At the ASAE Annual Meeting, peer-to-peer learning was everywhere. As conference speakers, association professionals shared ideas, how-to information, and case studies with their peers. More informally, peer-to-peer learning was happening at session tables, on the expo floor, in hallways, and on hotel shuttles. Conference attendees remember those moments of peer-to-peer learning—it’s why they keep coming back.
Why not create the conditions for peer-to-peer learning throughout the year so everyone can participate? Host online educational programs in which member instructors introduce their peers to a topic or teach them a skill.
Benefits of peer-to-peer learning
On the professional side, member instructors might offer tips for:
• Using ChatGPT
• Leveraging LinkedIn to get a job
• Practicing mindfulness at work
Peer-to-peer learning programs don’t have to be limited to professional topics. Programs can appeal to personal interests too, for example:
• Backpack camping
• Navigating Cleveland (or wherever your next event is located)
Peer-to-peer learning is not only a fun and valuable use of member time, it offers several benefits for your association.
Relieve the burden and expense of content creation
Peer-to-peer learning taps into the expertise that already exists in your membership. You just have to uncover it and make it easy for members to share their diverse perspectives and experiences with each other.
Because these programs require little lead time, they keep your content fresh. Members will become used to submitting new program ideas and sharing their new insights and practices with peers.
Offer affordable programs
Peer-to-peer learning programs should be accessible to people who don’t have professional development budgets. Since member instructors volunteer their time and talent, you have leeway to experiment with pricing.
To encourage members to develop learning habits, offer the bulk of the programs for free. If the program awards CE credit, price it at a discount—enough so members have skin in the game but can also afford to pay out of pocket.
Encourage people to explore new topics
Ideally, these programs pique curiosity. They’re an opportunity for members to explore something (work-related or not) that could improve their lives. Just as you removed the money barrier, remove the time barrier too. Keep programs short—less than an hour.
Help members solve problems and learn new skills
Many members face similar challenges. They’d love to listen to a peer describe how they solved a problem or developed new skills.
Offer two-part programs. In the first session, members learn something new. Back on the job, they apply and practice what they learned. In the second session, they discuss their experience, get feedback, and share next steps.
Give member instructors a platform to build their reputation
Peer-to-peer learning programs showcase your members’ talent. Members get to show off their passions. Non-work topics allow instructors and learners to bring their whole selves to the association, including their personal passions that are bound to attract interest.
Member instructors get a chance to become known as the expert on podcasting, beekeeping, or chat box facilitation. Who knows where that might lead?
Help members build relationships
Limit program registration so attendees can get to know fellow members with the same professional or personal interests. In non-professional programs, members meet people outside their usual networks—people who could become potential mentors and mentees, employers and employees, or acquaintances and friends.
People form deeper connections when they share similar passions, whether it’s for iPhone videos or hiking. The program might be the start of a new friendship, business partnership, or romance.
Give industry partners the opportunity to share expertise
Peer-to-peer learning programs give industry partner (supplier) members the chance to teach, not sell. They can share what they know with their professional community and position themselves as experts instead of just salespeople. As they develop new relationships, they can build both their personal and professional brands.
Help member instructors develop valuable skills
Nothing reinforces knowledge more than teaching others. These programs also give member instructors the chance to develop presentation and speaking skills.
You’ll discover members with hidden talents. Recruit them for other volunteer duties as guest instructors, webinar or session presenters, panelists, article writers, or video hosts.
How to experiment with peer-to-peer learning programs at your association
The inspiration for this post was Etsy School. Etsy gives its employees time to teach and attend classes on all kinds of subjects like coding, tap dancing, knot-tying, and jewelry making. No surprise, there’s a heavy emphasis on crafts.
The Etsy culture encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work. “You don’t have to check your personality at the door,” said Katie Hunt-Morr, Etsy's senior manager of values and impact.
If you’re inspired by the peer-to-peer learning idea, think about how you might tackle each of these aspects of the program.
Survey members to find out what topics they’d like to teach to or learn about from their peers. Provide examples of professional and personal topics to get them thinking, for example, in-demand soft and hard skills, like navigating difficult conversations or Instagram how-tos. Think about the interests and needs of different generations. Would younger members be interested in adulting tips?
Call for proposals
Keep a channel open to receive ideas from members for programs they’d like to teach. See if conference and webinar speakers would lead a shorter program focusing on one practice or skill.
Instructor support and recognition
Provide guidelines and resources to help instructors design effective sessions. Offer tips on adult learning, such as methods for encouraging attendee interaction.
Recognize and thank members for their valuable volunteer service, making note of the time they took to prepare and deliver content. If they taught a professional topic, see if your credentialing standards allow awarding CE credit to instructors.
Automate post-program surveys that ask participants for their thoughts on the content and instructor, suggestions for future topics, and program testimonials.
Peer-to-peer learning programs are a relationship and community builder. By hosting these programs, your association helps members connect with each other on both a personal and professional level.