Hybrid Online Courses: The Secret Formula for Enhancing the Learner Experience & Increasing Revenue

When online learners experience the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, your association is rewarded with increased customer loyalty and revenue. Hybrid online courses offer the convenience and flexibility of asynchronous, on-demand learning combined with the live instructor and peer interaction, plus learner support, normally associated with synchronous learning.

TIA adds learner support to their hybrid online courses

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) figured out this magic hybrid formula for their transportation and freight broker members. Through course evaluations, membership surveys, and discussions with event attendees and committee members, TIA’s director of education, Jonathan Baker, said they “dialed into what members want and when they want it.” They applied a hybrid approach to a few of their signature programs, including an online study course for their credentialing exam, which is now their top revenue-producing educational program.

The Certified Transportation Broker (CTB) credentialing program has been around for 30-plus years and was the first of TIA’s programs to go virtual. It’s now an asynchronous course supplemented with live learner support. TIA offers the twelve-week CTB online study course three times a year, with set start dates that lead up to one of the three yearly CTB exam dates.

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Learners “work at their own pace from the convenience of their home while taking advantage of a structured study format and personalized guidance,” which includes:

•    Student orientation
•    Check-in emails to keep them on track
•    Feedback from the instructor on their strengths and weaknesses, and tips on how to take and pass the exam
•    Regular on-line quizzes to assess their understanding of the material
•    Online study groups

“Learners know we care about their success, so they become loyal and take more courses,” said Jonathan. TIA markets their programs via email and social media, but their most effective lead generator is word-of-mouth referrals. “Company owners talk to each other, and when they find something they like, they latch onto it.”

TIA has the time to provide this level of learner support because they’re “not bogged down in admin” thanks to their technology—TopClass LMS integrated with iMIS and Zoom.

Two examples of associations with hybrid online courses

The American Public Power Association takes a similar hybrid approach for professionals earning the Key Accounts Certificate. Their five-week cohort program combines 20 on-demand course modules and three live instructor-led webinars, plus networking time with peers. They also offer the program as an on-demand-only option for people who want to start anytime on their own.

A virtual cohort spends seven weeks together in the American Association of School Personnel Administrators’ (AASPA) pHCLE certification exam preparation course. The program includes 40 hours of self-paced online learning and weekly 90-minute virtual class meetings. Learners have access to the content for twelve months. AASPA also offers the course as a blended learning experience in selected locations.

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TIA expands its learner support approach to other hybrid online educational programs

TIA has applied the hybrid approach along with their successful learner support strategy to other programs.

The Small Broker Coaching (SBC) Program is also offered on a trimester basis. This four-month program includes pre-recorded online content in eight areas of focus for study at home, combined with live coaching sessions conducted on Zoom with cohorts every two weeks.

Another TIA hybrid online program, the New Broker Success Package (NBSP) also combines independent study with live instruction. For an additional fee, new members can choose to add this package to their first year of TIA membership. The package includes access to the NBSP Online Course, professional coaching sessions, and other membership benefits. Like the SBC Program, participants work independently and in small group settings with coaches.

TIA’s Executive Leadership Development Program provides an Executive MBA style of education to mid-career brokers who have the potential to become company and TIA leaders. It’s evolved over the last few years, switching from an in-person program to a hybrid experience. Because people couldn’t spend so much time away, the cohorts now only meet twice a year at TIA’s flagship events. In between, they study on-demand content and participate in virtual instructor-led training and peer networking.

The need and desire for different learning experiences changes as people’s lives change. Some might prefer the no-pressure approach of completely solo, on-demand online courses. But others might appreciate the more engaging aspects of a hybrid online course that offers interaction with an instructor and peers, along with some accountability.

Learner support is a key element of TIA’s approach that you can apply to your online courses, such as orientation, coaching services, study groups, and instructor/staff check-ins. These benefits will differentiate your programs from others in the marketplace and show that you care about your learner’s success, not just their wallets.

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