When CEs Aren’t Enough: How to Engage and Empower Learners

Engaging Continuing Education HoursMy husband works in the emergency medical and public safety field and is required to complete X number of continuing education (CE) hours per year to keep his certifications. He can obtain his CEs by attending meetings, reading journals, and taking instructor-led or online classes. But like a lot of professionals whose job requires them to earn CEs, he often sees these activities as simply “checking the box.” Activities and classes are often selected based on ease and convenience to complete, not because they sound interesting or appeal to his learning style. Why is that and what can continuing education providers do to make their offerings more appealing and fulfilling for their learners?

I believe the majority of CE providers are missing an opportunity to engage and empower learners. Just because a course or reading is required, doesn’t mean it needs to be generic or passive. Learners want to feel challenged, they like “disruption,” which requires them to apply their knowledge and skills to complete an activity.

Recently, my husband attended a specialized training course which was taught at a local university and facilitated by subject matter experts in his field. Each evening my husband came home from his class and he couldn’t stop talking about everything he had learned, the feedback he received, and what he hoped to do better next time. Hearing him go on about this particular class got me wondering, “What is it about this class that is getting him so excited? What are they doing right that so many other CE activities have failed to do?”

As it turned out, the class was structured to be a series of scenarios carried out through role play and the use of simulators. They were learning by doing. Rather than sitting back and watching videos or transcribing notes from an overhead projector, learners were encouraged to get up out of their seats and participate in the learning. With each activity the scenarios grew more unpredictable and challenging. Learners worked in teams and strategized the best course of action before acting out their parts in the scenario. Empowering learners to make decisions and put what they were learning into action completely changed the level of engagement for those in attendance.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t settle for just providing training that meets CE requirements, strive for engagement that empowers and motivates learners to test their skills and enables them to “fail forward” in a safe environment. In this example, scenarios and the use of simulations elevated what could have been boring “page turner” lessons into something these learners will likely never forget. When designing your continuing education activities, whether it be a journal reading, a facilitated meeting, or an in-person or online course, challenge yourself to think outside the box. Incorporate knowledge checks, learning activities, team challenges, scenarios, and other proven methods for increasing engagement and knowledge retention. Remember, your learners have choices when deciding where to obtain their CEs, give them a reason to choose you!

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4 Tips to Writing eLearning Scripts That Sing

eLearning Script WritingIf you’re getting started on a new script for an eLearning course, you probably aren’t planning to create a “musical” experience. But maybe you should. A great song is relatable, the lyrics that get stuck in your head and you can recite them years later. Wouldn’t you like to write a script with that kind of impact?

In a recent article in T+D magazine, author Cammy Bean provides several tips on scriptwriting that really resonate with me. Here’s my take on the top 4 ways to make your eLearning scripts sing:

1. “Make it human” — Bean

According to Bean, the first tip to writing a great eLearning script is to write like a human. When we’re sitting down to write a script, how many of us have caught ourselves actually writing words like:

“Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to identify when sexual harassment occurs in the office setting.”

Yuck. Now imagine it’s a year from now, 9:30 am, and tucked away in a cubicle somewhere, we meet Frank. He’s an over-worked, somewhat distracted, 20-something computer programmer. He’s just been told by his boss that he needs to take this required sexual harassment eLearning you wrote. And the second screen in Frank hears, “Upon successful completion…” Or, even better, he hears and sees this text onscreen! If you were Frank, how motivated would you be to click next to continue?

Okay, now back to your eLearning script. First, when you’re writing, remember “Frank” – the human not the “learner.”  Frank will be taking this course in another year, so the writing needs to connect with him. Knowing how this content will affect him is important too.  Instead, how about this objective screen:

“Have you ever listened in on an office conversation? Marc just said something really offensive to Ariana, and he didn’t even realize it! Awkward. In this short module, you’ll find out three ways to make sure this never happens to you.”

Did you see what I did there? Use a specific situation to make the topic concrete. And personalize the situation to make it relevant to the human being on the other end of the eLearning.

2. Lighten up

The next suggestion for writing better eLearning scripts is to avoid heavy language and an overly serious tone. Is sexual harassment serious? Of course. But notice how you can still reinforce the seriousness without the dense language. Keep it “short and snappy,” and relevant.  If you re-read the first example, doesn’t it feel like you have to plow through it? Now read the revised example.  Interestingly, the revision is twice as long. But it flows more “singingly,” because it’s direct, uses several short sentences instead of one long one, and it sounds like a conversation rather than a textbook.

