Which Association Learning Trends Predictions Came True in 2016?

With just a couple of weeks to the end of the year and a huge variety of association learning solutions being showcased this week at ASAE Technology Conference 2016, it's a good time to look back at the association learning trends that were predicted for 2016 and see which of these are still relevant. Which trends will be relevant to the associations attending ASAE Tech 16, looking to enhance or revise their learning technologies? Which association learning trends will still be important as we move forward into 2017?

Association Learning Trends - WBT SystemsBack in January, we wrote a blog which summarized the association learning technology trends predictions of two leading analysts that work closely with Associations - Talented Learning and Tagoras. Their key predictions for the trends that would impact on association learning solutions in 2016 were:

  • The need for vendors to provide association-specific LMS functionality and professional services expertise,
  • Mobile learning becoming a must-have,
  • The growth of social learning, in particular digital badges and micro-credentials

As the year has unfolded, it has been interesting to watch which of these association learning trends have manifested themselves and become important to associations that are looking to enhance and extend their education and certification programs. We did a quick analysis of our blog posts from throughout the year, and discovered that the most popular posts align with the trends predictions. For example, the top ten blog posts in 2016 were:

  1. Why Digital Badges are the Future of Association Education
  2. Learning Content Curation for Association Member Education
  3. The 3 C’s of Social Learning for Associations
  4. The 5 E’s of Generating Non-Dues Revenue from eLearning
  5. 4 Ways Education Programs Increase Value for Association Members
  6. Successful Learning Management System Implementation eBook
  7. How To Design a Digital Badge Strategy
  8. Five Differences between Association and Corporate LMS
  9. Improving Learner Engagement among Association Members
  10. Maximize Efficiency with an LMS to AMS Integration


Exploring the Key Association Learning Trends in 2016

Social Learning and Digital Badges

Digital Badges on the Learner Profile in TopClass LMSThese top five posts align with the trend and interest in incorporating social learning in association education programs, and digital badges in particular. The top three posts all examine how these trends are relevant to and can specifically benefit association learning solutions. The continuing growth in interest in social learning and digital badges among associations can be linked to the ever-present challenge of increasing member engagement. Associations are increasingly looking to social learning initiatives to help them connect with and develop an engaged community of members and learners.

Digital badges in particular will continue to be a strong association learning trend in 2017, featuring twice in our top ten blog list and generating a lot of conversation among association executives online, as they explore the potential of digital badges for association education programs. From increasing participation to providing authenticated micro-credentials, digital badges offer unique opportunities to associations to compete and lead the conversations around the need for change in continuing education and professional development programs in their respective industries.


Association-Specific LMS Functionality and Professional Services Expertise

Another commonality in the most popular posts of 2016 also speaks to the need for association-specific LMS functionality. In the current economic climate, member organizations are looking for ways to avoid increasing membership dues, in order to improve member retention. Not only does eLearning provide a valuable member service, leading to higher member retention rates, it can also generate an important additional source of non-dues revenue. These posts explored the unique requirements of associations in delivering online education programs, and outlined how an association learning management system differs from a corporate LMS. It is precisely these differences that ensure that with an association LMS, organizations can achieve their goals of improving member engagement, providing benefits that members value, and generating additional non-dues revenue to ensure the longevity of the association.

LMS to AMS IntegrationTwo of the top ten blog posts dealt specifically with professional services for association learning management systems, highlighting implementation and integration services in particular. This is another area in which working with an LMS vendor that specializes in association learning solutions can be of benefit to the organization. The ability to provide insight and guidance on best practice, streamline the complex processes of implementation, integration and customization makes a big difference to the success of association learning technology projects. It is important to choose an experienced vendor that knows the unique needs of associations and can provide a supportive service to ease the transition to a new learning management system, to ensure a successful implementation. The ability of a vendor to provide a seamless integration between your association management system (AMS) and learning management system (LMS) should also simplify the administration processes around delivering online, classroom, or blended learning and conference or event registration. An effective integration should provide the information administrators require in the appropriate system and detailed reports, all while improving the experience of learning for members.

Mobile Learning becomes a must-have for Association Learning


It is interesting that mobile learning does not feature in the top ten blogs of 2016. This seems to be due to the fact that mobile learning has become a must-have for association education programs in 2016. It has become a basic requirement of most of the RFPs that we have received this year. The ability to provide a responsive mobile solution that allows members to access learning at any time, anywhere, on any device is no longer an association learning trend, it is simply a must-have for any organization that is committed to providing an accessible experience for their members.

Looking Ahead to 2017...

What will be the big association learning trends in 2017? It is certain that social learning will continue to feature strongly as associations explore not only digital badges and micro-credentials, but other social learning trends that will help to increase member engagement and retention. Online Communities are growing in popularity for several reasons. Encouraging collaborative and informal learning feature among these reasons, but online communities also offer opportunities for associations to gain insight into the issues that are important to members and provide a more organic way to improve communication and satisfaction among members.

Professional services are likely to remain important in 2017 also, as associations adopt new technologies, platforms, and solutions that will need to be integrated efficiently and effectively to ensure seamless transfer of data, detailed reporting, and most importantly, to continue to provide the best learning experience for their members. Being able to rely on the expertise and guidance of experienced vendors, who are familiar with the unique needs of associations will smooth the process of implementing new learning solutions.

As for other association learning trends... we will wait to see what the industry experts predict in the new year. Association education and certification programs are so diverse and innovative, it is such an interesting sector to work with. We can't wait to see what the next year holds!

To keep up to date with association learning technology trends, make sure to follow our weekly blog, and connect with WBT Systems on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, where we share daily insights from the wider Association and eLearning communities.

WBT Systems’ TopClass maintains position as #1 LMS for Associations in Talented Learning LMS Vendor Awards 2016WBT Systems has been working with associations for more than 20 years to provide world-class education and certification programs. TopClass Learning Management System was recently named the #1 Association LMS Solution in the world, for the second consecutive year.

If you would like to see how WBT Systems and TopClass could help you to improve your education and certification programs in 2017, please request a demo. We will discuss your requirements to understand what you need from an association learning solution and work with you to implement a learning solution that ensures you achieve your goals.



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