Associations and other companies that provide some form of education or training can benefit from implementing an eLearning platform to support initiatives like professional education, certification and membership success. When providing training for professionals, a flexible, interoperable, and scalable digital learning solution can provide anytime, anywhere access to learning and support the success of your programs for the long term.
In the midst of COVID-19, many associations are seeking alternative options for member collaboration with the cancellation or postponement of important conferences and meet-ups. These events are often a main source of revenue for many associations who use them to provide exclusive education, networking, and growth opportunities for members. Fortunately, modern technologies create the opportunity for virtual events and online collaboration, providing a way to replace or supplement in-person events as needed.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) serve as a primary virtual hub to track, deliver, and analyze training programs. An LMS allows for an easily accessible solution that can streamline enrollment, encourage collaboration and engagement, and organize learners based on their roles, needs, or individual learning pathways. When leveraged effectively, the LMS can enable associations and other training companies to provide more successful education programs and therefore offer more value to members or clients.
In this article, we’ll explore a few key elements around eLearning that membership-based or b2b companies should consider.
1. Consult experts to help navigate the LMS market.
There are thousands of learning solutions and over 800 LMS vendors in the eLearning in the LMS market, many only emerging within the last few years. With so many different systems, where do you start?
Here’s a tip for you… For the most part, learning management systems have achieved feature parity. In other words, between two LMS options, you will typically see similar feature sets with most LMS sharing the same fundamental functionality. Nonetheless, certain LMS solutions work better for certain niches and needs. Furthermore, some eLearning products work together better than others. For example, one LMS may integrate better with your content source(s) than others.
Additionally, new tools, technologies, and learning practices that can better engage the modern learner continue to emerge. eLearning tools and strategies including microlearning, web conferencing, virtual classrooms, , gamified content, competency-based education, and were nonexistent just a few years ago. Now, there are more options than ever to plug-and-play into your learning programs to help variegate courses and lessons. Simply put, there is more to consider in eLearning than ever before.
Navigating which solution can offer your company the most value can be extremely challenging, especially considering every company has different needs and many have complex learning ecosystems. Therefore, more and more associations are seeking consultation and guidance from eLearning providers that can help them to deploy the right combination of solutions to offer the most value to members.
2. Encourage Engagement Through Interactivity.
The next item to consider is engagement. In the learning world, engagement is among the most important concerns for any organization. This remains true for associations who are using eLearning to engage members, as well as companies that provide or sell training to other companies. If your audiences are not engaging with your content, it means that your learners aren’t finding value in it. So, how do you increase engagement and provide your end users with a valuable learning experience?
To effectively engage learners, building more interactive content is necessary. This can be broken down into four subfactors:
- Interactivity & Accessibility: In the past, Flash was the go-to option for interactive content. However, as this has fallen from favor, new options such as H5P are helping to make it easy to create different types of interactive content that incorporate elements like videos, quizzes, games, interactive presentations or “whiteboards”, and more. This also allows you to create fully accessible and compliant learning programs for all users regardless of learning needs.
- Going Beyond Compliance: There are many types of professional trainings that are legally mandated, and even more of them are considered necessary as an industry best practice. However, these compliance-related trainings are often presented in the simplest form possible. Organizations can go beyond simply checking off the compliance checkbox by adding interactive components to their required learning. This can help to deepen the lessons and improve the impacts of eLearning.
- Implementing a Reward Process: Positive reinforcement plays an essential role in creating an engaging learning ecosystem. Many LMS solutions have features (or can integrate with add-ons) that allow awards, badges, and certifications. By giving learners recognition for completing lessons, associations can create even more interactivity and a positive feedback loop. Recognitions such as leaderboards can also add a social element and sense of community to learning.
- Moving Beyond the Training Room: Face-to-face learning has always been important. However, offering a platform beyond the classroom and leveraging a blended learning experience can help participants learn on their own schedules. They can also be provided with reminders and otherwise kept accountable for their learning outcomes.
Make sure your LMS is capable of incorporating different eLearning elements that can provide a dynamic learning experience. One way you can do this is to…
3. Leverage Flexible and Configurable Open-Source Technology.
One of the most important things that associations should consider is the type of technology their learning solution is built upon. Whether you decide to utilize an open-source or a closed-source LMS will largely determine the functionality and capabilities of your platform.
