Education Programs Prepared With Purpose

Learning Objectives in Instructional DesignTraining can be used to help teach many different things including facts, step-by-step processes, and soft skills like team work. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are different ways to teach and assess these various types of learning. It’s usually easier to create learning offerings for the lower levels of learning, like memorizing a definition. But if you’re trying to teach something more complex, such as problem solving, putting more work into the training can definitely pay off. Either way, if you don’t address your eLearning’s purpose it’s likely to fall flat.

It’s easy to say, “Let’s match the training methods to the knowledge and skills we want our members to gain.” But what does that mean and how can your association do it? Creating learning objectives is a good place to start. Then take a good look at the action verbs you used to write the objectives. These provide clues about how in-depth each objective is. For instance, if most of the verbs are about recalling or defining, the learner needs to Remember the content. That’s fairly easy to do when compared to an objective that uses action verbs like “determine” or “judge.” In those cases, the learner needs to Evaluate the content.

There are six categories you can use to help determine the purpose of your eLearning. Here they are, from least to most complex:


Learners recall information when they need it.


Learners can explain and classify content. They make sense of instructions and can visualize how to follow them. (There is a lot more to this category but these are the basics).


Learners actively use a process in an appropriate situation.


Learners consider the parts that make up the content as a whole. They figure out how the parts are connected to one another and to the big picture.


Learners use sets of standards or requirements to judge whether something is relevant, good quality, etc.


Learners produce or build something new.

There’s a good chance that the facts, processes, and soft skills your members are interested in fall into more than one of these categories. That’s fine. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say an association wants to provide eLearning to help its members learn how to use a new piece of equipment. They could create several mini-offerings, or topics, to address the different categories that apply to this skill:


Members need to recognize the parts of the equipment. That way they’ll be able to follow instructions on how to use it. The association could create a job aid that shows a labelled image of the equipment and gives a brief description of what each part does.


The association could post demonstration videos so members can see how to use the equipment. Step-by-step written or visual instructions are also options.


Members need to be able to use the equipment once they’ve learned how it works. The association could create an eLearning simulation to let them practice. Or, a hands-on workshop might be appropriate. Instead of starting from scratch the way a full training would, the workshop could save time by focusing on practice.


If the equipment works the way it’s supposed to, this shouldn’t be necessary.

Practice problems, case studies, and discussions could be helpful if the association decides to offer additional training on how to troubleshoot common problems with the equipment.


The manufacturer should ensure the equipment meets proper standards. Members do not need to do this.


They don’t need to build the equipment, so this isn’t necessary.

You can focus on your eLearning’s purpose(s) by looking at the action verbs in the learning objectives and seeing which categories they fit in. The more complicated the material is, the more thought needs to be put into it to create effective learning. Breaking the overall goal down into smaller pieces can help your association address the learning’s purpose(s) without putting in too much effort where it may not be necessary. Will this post help you Remember the six categories? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

This article is a basic introduction to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

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Getting Started with Online Member Education

Getting Started with Online Member Education

Way back when I was just a marketing minion working in development at a nonprofit, I used to attend workshops and classes that would help me learn more about my industry. Although I didn’t  join the associations that put these things on, I voraciously ate up the content they were offering, as often as my employer would allow me to attend.

I have since moved on, from marketing minion to marketing maven, but have never forgotten the associations that taught me a thing or two. Yet, how much more could I have learned if I didn’t have to drive across town to take the course? I often lament that “if only I’d had more time and access to the tools that would have helped, I could have made a bigger difference.” In short, associations, I was your target audience. I needed your courses, and attended what I could, but if I’d had access to those courses on my time, my employer would have paid for them. I might even have joined if I didn’t have to take so much time out of my day to get to the association in question and then get back to work within the same day. Can you imagine how many other people felt like me, and how much non-dues revenue was lost because other people couldn’t spare the time? Maybe it’s time to get started with online member education.

Where Do I Start?

Start compiling a list of questions:

  • What do I need?
  • Will I need an LMS?
  • How about content?
  • Will I adapt existing content?
  • Will I need a tool to do that?
  • How many members do we have?
  • Do they take courses often?
  • Do they need continuing education credits?
  • Are we large enough to support online learning?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What will the ROI be?

These will be some of the questions you’ll need to answer to convince your board that online learning is a smart choice for your association. To answer the ROI question, use an ROI calculator. Try different scenarios and see if online learning is right for your association.

