When to Bring Your Association’s Continuing Education Online

The following is a guest post from Moira Edwards, President and Consultant at Ellipsis Partners. She is knowledgeable in associations’ use of continuing education and strategic application of technology implementation.


Online CE

When developing continuing education, you typically look to provide high value to your members while keeping costs as low as possible.  You repurpose content in ways that get the most bang for the buck whether that is by recording webinars and making them available on demand, granting online access to conference materials, or using educational articles from your magazine as online learning resources.

But sometimes it’s worthwhile to focus significant resources on developing a very customized continuing education (CE) module.  This might end up being an app for mobile devices, an online self-study module with quizzes and games built in, or an online course with significant resources invested such as broadcasting live video.

When are the times when such an investment of resources might be warranted?  It depends on the demand for your product.

1. A prize piece of content.

If your association is known for a particular topic, this can be a key area to focus.  Check your website’s Google Analytics and see which search terms are used most often by visitors to your site.  This will help determine what members expect you to know and provide to them.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the guardian of the Code of Ethics for Nurses.  A vast number of searches on Google and on the ANA’s website itself were for ‘ethics’ and ‘code of ethics.’  ANA had already developed a publication for nursing professionals and students on interpreting and applying the code of ethics.  They then developed that into a customized CE module, which also came up in the search results along with the code of ethics itself.

2. A wide audience.

It can be good to showcase your content when a particular CE module can reach beyond just your actual membership, and is useful to those who are not yet in the profession or who serve your profession or industry.

In the case of ANA, in addition to the code of ethics, the association was known for several other key publications which were core to the nursing profession.  They developed three customized CE modules which had dedicated templates, were custom coded, and had quizzes and instructional elements throughout the pages.  Together, this ‘Foundations of Nursing’ package serves as very useful teaching aids to nursing students who cover these foundational publications in nursing school.  ANA sold bulk access to the modules to nursing schools for use in their curriculum to help extend its’ audience.

3. A specific skill set.

As the association for a particular industry or profession, you know the skills your members must have to do their jobs well.

The Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP) recently posted on an ASAE discussion group that they had just developed a 9-module online training course covering the basics of risk pools.  Given that they are one of the few associations with the knowledge of the skill set needed and the ability to provide online training in those skills, they had an opportunity to develop this broad custom package.

Deciding what format you will develop the CE in is another area to investigate, and may ultimately come down to cost for your association.  You might have an idea of what a self-study online module might look like, or a live video, but what about a mobile app?

To see an example of a mobile learning app, try downloading Duolingo, a free app for learning foreign languages.  The entire learning experience is like playing a language game, using sound, typing and quizzes.  Duolingo is  a good demonstration of how you might develop an app for something that requires hands-on demonstration of skills for your learners.

For a self-study module, have a look at this example from Digitec Interactive, which shows how text, graphics, quizzes, and games can be integrated in an online self-paced module.

Live video can make your online courses much more interactive and personal.  One provider is Telenect and you can see some samples on their website.

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Moira

President/Consultant at Ellipsis Partners

Moira Edwards, MS, CAE, is the president of Ellipsis Partners (www.EllipsisPartners.com), a firm that specializes in technology and online communications consulting for non-profits. Neither Moira nor Ellipsis Partners has a formal relationship with Digitec Interactive. Moira can be reached at medwards@ellipsispartners.com.

 

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