Also, notice how the revised “objective” mentions the three ways to avoid this. Admit it. You want to know what those three ways are. Social media marketers will tell you that lists create some of the most engaging content on the internet.  Still reading this post?

Consider lightening up your scripts using list organizers. Think of these as verses in a song. They provide symmetry and order which, like great art, we are naturally drawn to.

One note of caution for lightening your scripts. You’ll notice that my revision includes: “Awkward.” This might be okay depending on your audience, but if your eLearning will be translated or localized, these informal phrases can be misunderstood in other cultures. If you’ll need to internationalize, avoid them.

3. Edit, edit, edit.

Bean’s next tip is to edit your scripts down to the essentials. As Mark Twain advised over a hundred years ago, the fewer words you use, the clearer the message is.

Also, remember that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Instead of describing an idea with text, could a visual communicate it more succinctly? Use diagrams, tables, and animations when they’re appropriate.

Interesting side note: A recent Atlantic magazine article by Julie Beck cites research showing the fewer words you use, the more intelligent you appear.  And, counter-intuitively, the bigger words you use, the less intelligent you appear.

4. Less cowbell.

Have you ever sat through eLearning where content just kept hitting you over the head with disconnected points like an annoying cowbell? The chorus in a great song provides a transition between the verses. Transitions create flow and help connect the objectives in your learning. Here’s an example:

“So, now you know how to avoid saying something really inappropriate. But what if you were Ariana? How should you respond to Frank’s inappropriate comment? That’s what we’ll cover next.”

I’d argue that these tips can also help your eLearning scripts become more musical, communicating ideas that will stick in our heads for a long time. And that’s the point of learning.

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Getting the Board Behind Online Learning Part 2

Association Board eLearningIn a previous blog post I shared my tips for making an initial pitch for online learning to your association’s board of directors. How’d it go? Are you ready to move on to the “exploration phase” of your quest to implement online learning at your association?

As promised, in this follow-up post I will prepare you for your final meeting with the board and share tips for sealing the deal to move forward with online member education. In your initial meeting with the board the objective was simply to gain their approval for exploring eLearning, preparing a budget, and contacting vendors for information and demos.

Now that you’ve done your homework, researched the various options for learning management technology and course production and authoring, it’s time to share your vision for eLearning at your association and gain the board’s final approval to move forward with selecting your LMS and building courses.

Start small

If your organization has never offered any form of online education and training, such as webinars, it’s best to start small. The eLearning industry is incredibly advanced and has grown to include very innovative technology and methodologies such as immersive 3D learning environments and multi-player learning games. Although there is a case to be made for game-based learning and it is proven to be very successful in certain situations, it’s best to set realistic and attainable goals for your first online member education offerings. Rather than going “all out” on your first eLearning course, look to cost effective authoring tools or vendors who can help create visually appealing, interactive content – without breaking the budget. Present the board with no more than 3 potential learning management system options and 1-2 authoring tools or custom eLearning content development companies to choose from.

It also helps to have a recommendation for your LMS and preferred method of course production prepared. In most cases, you will have become the “eLearning expert” during this process and know the pros and cons for each option better than anyone.

Give it appeal

“Visual aids” go a long way with just about any audience; your board wants to see what they’re considering. If time permits, arrange for abbreviated demos of your LMS options. You can either request that the LMS provider present to the board; share a clip from a previously recorded demo; or do your own demo of the platform with permission from the LMS provider (either with a “sandbox” account or with screen captures). If you can, distribute product datasheets, company profiles, and case studies during your presentation as well – give your board all the information they need to make an educated decision.

Stay focused

Throughout your presentation, do your best to stay focused on the member needs and overall mission of this initiative. Online learning can create or grow a community of learners, so don’t get distracted by personal ideals on either end. When board members and staff use “I” and “we” phrases it’s easy to lose focus of who the real stakeholders are. Be sure you are consistently referencing the community’s learning preferences instead of your own, and encouraging your board to do the same.

Set goals

Like with every board meeting, be sure there are clear action items. If a decision is not made on the spot, be sure there is a clear understanding of what information is needed to complete the process and a timeline for when the decision will be made. It’s very easy to get sidetracked or to let deadlines slip when making such a big decision for your association; do your best to stick to your schedule and steer the board towards the finish line. Remember, you’ve already conducted the research and convinced your board that members want and need eLearning, now it’s just a matter of executing the plan.