I Want to Offer Online Learning. What’s Next?

Next, you’ll need to present your ideas to the board. Contact a few Learning Management System (LMS) providers to determine which ones offer the features your association needs. Submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) outlining your association’s goals and needs. Have the finalists provide you with a demo and, if possible, a free trial so that you can answer the board’s questions about the platform with confidence. Will their LMS integrate with your AMS? Will you need a separate content authoring tool? Remember, when approaching the board, your goal is to offer solutions. What’s your association’s biggest issue: revenue, engagement, marketing? How are you going to solve those problems with online learning? Communicate solutions and ROI.

The Board is On Board. Now What?

Assuming you’ve chosen a few LMS providers to consider, you can now choose the provider that’s right for you. There are many aspects of your new overall learning program that will need to be managed and implemented.These include administrative tasks like deciding how to organize the program, choosing the objectives and strategy, and determining success criteria. In terms of content, your association will need to create a curriculum and use training goals and competencies to decide what courses to offer. The education director will probably need to address technical planning and develop a deployment strategy. You will also need to determine your target audience, figure out how to raise awareness and market your new learning opportunities, and eventually launch the program.  Choose an LMS that allows for branding and marketing integration with your AMS for the smoothest transition into eLearning. It is critical to have your vendor’s support in the implementation of your learning program. Make sure they offer some assistance and training to help you implement your new program effectively.

Getting started with online member education can provide many benefits for your association, including providing a source of non-dues revenue. Best of all, you will not only be transforming learning, but possibly changing the lives of your learners. Of course, the ROI doesn’t hurt either.


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Certificate, Certification, and Credentialing: What’s in a name?

Certificate, Certification, and Credentialing: What's in a name?Great news!  Your members spoke, you listened, and you’ve finally received approval from your board to explore creation of curriculum to support your members’ ongoing professional education needs.  What’s next?   You need to decide what type of certifications you’ll offer.  Or will it be a certificate?  Wait, maybe it’s a credentialing program you need.  Stumped already?

What’s the difference?  It all sounds the same…

Think of these different terms as a series of progressively involved educational offerings which allow your members to demonstrate their commitment to their own professional development and your industry.

  • Certificates are generally comprised of a series of learning events including classes, courses or training programs.
  • Certifications/certificates are usually ongoing programs aimed at ensuring an individual has the holistic knowledge, skills and competencies to capably perform in a professional role.
  • Credentialing is generally a multi-faceted process which evaluates the qualifications of an individual based on a certain set of criteria or competencies.

The table below provides a quick snapshot of each term and key characteristics:

Characteristic Certificate Certification Credentialing
Primary purpose Provide knowledge through training or instruction Validation of existing knowledge, skills and competencies through testing Evaluate/verify professional experience  of a practitioner
Participant Eligibility May have eligibility or prerequisite requirements to enroll Has eligibility requirements to enroll Evidence of professional standing
Purpose and scope of assessment Evaluate accomplishment of intended learning outcomes Confirm mastery of job function, occupational or professional role Comprehensive information gathering and evaluation process
Duration of program Ends when certificate is awarded Ongoing; requirements must be met on a routine basis to maintain credential (recertification) Ongoing; evaluations to occur at set intervals (i.e. every 36 months as recommended by NCQA)
Recognition of program completion No acronym or letters are used after the recipient’s name OR the letters “CH” (for certificate holder precede the acronym/letters Recipient uses an acronym or letters after their name to highlight certified status Recipient uses an acronym or letters after their name to highlight certified status

Source: Association for Training Development

Does it really matter? Yes, you should really care!

It definitely pays to do your proverbial homework when it comes to determining what type of program your association will offer.  Although certificate, certification and credentialing programs vary in scope and intent, they all require an investment of time and resources, and there’s a lot at stake.  Creating a program that misses the mark can have the adverse impacts of wasted money, human and financial resources.  Worse, it can reduce the credibility of your organization in the eyes of your most important asset – your members!  For all of these reasons, it’s important that you give careful consideration when exploring a new program.  A few initial considerations may include:

