Recruit volunteers and others (including staff) who are willing to spend 20 minutes on the phone with a prospective learner. They can provide advice on an educational pathway and coach them through their decision.
Set up learning pathways so members can see which programs to take to reach specific educational goals. Attach digital badges to these pathways so learners have something to show for their accomplishments.
Re-engaging learners after the holidays
Revise schedules and any automated notifications for learners in synchronous or asynchronous courses during the holidays. Be respectful of their needs for time off with family and friends. Others may need a breather and time to recharge. Some may look forward to time away from work so they can catch up on “school” work. And for some, it’s business as usual, they may take this time to get ahead.
For learners in synchronous programs, consider providing an optional reading list—just like the ones you had for summer vacation when you were a kid—that includes short books, magazine and blog articles, and newsletters. The Society of Surgical Oncology offers continuing education credits for reading specific journal articles in their TopClass LMS.
John Leh at Talented Learning recently wrote about a way you can keep members engaged over the holiday break. He interviewed someone from a medical specialty society that sends out a “Question of the Week” to members. The quiz is hosted on their LMS. Members earn a quarter-hour CME credit each week they respond to the quiz.
Ask learners to keep their eyes and ears open for news about course-related topics you can discuss when everyone returns to class. Learners can also use their time off to reflect on what they’ve learned and experienced in the course so far, and how the experience could be improved.
It can be hard for everyone to get back into the swing of things. After even a few days off, you start forgetting information that isn’t yet imprinted in your long-term memory. After the break, assess the need for a review.
Kids don’t mind watching movies, playing show-and-tell, and eating ice cream in class during the holiday season, but you can’t waste an adult learner’s time “in class.” Encourage learners to take advantage of any time off they have. By promoting holiday specials, you can help members and others in your community develop a new learning habit for the new year.