“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.
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.
Dick’s first career, which spanned 18 years, was in broadcast news followed by education endeavors including a University of Florida instructor, PR manager for a large school district, and then evangelizing online education to colleges in the late 90’s. A true veteran digitec-ie, Dick joined the team as the VP of Sales in 2004 and is happy to share his broadcaster smile and knowledge of learning technologies with anyone who wants to “stay tuned for more.”
Spirit Animal: Tiger (according to the Chinese restaurant I was at last night)
Comfort object: Hugging my wife
Personal vice: Pie
Useless talent: Telling puns
Unreasonable paranoia: Shift in earth’s magnetic field
Wishes more people cared about: peas on earth (I admit my “talent” is useless.)