  1. Objective:  What are you trying to accomplish?  Where are there skill and knowledge gaps?  What are your members’ professional needs?  What are your industry educational, licensing and ethical requirements?
  2. Resources:  How many internal resources can you dedicate to creating the training/curriculum/program?  Is your infrastructure sound enough to support a successful program launch?  What financial resources do you have to implement your plans?
  3. Buy-in/Support:  Do your members WANT this?  Does your board support your thought process in the need for this certificate, certification or credentialing?
  4. Standards and Requirements:  Are there governmental or industry requirements which must be met? What are the educational requirements to practice in the profession?  What are the ethical requirements?  What are the compliance standards for the industry or profession?
  5. Recognition:  To what degree do your members need to be recognized professionally within your industry?  Will the scope of recognition be local, regional, national, or international?
  6. Timing:  Is your intent to develop a single learning event, an ongoing competency-based program or a process requiring participant renewal to minimum educational, professional and ethical standards?

These questions are by no means comprehensive, and every organization must create their own qualifications framework relevant to its specific industry needs and requirements.  At the end of the day, each of these programs serve to bridge a gap; identifying the end goal with respect to the existing need is a good place to start.  Finally, and most importantly, always remember to keep the voice of your members at the front of mind throughout the program development process.




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Questions to Ask Client References Before Selecting Your LMS

Selecting your Learning Management SystemSelecting an LMS can be a very involved process. First you have to understand the requirements of multiple stakeholders. What do the users need? What does the administrator need? What kind of reporting is required to monitor content use?
Once you have narrowed the list of vendors that seem to fit your needs, watched demos to see the Learning Management System functionality, and narrowed the field, then comes the reference checking.

Here are some things to consider when looking at client references:

1. Have they worked with someone that looks like you?

  •  The reference they provided – are their needs similar to yours? Do they have similar integrations with an ecommerce solution? Is there an integration with an Association Management System? Is that integration the same platform and version you are using? Do their assessments look like the same assessment environment you are trying to deliver?

A great predictor of success is past performance. If they were able to solve problems similar to yours, most likely they will have no trouble helping you as well.

2. How long have they worked together?

  •  Has the reference been through a version upgrade of the LMS software? What was that transition like? Has the functionality evolved?

Customers that have stayed with their LMS for long periods of time can give you an idea of the stability and longevity of your potential vendor. At this point in the LMS selection process, no one would be eager to have to start over if the deliverable doesn’t meet expectations. Much better to find an LMS that will act as a long term partner and evolve with you as your learning environment evolves.

3. What is the customer service experience?

  • The chances of never having a problem are most likely zero. How are problems handled? Is the customer service experience responsive? Knowledgeable? Timely? Friendly?

Even if the functionality of the LMS is flawless, your environment will always be changing and evolving. Your IT infrastructure will change, or you may add more LMS administrators. Assume you will interact with the customer service department at some point, and find out what that experience will look like.

4. What is their experience with the performance of the LMS?

  • Have there been issues with uptime? What about speed of delivery of the content? Do their users have trouble navigating?

Understand from both the learner and administrator perspective what type of experience you can expect adding content, consuming courses, and retrieving results.

5. How bumpy was the deployment?

  • Did the initial deployment run on schedule? Where there any “surprise” costs that appeared once the rollout started?
  • What was the training like? Do they feel confident adding content, creating assessments? Are they comfortable using the functionality the system offers?

Keep in mind sometimes problems are caused by the LMS, but sometimes they are caused by other issues. Make sure you understand where the problems originated, and how they were resolved.

6. Ask open ended questions?

  • What do you like best? What would you change? What has been the biggest point of frustration?

You will want to know specifics, but don’t narrow your question so much that you might miss a critical data point. Give the reference the space to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Better to know now than after you have made the commitment.

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Don’t Just Tell, Show: the Value of Examples

Don't Just Tell, Show: the Value of ExamplesI found something interesting while cleaning off an old shelf recently. It was a children’s story called Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann. I planned on reading it one last time and then donating it. Instead, I kept the book.

Here’s a summary. Officer Buckle is a police officer. He spends a lot of time reading important safety tips to school children. But the children never listen. He is assigned a police dog, Gloria. He brings Gloria to his presentations and has her sit, to show how important it is to follow directions. Suddenly the children start paying attention and even send thank you notes. What Officer Buckle does not realize is that Gloria does not stay seated. She gets up and acts out what happens if each safety tip is not followed. That is what got his audiences’ attention.

