Association E-Learning: 3 Tips to Provide Member Value

As an association professional, your job revolves around member engagement. It’s the driving force behind your association’s existence.

That being said, if you find yourself asking, “Why aren’t members engaging with our association anymore,” you’re not alone. It’s hard to maintain association member engagement during a year like 2020.

The formula for engaging members hasn’t changed. Provide value for members, and they will come. But, given that the value offerings from your association may look markedly different from a year ago, that can be easier said than done!

Time and time again, we’ve found that e-learning is a great way to provide value to association members. But, the landscape for e-learning in professional development is incredibly competitive. Your association is now competing against similar organizations and off-the-shelf solutions such as LinkedIn Learning and Pryor Learning Solutions.

For your association to provide value to members and stand out from the crowd with e-learning, the content needs to be stellar and customized.

Let’s break that down a bit. How can you, or the e-learning development company you choose to work with, create courses that can’t be overlooked?

Highlight subjects that are useful for your association members.

Complete this exercise with us. Look around you. What does professional development look like for your team in 2020?

Does it include:

  • Working from home?
  • Increased distractions? (streaming services and homeschooling, we’re looking at you)
  • Increased workload, or otherwise strained working conditions?

Many people—and yes, this includes the members of your association—are experiencing at least one of these environmental factors. Somehow, though many are staying home to abide by social distancing recommendations, we have less time than ever before. Our plates are full!

Because of this, it’s crucial that e-learning content is useful—not just interesting, but actionable

E-learning courses need to help your association members do something better, whether in their jobs or personal lives. Here are a few ideas to kick off your content creation brainstorming:

  • Provide education and preparation for certifications. In-person training courses are likely canceled for the near future. But, that doesn’t mean the accompanying certifications are paused. For some sectors these certifications are crucial. We’ve found that e-learning can be a great alternative—for example, just consider the benefits of healthcare e-learning!
  • Consider general professional development topics. For example, are any of your association’s members struggling to adjust to working from home or seeking a job in a volatile job market? We’d bet that courses on these subjects are in high demand.
  • Create content about navigating specific changes in your industry. For example, let’s say you’re a part of an association for marketing professionals. Consider creating e-learning courses discussing writing marketing copy during times of socio-economic unrest!

If you were a member of your association, which would you prefer: canned, out-of-sync content or personalized e-learning content, tailored to your interests? We’d prefer the latter.

Choose the format of your courses intentionally.

Have you ever fallen head-over-heels for a novel, only to see it misrepresented when turned into a movie? Maybe you’ve said something along the lines of: “The movie was okay, but the book was better.”

We’ve all been there! At the end of the day, some stories and lessons are told better in certain formats. This holds true for the e-learning courses you create. To create e-learning that provides member value, part of your mission is to discover the perfect format.

Here are a few quick tips to help you choose:

  1. Evaluate what needs to change. Do members need to develop a new skill, such as how to write a cover letter? Or, do members need a change in their mindset, such as understanding the importance of positive self-care practices?
  2. Identify how that change happens. What will drive the point home? This could be practicing a skill, watching a presentation, or even getting motivated to achieve more.
  3. Choose the format that meets that need. This could be microlearning games, immersive scenarios, or multi-module, multimedia courses.

We’ve talked about format conceptually. Now, let’s see how this would actually play out. Bring the course content ideas from the last section, and let’s brainstorm how you might choose the format for each:

  • Education and Preparation for Certifications: The last thing you want is a member completing a prep course… and walking away with little knowledge to assist them with exams. Let’s draw on the healthcare example from before. Members need both to learn new information and practice applying it. An in-depth, multi-module course that’s interesting and comprehensive is key!
  • General Professional Development Topics: Let’s consider the example of working from home. In this situation, learners don’t need an in-depth overview of the brain science behind working from home—they need quick, effective tips to make their day-to-day life more manageable. A microlearning course that focuses on the top tips for an effective WFH desk set-up would do great here.
  • Content About Navigating Industry-Specific Topics: Scenarios are ideal for learning about new developments in your field. We encountered industry-specific education when working with the Society for Pediatric Sedation. They needed to educate members on a crucial, specific skill—pediatric sedation decision-making. In the long-form course, learners experience case-based scenarios and reflect on the different decisions and outcomes.

With that, tell us this: How do you want members to speak about your courses after they’re completed?

Tossing away their popcorn, saying something like, “It would have been better if it was shorter/more immersive/more comprehensive…”? Or, not discussing the format at all, because it was so effective and all they are interested in now is putting what they learned into action? (We shouldn’t need to answer this one for you.)

Write assessments that are educational and challenging.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing assessments only exist to assess the knowledge of your members. Your association is providing e-learning courses to increase the value association membership provides. That should carry through to every aspect of your courses—assessments included.

There are some situations where the entire driver behind assessments is the grade at the end (like certification exams). However, in pretty much every other scenario, “passing” the knowledge checks holds little value. Do you know anyone that still discusses their high school or college GPA? Unless you’re surrounded by very competitive adults, probably not.

So, how can you create assessments that provide value beyond a “grade”? Create tests, quizzes, and knowledge checks that educate the members while testing them.

Let’s explore this through the lens of our earlier examples:

  • Education and Preparation for Certifications: Consider providing assessments that present realistic questions and challenges compared to what learners would experience in a certification exam. Then, give them the opportunity to evaluate their answers against an expert’s, to see if and where there is room for improvement.
  • General Professional Development Topics: Let’s say your course has a section on the language of your industry. Instead of creating a standard multiple-choice assessment, build a short game with scoring. It will engage and test the learners’ comprehension.
  • Content About Navigating Industry-Specific Topics: Consider assessments that walk through examples and allow the member to practice new industry developments. Drawing back to our marketing example, have members fill-in-the-blank to practice crisis-scenario phrasing. Then, include a discussion of why certain phrases work (and others don’t!)

Think of it this way: Have you ever completed an exhaustive course, and then rushed through the assessment at the end just to get it over with? Yeah, you don’t want to replicate that experience for your members.

Creating educational assessments is key to providing value from the opening notes of the course, all the way through the final quiz question. If you’re unsure about how to craft assessments in this way, you can partner with consultants in custom e-learning development. These consultants can help you craft courses and assessments that are value-packed from start to finish.

Beyond effective assessments, we recommend capturing the data from courses and assessments in your association management software (AMS). Have you ever wanted to understand what your association members want? This is how you can do that and give members an easy way to log their completed courses. It’s a win-win!

The truth is, the e-learning landscape is packed with competitors that are providing effective courses. For members to engage with your courses, you have to stand out from the crowd. With these tips, you’ll have a great head start.

Amy Morrisey is the President of Artisan E-Learning and serves as Sales & Marketing Manager. Amy started with Artisan as a contract writer/instructional designer. She was our Production Manager for four years and helped the team to double its capacity. As President, she stays focused on maintaining the high standards our clients have grown to expect. She believes that staying close to our clients, our people, and our work is a smart way to do that. One of her favorite things to do in the e-learning world is jump in with a client to write a storyboard that is creative and application-based. Before working with Artisan, Amy spent 17 years in corporate training and development predominantly teaching leadership development and coaching teams and executives. She currently serves on the board of ATD Detroit.