We are all making personal and professional new year's resolutions for 2017, setting goals and making promises to ourselves to keep them this year. Back at the office, this process is paralleled as the new year kick-starts strategic planning sessions to set goals for association management, covering everything from membership growth and retention to updating education and certification programs. Whether your association is planning to launch new education or certification programs, or revitalize and restructure existing programs, our suggestion for your new year resolution is to invest in association learning technology.
Now you might think, of course a learning management system vendor is going to recommend investing in learning technology, but we are not talking about sales! We want to help you to stay ahead of the technology curve, and share some of our knowledge and experience, to help make your education and certification programs as successful as possible. When we say invest, what we mean is to seriously devote some thought to how association learning technology can help you to achieve your association's strategic goals. Once these goals are set, then follow through with clear plans or resolutions to fully exploit your association learning technology and help you to capitalize it's potential. We have put together a few reasons to consider investing in association learning technology and some resources to help get you started with this process.
New Year, New Goals, New Technology
The key step to a designing a new strategy or plan for association learning is to set achievable goals. The key to this is to understand the needs and expectations of your members with regard to association education programs. These needs and expectations might differ for different groups within your membership, but a good association learning technology solution can help you to meet the diverse needs of your membership.
A still relevant blog post by industry analysts Talented Learning outlines their top five reasons to invest in association learning technology. These reasons may align with one or more strategic goals for your association, such as:
- Revenue Generation - boost non-dues revenue with online and blended learning programs.
- Expansion of Membership - beyond geographic boundaries.
- Economies of Scale - reduce costs of delivering education programs.
- Certification and Accreditation Management - simplify the process for administrators and members.
- Increased Member Value - members place high value on association education, especially younger members.
As an example of this, back in June 2016 an article in Association Now magazine referenced a study titled “Member Engagement Study: Aligning Organization Strategy With What Matters Most to Members.” The article noted that the key benefits that millennials want from associations are job opportunities, credentials and training, and while other membership groups prioritized different benefits, job opportunities and credentials were important across the groups. If recruiting younger members is a key strategic goal for your association, you may want to restructure or repackage your education offering for millennials to outline how your programs and credentials can help them to secure employment. The article noted that associations can re-envision their role in employment for members by saying, "If you haven’t noticed, the global economy is changing, and our education system is struggling to keep up. A large swath of the workforce needs better training, and associations are in a perfect position to take on that challenge." We also wrote about the opportunity for associations to lead the needed change in education in a recent blog post discussing a whitepaper titled, "The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm". This whitepaper strongly emphasized the importance of investing in association learning technology to develop successful education and certification programs that meet the needs of members.
Other strategic goals you may have might include improving the learning experience your members, and simplifying learning management for your administrators, both of which are also good reasons to invest in association learning technology. For example, an association learning management system should seamlessly sync information with your Association Management System, website, community platform, eCommerce, webinar and other systems to provide an inclusive, consistent, and personalized experience for learners, while easing the administrative burden of delivering and reporting on training. If correctly implemented, your members will find it easier to access (and purchase) your education programs and manage their training history and certification requirements, while administrators will have all information on member training, continuing education, and certification in one location, providing instant access to more detailed data and reports on learning activities of individual members.
Association Learning Technology: Resources for Planning
- Start by reading through "Learning Technology Blogs: An Analyst’s Reading List" for Talented Learning's selection of the best blog posts from 2016, providing a "goldmine of thought-provoking guidance" on association learning technology.
- Take a look at the Top Association Management Predictions for 2017 from 13 experts, in this report from Aptify.
- This post on eLearning Industry outlines "How To Create An Effective Online Training Strategy". Though written for a corporate audience, the tips are useful for associations also.
- If you are ready to start looking for a new association learning technology solution in 2017, read the recommendations in "LMS RFP Tips: How to Find Your Best Learning Technology Fit" from Talented Learning, which will help you to determine what you really need before tendering for a new learning technology solution.
- When you are ready to implement your new learning technology solution, you might want some tips on "Successful Learning Management System Implementation". This free eBook will make sure you're on the right track.
- When you are ready to design or update your elearning content, check out these "10 Learning Design Blogs to Draw Inspiration From" by Allen Interactions, or explore the benefits of "Learning Content Curation for Association Member Education" on our blog.
- If you want to stay ahead of the technology curve in 2017, one of this year's big association learning trends will be digital badges and micro-credentials. Check out our advice on "How to Design a Digital Badge Strategy" if you are ready to take your association education and certification programs to the next level!