Many associations are following the trend of putting courses and professional development online. It’s an effective business strategy that improves member services, creates awareness and opens the association to a broader audience. In many cases, it also brings in a significant new non-dues revenue stream, especially in the healthcare and education fields, where professionals don’t have the time or money to attend face-to-face events. While the intentions for launching an eLearning course are good and the strategy is sound, the reality is that for it to be successful, it takes more than converting existing face-to-face courses to an online Learning Management System.
Here are some of the most critical areas of focus when developing an association eLearning program.
1. Selecting The Right Learning Management System
The eLearning field changes every day and to sustain a sound program requires special skills and fresh approaches. Many organizations transitioning from face-to-face courses to a virtual environment need help in managing these new events. They will need to rely on the expertise of others to help structure the course environment for maximum impact and ease of use.
The platform selected for eLearning is one of the most important decisions. It’s important to ensure the platform places the association in the best light. Some platforms offer customized branding options, which carries the association’s brand across the eLearning program. Others provide technical integration with the association’s member database system. Platforms, like iCohere, offer these and personalized training and technical assistance.
2. Course/Content Development
When converting face-to-face course content to eLearning content, it’s important to understand design elements and the user experience. The internet is different than a classroom. Associations should choose a style that fits with the members’ time and objectives. This could be a live webinar series, or a self-paced course that can be accessed on demand, or a more interactive workshop style that uses a blend of multimedia. Media options include videos, live streaming, downloads, chat rooms and discussion forums, all which help deliver a lively, interactive learning experience. Interactive courses can be highly effective as they naturally evolve into an ongoing member learning community.
One very important feature is mobile optimization. Just as we don’t want to limit our audience to a face-to-face classroom, we need to be accessible across mobile devices. Content and design must also consider other accessibility options, especially if the eLearning targets government employees or is funded by government grants. Choose an LMS platform that can assist with this option.
3. Marketing and Promotions
Marketing the eLearning program is just as important as selecting the right LMS and developing the most user-friendly, engaging content. Begin with a clear audience profile and use strategies that reach this audience at multiple touch points. The campaign tactics might include a video interview with an instructor or guest panelist, an industry article about the benefits of the course, or testimonials from past students. Once the association hosts a few eLearning courses, the content created can then be used in future marketing campaigns. For example, a recorded webinar can be shared with new prospects to demonstrate the value of the program. Portions of an instructor’s presentation can be shared across social media channels and on the association website.
4. Room For Expansion
Researching and developing eLearning opportunities takes time and will involve many staff members across the association. As an eLearning program becomes more successful, there will be opportunities to expand the program. It’s essential the LMS also come with analytics and reporting capabilities, so that you are able to look at ways to improve and expand your program. The data will help you make the right decisions.
Selecting a technology partner is an important decision. Look at the “here and now,” but also at the association’s strategic direction. Select a partner that meets your current needs but will also be able to expand with you.