ASAE Annual 2014: An Interview with Kylee Coffman

The following is a transcript from a recent interview with Kylee Coffman, of DelCor Technology Solutions. Kylee is an association leader who is passionate about building member communities, user experience, content strategy, mobile, and the impact of emerging technologies on business. I was thrilled to speak to her in anticipation for this year’s ASAE Annual Conference August 9th!
ASAE Annual Conference Kylee Coffman

Sarah Lugo: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting?

Kylee Coffman: Seeing so many association friends and having a good time at the receptions! At Annual last year I was expecting my first baby and couldn’t enjoy the many receptions and vendor parties like I have in the past, where some of the best networking happens. It doesn’t hurt that Nashville has such incredible musical talent as well. This year I plan to make up for what I missed last year!


SL: In your opinion, what is going to be the hot topic(s) this year and why?

KC: I believe associations need to focus on innovations in communication. This is what many associations are struggling with at the moment.

2012 was the year of responsive design, 2013 was the year of big data, and 2014 is all about personalization. More and more associations are trying to build a user-focused online experience for their member in an effort to keep the member more active in the association and to surface the value of membership. Many associations collect a significant amount of data on their members, but aren’t using it to enhance the member experience. More associations want to find new ways to connect to their members so they aren’t so reliant on e-mail blasts. So many of us are overrun with e-mail these days and it’s only getting worse. The clients I meet with are asking for that “Amazon-like” website and want to be able to connect and appeal to their members on an individualized level. I think micro-marketing is getting a lot of attention right now.


SL: What do you think will be the technology focus this year at ASAE Annual 2014?

KC: Technology is really a part of everything that we do as association professionals these days. I believe many associations are still struggling with the technology advances of previous years, like moving their websites to a responsive, mobile-first environment, launching social media strategies and campaigns, analyzing if they should move to the cloud, and figuring out big data. It seems that several organizations I’ve been working with also have increasingly limited budgets, so they are really open to creatively reinterpreting staff operations.


SL: What advice would you give attendees who plan to hit the expo hall in search of a new technology solution?

KC: Go to the Expo Hall with a plan. What solutions or services do you need right now, which do you need to plan for in your upcoming budget cycle, and which do you just need to know more about? Make a plan to get several points of view on each topic by visiting different types of vendors with knowledge or offerings in those areas. But don’t be afraid to stray from your list – you never know where you might uncover your next great idea!


SL: ASAE Annual is arguably the best networking event of the year, but with so many people to see and things to do, how can association professionals best utilize their time?

KC: Annual is where everyone in the association world gets together once a year to share ideas and let loose. So much of what makes Annual special is the informal discussions that take place at the receptions, in the hallways between sessions, on the plane, and in the coffee line. Don’t wait until the plane ride to start building your schedule. The conversations begin now. Jump on Twitter #ASAE14 to start following the discussions early. Download the event app to start building your schedule. Follow the party lists being shared online. Think strategically about what new relationships you can form and who it is you would like to know. Perhaps it is someone you routinely see or engage with online, whether via Twitter, blog, Collaborate, etc., and make it a point to try and arrange some time with that person.


About ASAE Annual Conference
The ASAE Annual Conference is a highly attended event for association professionals and nonprofits. The three-day conference is in Nashville this year and will feature hundreds of learning and networking sessions. It is a great way for organizations to get new ideas, strategies, and answers.  

 About Kylee
Kylee write for her blog, DigitalConfetti and has a live online show, DelCor Social Media Sweet Spot which covers technology topics pertaining to association, non-profit, and event planning communities. She is also an active volunteer with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and has served on the ASAE Technology Section Council, Small Association Social Media Task Force, Association of the Future (AOTF) project, and is a participating member in the Young Association Professionals (YAPstar) community. 

