eLearning for Associations – If It’s Worthwhile They Will Come and 5 Tips to Keep Them Coming Back

member educationFor many of us, education and learning are a passion. There’s a joy in mastering new things and continuing to stay current in our careers. For us, learning is what Maslow described as “self-actualization” and that’s the only motivation we need to continue to learn. But that’s not the case for everyone. Many association members or potential members face economic or family situations that make continuing their education critical for them to find a better life.

As association professionals, we need to provide the learning that can serve these basic needs. So, in this post, I’d like to offer five tips that can help drive traffic to your association eLearning, and keep those learners coming back for more.

Quick personal story: I’ve taught as an adjunct faculty member since 1991. Typically, my classes are made up of non-traditional learners, returning to college. Many of them are English as a Second Language (ESOL) students or single mothers, juggling career and family to make it back to school.

I’ve been tempted to stop teaching over the years, because of increased demands from my ‘real job.’ But when I think about stopping, I remember hearing from one of my students – a single mother, who at the time, told me that if I didn’t offer this required course online, she would not be able to attend college at all. This could be the case for your members, who see eLearning as their best option. So, here are some tips to better attract your association’s learners and keep their interest.

1. Offer mandatory training, online – many associations are seeing annual meeting attendance drop. With more demands on our time, learners will be attracted to educational offerings, if you provide online options. The instruction could be delivered through recorded webinars, self-paced learning or a blend of these, just as long as there is flexibility. And if you create a great experience, as well, they’ll return again and again.

2. Be relevant to their careers – I’ve often worked with subject-matter-experts (SMEs) who are inclined to want to tell the learner everything they know. But if you can help SMEs tailor and focus the eLearning content to only those topics that the learner really needs or wants to know, satisfaction rates will increase and so will your numbers.

3. Shorter, more flexible content – You may be tempted to simply take a video of your conference sessions and deliver those through the web just to get learning online. But even with better bandwidth, sitting through an hour long, non-interactive session will not work well online. If you want to leverage existing content, make sure to edit it down to shorter topics that learners can complete more quickly. This will enable them to start a module, stop, and continue later without losing the context. This more concise approach may also enable you to reuse the content in other courses.

4. Keep it social. According to research, 70% of what we learn, we learn from our peers. Just because you begin offering eLearning doesn’t mean that you need to take the instructor or other students out of the equation. Consider assigning an instructor to the course to answer questions and moderate discussion forums, that way, learners can reflect, share and interact with one another.

5. Keep them engaged. Member engagement is so critical to associations, so make sure that this focus doesn’t end when eLearning course registration begins. Often, the learning management system (LMS) will enable an instructor or administrator to send out alerts and messages to registered students. If a learner starts to fall behind, a triggered message can make all the difference in lowering attrition rates and increasing satisfaction. Even if these are automated responses, maintain that connection to you learners… and they’ll reward you for it by recommending your courses and purchasing more.

How are you marketing your eLearning? And how does your eLearning keep members coming back?


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Jack McGrath

President & Creative Director at Digitec Interactive

Jack is an instructional designer, inventor, screenwriter, dramatist, professor, speaker, and Shakespeare junkie, but you can just call him "The Bard." On the academic side, Jack earned a B.A. and Master of Liberal Arts from Rollins College (are you noticing a theme here?) and is currently studying Spanish at Valencia College. A long-time distance learning professor for Seminole State College and nationally-recognized speaker on eLearning, Jack stays busy both in and out of the office. He has been an instructional designer, producer, multimedia developer, writer and project manager on eLearning titles for organizations including YUM! Brand Restaurants, The Walt Disney Company, Chase Manhattan, among others.

Spirit animal: Jackalope
Diet-breaker: Boston Kreme donuts
Comfort object: My office slinky (says something, right?)
Personal vice: Chewing nails (usually just my own)
Useless talent: Plays the harmonica (hey, it helped pay my way through college)
Unreasonable paranoia: Very, very tall buildings
Wishes more people cared about: Fulfilling their potential

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