Increasingly, associations are adopting Learning Management Systems (LMS) to help simplify the administration and delivery of education and certification programs to a membership that is more geographically dispersed, increasingly busy, and dealing with a changing economy which can make it more difficult to attend meetings and conferences in person. When implementing a new Association LMS, or upgrading your existing system, one of the top worries is “How will we get our members and new learners to use this new system?” Here we share a few often overlooked tips to help you make it easy for your members not just to use, but to love your Association LMS!
Ensuring members are engaged in learning is a key challenge for associations. For members, training that is engaging motivates the learner to continue to completion and helps the information to "stick", making it more likely that new skills will be transferred to their workplace. For associations, providing engaging training helps to increase member retention rates, increase the perceived value of membership, and even to attract new members. Apart from the content itself, your Association LMS can help to increase engagement among your members by making it easier to find, access, and manage their training for continuing education and certification.
Make it Easy to Find Training with your Association LMS
Members do not want to spend extra time trying to find the courses they need to complete, struggling to navigate course materials and assignments, or complete and pass assessments. The Association LMS should be designed with usability in mind, making sure the user experience is painless and that the design of dashboards and menus meets user expectations to reduce the time needed for orientation and navigation. Selecting a vendor that specializes in Learning Management Systems for Associations will ensure that the user experience has been designed to meet your members needs.
Before your members access course content, there are other ways your Association LMS can make it easier to find the content they need. For example, your Association LMS should seamlessly integrate with your website and your association management system (AMS), with a single-sign-on solution that ensures that your members need only ever remember one login to access all your resources in one place. Seamless integration with your website should include a complete customization of the branding of the learning management system so that members feel familiar and comfortable with the content, and sometimes don't even realize they are moving from one application to another. You should also be able to display your education catalog on your website, either publicly or behind the member login, to allow your members to easily find all the courses and training events they need on your website, without having to remember another web address.
Seamless integration with your AMS will ensure that your members see a personalized view of your education catalog, as this is determined by their member profile and user settings. For example, if your Association has a large membership, you may use partitions or domain segmentation to divide your national membership into regional chapters, which may have different credit requirements for certification, for example. With your integrated Association LMS, you will be able to show separate course catalogs to members in each partition, ensuring they only see the credit requirements and courses relevant to them. Your Association LMS should also provide a comprehensive eCommerce solution (either in the LMS or through your AMS) to enable you to show correct prices and taxes based on location and role of your members. For smaller associations too, it is possible to filter the catalog to make it easier for members to search and find relevant courses, or to restrict access to specific courses, based on membership groups, making certain courses only visible to group A, but not group B. This functionality in your Association LMS will ensure members are not confused by courses, credit requirements or pricing that are not relevant to them, and make it easier for them to quickly find and access relevant training and resources.
Easy Access to All Education Resources
Often people associate a learning management system (LMS) with e-learning, online courses, and more recently the cloud. However, associations offer a wide variety of professional learning opportunities to their members, employees, and partners which range from online courses, to webinars, to conferences, to classroom-based learning. Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in the hype that surrounds the latest trends in learning – social, cloud, mobile, for example. Some of these are important - for example, cloud-based learning management systems allow anytime, anywhere access to education resources through your LMS for your members. While a good learning management system will support all of these new trends, it is important to also facilitate organizations to deliver learning offline, in multiple environments.
With an Association LMS, you should be able to manage locations, facilities, registration, and administration (associated credits, multiple credit types) of all types of learning with ease, whether the course is online, offline, blended learning, or event-based, like a meeting or conference. Your Association LMS can also be used to extend your education programs with support for other types of learning. For example, some associations use their LMS to facilitate mentoring programs. Others support informal, collaborative learning with an Association LMS that supports social learning features such as discussion forums, integrated online communities, or links to social media networks. Allowing members to review and select course offerings according to their interests or requirements for credential maintenance or certification, and to complete these in their own time and in their preferred order will make it easier for them to plan, engage in, and successfully complete their training, giving them another reason to love your Association LMS.
Enable Members to Take Control of Their Own Learning
The last step is enabling your members to take control of their own learning. Association learning management systems enable members to actively monitor their own professional development with clear, searchable records of training history, continuing education credits earned, and certifications achieved. With a good Association LMS, members should be able to access a complete training history, even recording details of external training and associated credits. Simple administration features will enable you to set automatic notifications to remind members it is time renew their certification, or provide confirmation of credits awarded and badges earned for completion of specific courses, for example. Your Association LMS should also enable you to solicit feedback from members, through surveys or feedback forums, providing a platform for members to make their opinions heard, and allowing them to contribute to the development of your education and certification programs.
Providing one resource for members to find relevant training, and then access the details of, register for, make payment for, and record completion of all their training, makes busy members' lives easier. Providing them with the ability to connect and network with other members to ask questions and share their experience and prior learning, gives them additional opportunity for informal learning, or to reinforce learning by helping others. Providing them with the ability to manage their own learning or certification and provide feedback that will contribute to the improvement of education programs increases the value of membership of your association. All of these things deepen member engagement with educational content, their peers, and your association, providing additional value and giving members many reasons to love your Association LMS.