Kylee Coffman ASAE Annual

Spirit Animal: I just did a Spirit Animal quiz online and it said I was a “Butterfly.” No joke.
Diet-breaker: Licorice
Comfort object: Any stuffed animal of my daughter’s. Or just a video of her melts me.
Personal vice: Caffeine
Useless talent: I can do lots of eye tricks. My mom nicknamed me “Trick Eye”
Unreasonable paranoia: Being a mother has opened me up to all kinds of paranoid thinking. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve had to stop watching a lot of TV shows (like Walking Dead) because of the anxiety it causes me. I’m ready to bolt the house up and carry a baseball bat all night after watching that show. Yes, I’m now officially a BRAVO-loving wuss!
Wishes more people cared about: Human rights and global warming.


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10 Reasons to Convert Your Credentialing and Certification Programs to eLearning

Need a reason to convert your existing instructor-led credentialing and certification programs to eLearning? How about 10?

converting certifications to online education

As technology continues to innovate and become easier to implement, the business case for associations to move their classroom-based courses online is strengthening. 10 years ago, the idea of offering online certification and credentialing programs at your association would have been crazy. But today, it’s almost crazy not to. Members are increasingly tech savvy, cost conscious, and eager to eliminate unnecessary time wasters. Associations are also realizing the potential of online member education and investigating ways to automate the process of delivering content, administering assessments, and issuing certificates.

Here are the top 10 reasons associations should convert their credentialing and certification programs to eLearning:

1. More convenient for members. Traditionally, credentialing and certification programs have been instructor-led and delivered in a classroom setting. Typically, these on-site training events are only held on select dates and require some amount of travel. Registration is generally completed well in advance and members must plan their schedules around these multi-day events.

Thankfully, the advancement of online learning technologies has created a more attractive and convenient alternative. Rather than waiting around for the next available class, or having to travel to some far away destination, members can register and begin accessing their online certification or credentialing program immediately.  Most learning management systems (LMSs) also enable members to complete the training from any desktop or mobile device.

2. Less costly for the association. The moment you convert your on-site program to online, you’ve eliminated the need for:

• a classroom
• print materials
• equipment (projectors, monitors, microphones, etc.)
• on-site staff
• computers or other means for completing assignments and exams

Depending on your program and the size of a typical certification class, this could save your association thousands of dollars. Even high-stakes testing can now be conducted completely online through the use of webcams and identity verification software – eliminating the traditional expenses of proctored exams.

3. Increased profitability for the association. Less money spent on classrooms, instructors, association staff, equipment, security, food, etc. means higher profit margins for your association. Sure, there are still costs associated with the online delivery of certification and credentialing programs, but these are generally one-time costs and substantially less than what you spend on an in-person course.

4. Easier to update materials. Instead of using textbooks and handouts, your members will access digital versions of your training materials. When changes are necessary, you can simply update the master PowerPoint for your eLearning course, save out a new PDF document, or link to a new cut of your video-based course. Skip the printer and make changes in minutes instead of months. That’s the beauty of digital media!

5. More consistent delivery of information. Even if you use the same instructor every time, the experience will be different each time you offer your on-site training. For some associations and in some industries this can be a real issue. eLearning remains consistent day after day, for learners across the street, or across the country.

6. Quicker to complete for members. Members are busier than ever and their time has never been more valuable. Completing certification training online enables members to move at their own pace and without unnecessary interruptions. Instant access to online content also means that learners who are ready to begin immediately don’t have to wait.

7. More marketable to the members. Increased convenience and flexibility means increased “course appeal” for your members!

8. Easier to manage for the association. With eLearning, your association staffers can spend less time tracking down instructors, reserving classrooms, coordinating with caterers, and processing registrations. Association staffers are already stretched too thin; by making the switch to online course delivery, everyone’s job becomes a little bit more manageable.

9.Increased ability to track and report on attendance. Attendance sheets and sign-in tables are a thing of the past. Now, your association’s LMS will automatically track learner registrations, attendance records, course completions, and exam scores.

10. Increased automation for the association. Just about everything in the credentialing and certification process can now be automated. Registrations, purchases, transcripts, and certificates are all handled by the LMS and completely hands-free. What could be easier?