It’s a beautifully simple reminder. Examples get people’s attention and are also fantastic memory aids. Uninspired eLearning tends to fail on both of these points. Perhaps your association has best practices, regulations, or new techniques you’d like your members to follow. You could just tell them by sending out an e-mail or making an eLearning course full of animated text that lists all of the information. They’re not necessarily going to pay close attention or remember it though.

If you reinforce the same key information with examples, it provides context and lets your members see why the content is important. This works well because humans inherently want to know “why.” If you just tell someone “do (or don’t do) this” they’re probably going to wonder, “Why?” You can use examples to answer this question by showing them why.

Tell: Start using this computer program.
The learner thinks: Why should I?


Show: This computer program has helped our main competitor significantly increase their productivity. We need to learn how to use it too because we’re falling behind them.
The learner thinks: I don’t want to fall behind. Maybe I should learn how to use it.

Good examples are also specific. As Lisa Cron observes in Wired for Story, people only have a general grasp of abstract ideas. Concepts like love, success, and safety are familiar to everyone but they’re really hard to pin down or visualize. Specific examples are a great tool for concentrating these abstracts into something concrete learners can latch onto and commit to memory. I can say that hot coffee can burn you, or I can tell you about the time Jim from accounting scalded his tongue because his coffee was too hot. They’re both related to coffee-drinking safety. They give the same warning. But which one caught your attention?

There are a number of ways to put examples to work in your association’s eLearning:

  • Present case studies
  • Include testimonials
  • Show data, charts, or other visuals that support the idea
  • Play a video
  • Role-play
  • Use example scenarios with characters to illustrate a point, instead of making generic statements

Without Gloria, Officer Buckle’s presentations were just a bunch of telling. With her, they became show-and-tell. That’s what got the children excited about learning the safety tips. Examples help learners understand why something is important and allow them to form clear mental images that aid memory. What kind of creative examples have you seen or used? Sound off in the comments section.

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eLearning Trends for 2015: Here to Stay or Go Away?

LMS Trends of 2015Trends in eLearning come and go, but a good LMS is forever. Ok maybe not forever, but a provider can dream. Below is a list of eLearning trends we expect to see in 2015. Will they last or fade away? Only time will tell.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are definitely trending in eLearning. These are online courses offered to the masses, often for free. Why, you ask, would an association want to create a MOOC? Exposure. It’s like the concept of “freemium” games where a game is free, but the add-ons have a small fee. An association can leverage this free course model to increase membership and attract more people who are willing to pay for educational offerings in the future. From a corporate standpoint, MOOCs can assist in corporate training across offices for a large number of employees.

Verdict: Here to Stay (for now)


Gamification, not to be confused with game-based learning, is the use of game elements such as leaderboards and badges, in courses. This is meant to increase social competition among learners and create engagement to motivate them to succeed. In fact, gamification taps into the learner’s basic desires for status and achievement.  In an excerpt from Effects of Achievement Motivation on Behavior, author Rabideau explains the motives behind gamification:

 People’s achievement goals affect their achievement-related attitudes and    behaviors. Two different types of achievement-related attitudes include task-involvement and ego-involvement. Task-involvement is a motivational state in which a person’s main goal is to acquire skills and understanding whereas the main goal in ego-involvement is to demonstrate superior abilities.

Gamification taps into a learner’s intrinsic enjoyment of mastery, as well as their ego’s desire to make social comparisons and assess their ability relative to others.

Verdict: Go Away (but it shouldn’t)

Sadly, too few organizations and associations understand what gamification is and what it is not.  As a result, many are too apprehensive to tap into gamification’s potential, even though it is a worthy strategy for engaging and connecting with learners.


Mobile learning (mLearning) refers to content that can be accessed anywhere, on any device. eLearning on one’s home computer is no longer enough. Now learners want access to content on their phones, tablets, lap tops, and other mobile devices. The goal is to create content that can be consumed on-the-go, and on the learner’s schedule. This trend gives rise to micro-learning (small chunks of information) and responsive design (courses that adapt to fit multiple screen sizes). With the potential of additional consumer mobile devices such as Google Glass, this will also create a need for augmented and blended learning experiences, engaging learners in a whole new way.

Verdict: Here to Stay

Augmented Learning

Augmented learning is the next “cool-factor” innovation in eLearning. Augmented learning or augmented reality includes virtual reality, information superimposed in a user’s physical space (think information pop-ups about what you’re seeing), and 3D environments, among other features. These features will be available through devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift. Imagine a medical student in the operating room getting real time information pop-ups about how the surgery is performed, the organs and systems affected, and the history of the procedure. With augmented learning this scenario could become reality.

