Social Learning has been a buzz word for some time now. It’s easy to talk about the benefits of wrapping social features around more traditional courses and education initiatives but how does it all really work?
1. Build a Community
Before we get into the details around software and ideas on how to wrap community software around learning, it’s important that you’ve built a sense of community with your association members in general. From optimizing your website to taking advantage of event software to investing in reporting features, these five tips for digital member engagement can help set you in the right direction.
Now that you have started to build a sense of community with your users it’s time to start using community software. There are many options out there so find the one that works best for you — we recommend making sure it can play well with other items in your tech stack, such as your association management system and your learning management system.
2. Segment Community Groups
Once you’ve set up a dynamic, auto-populated community you’ll want to start segmenting people into different groups. Basing groups on users who are engaged in a course or attended an educational event is a great way to kick things off. Do it on a course by course basis, or create a community group based on something slightly larger than a single course – perhaps a community group for a specific curriculum or category, or for all learners.
Depending on the nature of your courses and programming, you can determine what the right level of anticipated engagement might look like and then create an automation rule to put people in those groups. Community participation (I.e. make X number of posts / replies) could even be a criterion for course completion and certificate awarding.
In a similar fashion, you could set up community groups around live events and webinars that happen through your LMS. Then invite attendees and your speaker/instructor for a follow up Q&A to happen in the community. This also generates a lot of great content for your community that could be made available to the group after the fact.
Gamification is another buzz word up there with social learning and it’s becoming increasingly important. Sure, if people need to obtain continuing education credits each year or specific certifications to move to the next level in their career, they’ll take your courses. And yes, there are always people who want to continue learning. However, people are busy and have short attention spans. So why not make learning a little bit more fun?
Badges are not only a great way to reward your learners for their participation, they also serve as a marketing tool for others to find out about your educational programs. Say you’re in a general community group, or maybe in a discussion forum after an event and Mary, who has the Expert Course-Taker 101 Badge leaves a comment. This might trigger you to find out what she had to do to get that badge and follow in her footsteps to take that course (or courses!).
Badges can be displayed in private communities, but can also be displayed in broader social worlds, like LinkedIn, allowing recognition of badges from your educational content to reach a much greater audience.
You’re engaging your current learners with communities and gamification, but what about those who haven’t joined in yet? You need to keep marketing! With some communities, their automation rules are driven off of user activities, and because LMS activities can be sent over to the community and counted among these, it’s easy to generate a variety of automation rules to segment your audience to better personalize your marketing. Think – is a renewal campaign going to be more effective if you send the same email to every member? Or is it going to be better if you target users based on their activity? Should you send the same renewal email to someone who has never taken a course vs. someone who is getting a ton of member benefit out of your LMS?
With an LMS / AMS / Community integration you’ll know these things easily. The same goes for pretty much any call to action you might be putting in front of your members – not just renewals, but onboarding, event registration, volunteer recruiting, etc. Improved segmentation leads to better rates of conversion in pretty much any of these cases.
Jocelyn is responsible for all marketing activities at Blue Sky eLearn, as well as overseeing sales from an operational standpoint. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, with 7 of those years being spent at Blue Sky, marketing and selling to associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside – whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).