Now that it’s plain to see why your association should move its existing education and training programs online, the next step likely includes convincing your board.

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How to Get the Most out of Your LMS Demo

Learning Management System DemonstrationIf you’re in the beginning stages of selecting a learning management system (LMS) for your association, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all the choices and information from various vendors. If you’re not prepared to ask the right questions and communicate your needs, the process can feel even more intimidating.
To help you make the most of your time, and land at the best solution for your association, here are the “Do’s and Don’ts” for LMS demos:

• Make the most of your time. Most LMS demos are scheduled for 1 hour. This may sound like plenty of time, but after introductions and time reserved for questions, it doesn’t leave much time for discussion. If you and the vendor can spare an additional half an hour or more, great! If not, you’ll need to prioritize the features and functionality you want to see.

• Create scenarios to help guide the demo. First, think about your typical learner and create a scenario in which the learner: enters the LMS for the first time, finds a course, registers, completes the course, takes an assessment, and earns their certificate of completion. Before your demo, provide your LMS vendor with this scenario (and any others you and your team come up with) and ask them to demonstrate these steps within the system.

It’s also a good idea to create scenarios for your LMS administrator, course instructors, or anyone else who may be a user of the system. Again, think of the objectives they would have and ask the LMS provider to demonstrate how the user would move about the system, meeting those objectives.

• Understand the difference between a WANT and a NEED. It is very easy to start looking at features and begin to forget what’s a “need” for your organization and what’s “nice to have.” While demo-ing potential systems you might be shown flashy features and think, “Wow! That’s cool! I wonder if X, Y, Z system has that too?” While it doesn’t hurt to ask, don’t get “shinny object syndrome” and forget what is really important for your learning environment. Getting caught up in all the bells and whistles can distract you from your real needs and cause scope creep. If you see something you like, but hadn’t originally included it in your needs assessment, take a moment to consider how this feature would enhance your learning environment and decide whether it is truly a need or if it should remain a “nice to have.”

• Ask plenty of questions and ensure the vendor understands your needs. A dirty little secret in the LMS space is: vendors often check off boxes on an RFP or requirements document indicating their system has the functionality or can meet the need, even when it’s not necessarily true or not a standard feature. Don’t take their word for it. Ask to see the feature or functionality in action during your demo. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up during the demo if something is not clear or you think the vendor misunderstood your request; this may be the only time you see the system before making your selection.

• Try to write down every feature that is available in every system you see. Document only what’s important to you. Most vendors can provide you with literature outlining the system’s features and functionality. So, give your hand a break and focus on getting your questions answered.

• Be afraid to go back to a vendor for clarification or to review of some of the features that are a NEED to have.

• Make the mistake of thinking you’re limited to just 1 hour or 1 demo. Sometimes the best plan is to start off with a “quick,” high-level system tour with just you and the vendor. Then, schedule additional demos for various stakeholders in the project, such as IT, membership services and marketing, or the board of directors.

• Forget to ask about support. Be sure to think about how much bandwidth you will require and what your technical specifications are. Make sure you understand what level of support is available to you and how you would go about contacting the support staff should you run into any issues.

I hope this short guide helps put your mind at ease a bit and gives you a good head start in your LMS selection process. I would be interested to hear if you have any “Do’s or Don’ts” you would add to the list and what advice you would give someone going through this process for the first time. Be sure to leave me a comment below and happy hunting!



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Bridging the Skills Gap: An Opportunity for Associations

Associations and Skills GapThere’s a huge skills gap problem facing our nation today, but this crisis represents an opportunity for associations to reinvent themselves and compete with traditional suppliers of higher education.

I was recently asked to present on the skills gap issue and the opportunities it creates for associations at the ASAE Great Ideas conference in Orlando.  There are many facets to the problem. First, while a majority (56%) of the overall labor force is 44 or younger, 53% of all skill-trade jobs are held by older workers.  And as these workers are retiring, the younger generation is not ready to fill these skill-trade positions.