These reminders can help pave the way for a swift final decision from your board and successful implementation of your new online learning program. Keeping an objective approach and an open perspective is important as well. Have you ever made the case for eLearning to your association’s board? What worked for you and what didn’t? Comment below and let me know!

 

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Setting up your Association’s eLearning

Starting Association eLearning“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

If you’ve been tasked with implementing your association’s eLearning what are you going to do to make sure you don’t end up some place else? Here is my perspective on setting up your association’s eLearning:

Assemble Your Assets Team

A team’s strength comes from the collective knowledge each person adds, which helps the team move forward as a group. Online education will impact many of your staff and community members. So, it’s important to assemble a team that can provide advice about your membership, IT, marketing, conferences, and, of course, the current educational programs.

Research

eLearning is about providing the online education your members need. You should start by surveying your members to validate their interest in online course offerings versus traditional delivery. Are in-person events becoming more difficult for members to attend because of time, money, or other reasons? If so, then eLearning may make sense. Next, research what topics or training are at the top of their list. Do your members prefer a particular style of delivery, such as recorded conference sessions, live webinars?  Or perhaps the survey can ask about their interest in hybrid courses that include self-paced presentations but also have a facilitator/instructor who interacts with students.

Here are some other questions you’ll want answered during the research step:

• What percentage of your members attend in-person events?
• What are the trends in your industry?
• If you plan to use live sessions, how will you record and edit conference sessions?
• How would you like your Association Management System (AMS) to integrate with the Learning Management System (LMS)
• Do you have an eCommerce system in place to sell your online education? What can your marketing department do to promote and advertise your new eLearning products?

You want members to recognize the value of the content provided in your Association’s eLearning.  The more you know about their interests, needs, and preferences, the more likely they are to purchase the course. It is surprising how many organizations don’t have this information as they start researching Learning Management System (LMS) providers.

Show Me the Content

Once you have solid research that supports the need for developing online education, how are you going to get content online? Which is the most popular course, based on the survey results? Start with that one, and inventory the materials you already have related to that content (PowerPoint, Word documents, job aids, videos, web pages, etc.). Don’t forget to cite who produced materials, in case you need to cite the source later or if you need to get licensing permissions. Copyright permission is often overlooked. Who owns the material? What about the images used in presentations? It is better to know this upfront and not just before loading the course into your LMS (which we’ve seen happen more than once). At this stage, it is a good idea to identify the best Subject Matter Experts and/or volunteers for this content, so you know who to reach out to during the eLearning development process.

Migrating to Online

Designing for an instructor-led course is very different from designing an effective eLearning course. Are you, or someone on your staff, qualified to produce online courses? You’ll need both the instructional design capabilities and the authoring skills to pull all the elements together into an effective learning experience that your members will pay for. There are many good conferences where you can learn the fundamentals of course design and development, so you can create professional courses, yourself. There are also a number of authoring tools available for producing online courses, and some LMSs may offer built-in course creation tools. Or, you may want to outsource custom course production to companies that specialize in working with SMEs to create professional, effective courses.

Developing a team, conducting research, identifying existing content, and determining how online content will be produced. These are all important steps in developing a strategic plan and business model that will help you get from where you are now to where you want to go, when setting up your association’s eLearning.

 

 

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ASAE Annual Conference 2014 Ultimate VIP Experience

ASAE Ultimate VIP ExperienceWith less than two months remaining until the year’s most highly anticipated gathering of association and nonprofit professionals, Digitec announces an exciting contest and giveaway for ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition attendees.

One lucky winner and up to 10 guests will win the Ultimate VIP Experience the night of ASAE’s Closing Celebration, including use of a private stretch limo and a guided tour of Nashville, complete with chilled champagne before the big event! Once they reach their destination, Digitec’s special VIP guests will enjoy a private performance by award-winning country artist, Phil Vassar.

To enter, attendees must visit the Digitec Interactive team in booth #510 and obtain an official “digitec-ie” ribbon to be worn on their conference badge. The winner will be selected at random and an announcement will be made on the final day of the expo in the Digitec Interactive booth.

This year’s conference will take place at the Music City Center in Nashville, T.N., August 9-12 and is expected to be the largest Annual Meeting on record, with more than 5,000 American Society for Association Executives members in attendance.

Learn more about the conference and register to attend by visiting the official ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition 2014 website.

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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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