Unlike closed-source LMSs that provide an out-of-the-box solution with limitations to configuration, customization, and support, an open-source LMS allows you to build a dynamic and engaging training program due to freely available code and community-driven functionality. The benefits of open-source platforms include:
- Accessibility. Streamlining trainings in an online format, as opposed to requiring your clients to attend in-person events, makes learning more accessible and manageable. Members can partake in trainings when it suits their schedule and, with resources stored in a virtual hub, can revisit materials as needed.
- Low cost. Shifting instructor-led courses or programs to an online environment is usually more affordable in itself, eliminating or minimizing costs associated with reserving an onsite location, allocating physical resources, etc. In addition, open-source learning platforms typically require no licensing fees to run the product, allowing you to allocate your L&D budget to supporting and further expanding upon the product.
- Security. It’s a common misconception that open source denotes a less secure platform, but this is not the case. In fact, security glitches are generally recognized much faster with open code and patches are turned around almost immediately. Furthermore, an LMS hosting partner can also provide added security measures to ensure complete LMS protection.
- Ability to Configure/Customize. Of course, the biggest benefit to open-source software is its incredible flexibility. Open source allows you to adopt a best-of-breed learning strategy and easily connect to your other existing systems and third-party tools, plugins, and content.
- Multiple Hosting Options. As mentioned, with a closed-source solution, that vendor is the only one that can manage, develop and provide support for that product, making vendor lock a real concern. This may be the biggest advantage of an open-source LMS. Open source’s free licensing allows for multiple hosting options and the ability to easily switch carriers to ensure a high-quality solution.
Learn more about how to leverage open-source technology to future-proof your training programs.
4. Build a Culture of Learning.
In a survey of human resources professionals, less than half of respondents indicated that they established a top-notch culture of learning (only 16% strongly agree). Furthermore, less than a quarter of learners strongly agree that they are engaged in learning.
For many associations, dealing with remote or geographically dispersed members can make building a culture of learning more challenging. However, leveraging eLearning solutions can allow organizations to deliver more focused and personalized training. For example, users can take just-in-time micro-lessons rather than long seminars weeks, months or years ahead of when they may actually need to apply what they learned.
Additionally, different people have different learning preferences. By delivering eLearning, associations and other companies that provide training can incorporate different types of learning strategies, course formats, and engagement elements in order to better cater to the individual preferences and needs of learners. For example, some people prefer researching through a digital library whereas some prefer more interactive content. Some people prefer video or audio, while others prefer to digest information by reading. eLearning can more fluidly cater to different styles of learners by delivering different types of content in a single course.
5. The Importance of a Service-Heavy Model
As mentioned above, most learning management systems have similar feature offerings. Therefore, the key differentiator in the market tends to be the services offered by vendors. Associations can demand fast, helpful and readily accessible customer support from the vendors they choose.
Additionally, with the complexity of the eLearning ecosystem, that service is more important than ever. Organizations need support to be able to properly deploy and leverage the solutions available to them.
When evaluating an LMS hosting partner and solutions provider, ask about how hands-on the service team is, what their average response times are, what additional costs are associated with services and how the team will support your organization. Again, service is how these vendors can differentiate themselves. You don’t have to settle for poor or even acceptable service. Look for a certified eLearning partner that can truly support your team.
Other eLearning Trends to Watch
Although the above four trends are the most important in eLearning currently, there are many other significant current trends. These are a few honorable mentions that are worth keeping an eye on:
- The Importance of Ease: Learning is often less structured and more self-driven. However, professionals are busy and don’t have time to deal with frustrating or overly complex systems. Offering an easy, streamlined system can help ensure that your organization achieves its training goals. Make it easy for your members or clients to access the training they need, especially if they’re paying for access to this content.
- Mobile is a Must-Have: Mobile devices have impacted every area of technology. This is as true for eLearning as any other field. Your association needs to offer eLearning solutions that can work smoothly on mobile devices.
Webinar on eLearning for Associations
Finding the right solutions for your training association can mean navigating an ocean of new learning technologies, trends, and strategies. Fortunately, eThink has zeroed in on four trends that give your professional learning program the shortest path to the future—and to sustained success. Check out the webinar below to discover how to align your current program with key trends that target expert consultation, interactivity, a learning culture and a service-based model.
Or request an individual demonstration to learn more.