College may not be the answer. While college graduation rates are at an all-time high, a college degree alone may not be the solution.  In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that two-thirds of the 30 fastest growing occupations through 2022 will not even required postsecondary education for entry. So even as this next generation is graduating with record high financial aid debt, they still lack the skills needed to get a job. 

Skills gap isn’t a “someday” problem. Already, according to the “2013 Talent Shortage Survey” by the Manpower Group, 39% of employers report hiring challenges caused by talent shortages.

How do these problems represent an opportunity for associations? Digitec has been talking about our vision for the ””  What’s that mean? In this post, I wanted to paint the picture for how associations can help close the skills gap and how it can lead to a revival of the association. With association membership declining in many industries, it’s time to leverage the value of associations to answer the educational needs of members.

Private institutions recognize the opportunities that skill gaps offers.  While traditional colleges have been unable to provide some of the technical trade type training that industry is asking for, these for-profit institutions have been popping up like weeds to provide programs. Yet, these institutions are often diploma mills, turning out graduates who emerge with financial aid debt and low job placement rates.  It’s not difficult to understand why. These institutions may not have the qualified staff to provide the right instruction. They lack the industry knowledge, the real-world content and the networking opportunities that lead to jobs.

The concept behind the is to launch online association universities, with course offerings that results in certifications and actual jobs their industries need.  By leveraging association volunteers working in the industry, the association can provide expertise, the content and the connections. This model could harken back to the successful apprentice, journeyman, and master style of learning that is so needed in professional development today.

How to…

Building an association university is a long-term vision, certainly not an endeavor that will manifest overnight.

I’d recommend surveying your existing membership to identify the most critical skills gaps. Then assemble a committee to create specific learning outcomes to answer those needs:

• What would the graduate need to be able to know or do as a result of the learning experience?
• How will you measure acquiring these skills? Portfolio? Examination? Practical observation?
• Where does the content reside to create this course?
• Who are the Subject Matter Experts within your association?

In our experience, it’s best to go for a quick homerun. Rather than design an entire curriculum, start with a more scaled down certificate program that you know is critical to your members. Then, work with an instructional designer who can help pull the pieces together, designing and creating the courses, assessment tools and evaluation measures. Then present the results to your board. Once they see these successes, they’ll be more likely to buy into the vision.

The shifts happening in industry today are causing great disruption. Some associations are seeing this disruption as a real problem for a consistent membership-based model that has served them well for many years. But it’s time associations recognize that change is inevitable. It’s time to recognize these challenges as the opportunities they represent for a rebirth in associations. If associations can respond, this disruption could be good for the industries they serve, good for this lost generation of the un- and under-employed, and good for the economy as a whole.


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Tips for Working Successfully with an eLearning Partner

According to the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, in eLearning, it takes a team to create a course. You might have a different person in each role or you may have a few people wearing multiple hats, but it’s unlikely you’re creating an online course alone. Three of the most common roles in any eLearning production are Project Manager (PM), Subject Matter Expert (SME), and Education Director. Sometimes these roles are filled by people outside of your associations, such as an eLearning vendor, an independent consultant, or a volunteer. Regardless of who your team is comprised of, it’s important to have a good working relationship with each member of the team. Here are some best practices for managing your team and working successfully with an eLearning partner.

Working with an eLearning Partner

Start Everyone on the Same Page

Hold a kickoff meeting with all members of the project team. Use this time to go over the goals, vision, intended scope, and estimated timeline for the course. Sharing examples of previously produced eLearning which used a similar approach to your current project can help team members create a mental picture of how the course will work. This is the time to see if everyone is on the same page. If not, discuss differences of opinion and try to come to an agreement before the project is in full swing.

Respect Everyone’s Time

Everyone is busy, so make the best of the time you have. Scheduled meetings are easier to plan for than ones that are called at the last minute. Be on time and do what you can to keep them from running late. Have an agenda prepared and take notes so you don’t have to go back and ask for the same information again later. Consider sharing a summary of the meeting notes with everyone on the team so they’ll have access to the same information. Meet your deadlines and send all team members a list of “Action Items” that were agreed upon during a meeting or after a long e-mail conversation so everyone understands what they need to do next.