Verdict: Go Away (for now)

This concept is exciting, but will be seen as impractical by training and development departments. Still, we look forward to the day when augmented learning is accepted, we just don’t think it will be any time soon.

Cloud Based

Everyone is clamoring for the “almighty cloud.” But does anyone really know what the cloud is? In short, it is software and services accessed through the internet, through a remote server so you can access your content from anywhere. If your software is hosted and you retrieve it from the internet, you’re accessing the cloud. Look for a SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS provider with a trustworthy reputation and reliable hosting to manage your LMS, and get on the cloud.

Verdict: Here to Stay

What trends would you like to see stay and which should go away?

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What’s the Difference Between an LMS and an LCMS? Hint: It’s Not Just the Letter “C”

It can be difficult to understand eLearning terms when they’re used interchangeably. Which is which and how do you know when to use them? Learning Management Systems and Learning Content Management SystemsFor example, you’ve likely seen Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) discussed on various websites and company pages. It sounds like they’re the same thing, right? Wrong. Are they similar? Sure. But there are differences, and those differences matter like the differences between siblings caught in a rivalry to be the favorite child. “Oh sure, the LMS will manage your learners, but will it help you create content?”

What’s an LMS?

An LMS manages people’s interactions with learning content. In other words, it allows learners to take courses and attend online events, instructors to track learners’ progress and scores, administrators to check reports, and more. It gives your association one software package that delivers, assesses, and reports on online training programs. In many cases, the learner can receive his or her LMS-generated certificate at the end of a course. In short, it’s the learning delivery platform. Sounds great, right?

How is an LCMS Different from an LMS?

An LCMS goes one step farther.  An LCMS  lets you create learning content (courses, lessons, modules, etc.). As a result, your association can create, store, reuse, and manage courses and training materials all in the same program.  In short, with an LCMS you typically get all the features of an LMS plus the added benefits of a Content Management System (CMS).  Note: some of these LCMS systems are proprietary and do not allow content created within the system to be moved to another system. The ideal solution is an LCMS that also allows you to create content using other authoring systems or tools, and also allows you transfer the created content to another system, in future, if you need to.

How Do I Choose?  

“Why would I want an LMS?”

Suppose your members need training to introduce them to a new product that affects your field. Your association pays a vendor to create an interactive course that goes over the features of this new product. Now you need a way to deliver that training to your members across the country and you want to track who has taken the course, their scores, and their competency with this new product. In this case, you probably want an LMS because the content already exists and you just need to deliver and manage it. Paying more for an LCMS would get your content creation features that you may not use.

“Why would I want an LCMS if I already have an LMS?”

Now suppose the association wants to save money by making the course themselves and decides not to hire a vendor. Maybe there’s an existing PowerPoint presentation, or other resource, that can be updated and repurposed. Or maybe they want to make something completely new but don’t have the tools they need. Can they make that revised PowerPoint presentation interactive? Can they build a new course without buying an authoring tool? If they’re using an LMS, probably not. On the other hand, an LCMS could allow the association to add interactions and questions to the PowerPoint or build a course from scratch without needing to buy another program. In this instance, an LCMS is probably a better fit because the association can create its own learning content and deliver it to its members using one product.

Please note that an LCMS is not the only way to create your own learning content. You could invest in a rapid content authoring tool, build the Associations favorite LMS or LCMScourses in the tool, and then deliver them using an LMS. The distinction is that if you have an LCMS you can build courses inside the LCMS and you don’t need a separate tool. Every LMS and LCMS is different and every provider uses their own judgment when deciding what to call their product. Their judgment might be different from yours. So, always check with your provider, or prospective provider, and ask them about their system’s specific features to see if they fit your association’s needs.

Choosing Your Favorite: “I have the best features, pick me!”

The fact that providers often use “LMS” and “LCMS” interchangeably is what causes confusion. Remember, if a system offers content creation it’s an LCMS, even if the provider calls it an LMS. Whichever you pick, both are great ways to address an organization’s educational and training needs and can provide associations with new and exciting sources of non-dues revenue from members and non-members alike.

*PLEASE NOTE:  A true LCMS is solely a content creation and management tool. You will need to check with your specific provider regarding the functions and features of their LCMS and LMS to clarify which they offer.*

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