Working with the Project Manager

“I’ll send everyone an updated schedule. Our next meeting is Thursday at 2pm and the feedback on the storyboards are due that morning. If anyone has questions about the review process feel free to e-mail me.”  The PM is the keeper of the schedule and “communications officer” for everyone working on the project. No matter your role in the project, the best thing you can do to keep everything running smoothly on your end is to communicate effectively with the PM. Answer messages and meeting invitations promptly. If the PM is the point of contact, do not go over their head and communicate directly with other team members, unless it has been agreed upon in advance. If you do, it undermines the PM’s authority and puts them out of the production loop.

Working with the Education Director

“Our members are expecting a lot out of this. It’s intended to be the first lesson in a multi-part series though, so maybe we can trim this section down a bit. It’ll be less intimidating if it’s shorter too.” The Education Director is the bridge between the learners and the educational offerings. It is their responsibility to look out for their member’s needs and ensure the course fits cohesively into the organization’s overall training and education programs. Sometimes this responsibility and “big picture” view makes it more difficult to accept changes or relinquish control. This can cause differences in opinion but be flexible and give reason for every technical modification. Keep in mind that the Education Director is trying to communicate the needs of hundreds to thousands of learners, not their own.

Working with a SME

“Here’s the text book for the existing course, everything you need is in there. You should be able to follow it exactly. I’m travelling all of next week, so I probably won’t be able to meet or review anything until after I get back.”

SMEs tend to have years of experience, be in high demand, and may have even written the existing learning materials. That can raise a number of challenges. For one thing, SMEs are not instructional designers so they may know “what” the learners need, but they likely don’t know “how” it should be presented to them.

Sometimes having a new learner or two weigh in, in addition to the expert, helps keep content scaled and phrased so it’s appropriate to the audience. SMEs are often hard to get in touch with. Consider drafting a set of questions that they can answer by e-mail, or other means, on their own time. You can also try sending them drafts to review, rather than asking for content from scratch. Always thank them for their time and input. Pride of authorship can be a real concern if you’re working with material they’ve written previously. Let them know that their contribution is keeping the content up to date and will make a real difference.

Starting a project on the right foot and making good use of time are musts for working with others on an eLearning course. Each role in the project has its own special considerations you should take into account too. Do you have a helpful story about working with an eLearning partner (no names please)? Share it in the comments section.

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What Millennials Want from Member Education


This question caught my eye in a recent association chat on Twitter. As a member of the incoming generation, I think it is crucial to prepare your association for Millennials’ needs and wants, which are drastically different from those of Generation X.  I have learned from a computer for the majority of my life. At first, my computer only included educational games (my mom was a bit of a hippie and opposed the violent and competitive games my friends were playing).  I learned some basic html coding when I was just 11 years old because I constantly wanted to update the backgrounds on my NeoPets and MySpace profiles.

This is not to say that every Millennial had the same experiences I did. However, when it comes to member education there are certainly similarities in how we like to receive information and learn. This is because we’ve grown accustomed to the visual stimulation, instant gratification, and quick access to the wealth of knowledge that’s available through digital technology.


The rise of YouTube took the music videos that awed our parents’ generation and elevated them to another level. This is true for every form of media and entertainment today. Even music concerts have come to include some pretty over the top visuals that make use of our sense of sight. So, it is no wonder most Millennials are disinterested in webinars or eLearning courses that are text heavy or slow moving. Millenials have grown up in the era of text messaging and Tweeting; we like concise, easy to read messages. A huge block of text during a webinar is unwelcome for most Millenials. Instead, it is important for Millennials to have engaging visuals they can latch onto.

When designing education for Millenials, use screen casts to explain procedural tasks; get members to interact with the content through interactivity, or better yet – give them opportunities to re-enact lessons with the use of scenarios and simulations.


Online Learning for Millenials

Millennials tend to be very competitive; perhaps this is due to the fact that we have been surrounded by gaming our entire lives. The competitive spirit has been ingrained in us from a very early age.  If that wasn’t enough, the relatively new ability to share personal achievements with social networks have made “winning” that much sweeter for Millennials.

Use this to your advantage; think of ways your association can utilize gamificiation to engage and excite Millennial members. If game-based learning is not an option, try providing incentives for members to participate in educational opportunities at your association. Some ideas that come to mind for me would be: awarding certification credits, recognizing the most active members each month, or incorporating contests.


Having been exposed to technology early-on, and learning the ins and outs of how it works (as a novice computer programmer at age 11), I have different expectations for how it should work than generations before me.  Millennials tend to see technology failures in a harsher light than others; we expect things to “just work.”

As a provider of online member education, the most important thing you can do to ensure your success with Millennials, is provide an intuitive system that is easy to navigate. If a Millennial member has to pause in frustration because the resource they’re trying to find isn’t in a logical location or is buried deep within your portal, you risk losing the learner. A Millennial, like me, will recognize this as an inefficiency in the system that could have been prevented and are less likely to overlook the poor design. This also goes for bugs in the system; if anything is “off” in your online learning because of technology, you can be sure that a Millennial learner will notice.

There are many perspectives on what Millennials want out of their online education experience. I am providing my viewpoint, but keep in mind that Generation Y spans a vast range of ages, demographics, and ideologies. Recognizing the shared desires between different individuals is the key to understanding how to adapt your association’s learning for this type of member.  What do you see Millennial members wanting more of in their online learning? Share your thoughts below.


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Measuring Your Association’s eLearning ROI

Measuring eLearning ROI

There is a lot of talk about the return on investment (ROI) of eLearning within the corporate training and development world, but less emphasis is put on this performance indicator in the association space. Still, whether your organization is not-for-profit (or what I prefer to call “for purpose”) or not, it’s important to understand where your eLearning investment is most impactful and how it has helped your association meet its goals. Likewise, it’s always important to know whether your programs are working and how they can be improved – to lower costs, drive member recruitment and retention, and ultimately add value to your association.

Before we get into the specifics of how to measure your association’s eLearning ROI, let’s take a minute to understand the definition of ‘Return on Investment – ROI’ and the formula used to perform the calculation.

ROI is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or ratio.

The return on investment formula:

ROI=   (Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment)
                                                                             Cost of Investment

Demonstrating the ROI of training programs is cited as one the biggest challenges professionals in education and training face. I believe this is because few Education Directors have the understanding or tools necessary to measure eLearning ROI. Let’s change that; starting with a free tool we’ve created just for associations, the eLearning ROI Calculator. Go ahead, download it now!

Now that you have the proper tools, the first step to measuring your association’s eLearning ROI is understanding your Investment – how much capital and human resources are being expended for your online education efforts? Remember to include all costs related to creating or converting content, content delivery (your LMS and web conferencing platform), content maintenance, and learner support, as well as marketing. Many of the common costs associated with online member education are included as line items in the calculator. If you think of more or one does not apply to your organization, feel free to modify the worksheet.

Next, you’ll need to determine your revenue from online course sales. Depending on how your eCommerce is setup, you’ll need to reference course sales reports from within your LMS, or possibly from your association management system (AMS). Look for total course sales for at least the past 12 months.

With the raw figures in hand, it’s time to input the information into your eLearning ROI Calculator and run the actual and projected return on investment functions. If your association is just getting started with online learning or you’re performing a preliminary assessment to determine if investing in eLearning is worth the costs, use the average cost of your educational products to perform the Revenue calculations. Armed with the data from these calculations, your association can now make strategic decisions about how to invest in online member education.

For many associations, eLearning has proven to be a great source of non-dues revenue. One of our association partners has reported over $26 million in revenue for online course sales since they began offering online member education in 2006. What’s your association’s potential? It might be more than you ever imagined!


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