According to MGI’s 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 46% of responding associations said that continuing education and professional certification are among the top reasons that members join. But your members have plenty of options when it comes to education. Higher education institutions, online courses from private companies, other associations and informal options like YouTube all offer competition.
That’s why it’s never been more important to ensure that your association’s learning programs deliver clear value for current and potential members. Beyond offering continuing education and certifications that are important in your field, your learning programs must also be relevant to the needs and goals of individual members. Said another way, your learning experiences have to be personalized. If that sounds like a lot of work, wait—hear us out. While personalized learning does represent a commitment to your members, it’s not as complicated as you might think. Here are three myths about personalized learning that we’d like to clear up.
Myth #1: Personalizing Learning Is a Lot of Work
People expect a personalized experience from their streaming service, but no one expects Netflix to shoot unique episodes for each viewer. Similarly, personalizing learning doesn’t mean creating a unique learning plan for each individual member. Rather, it means giving members and instructors the flexibility to make choices that support successful learning outcomes. For example:
- Offering online and hybrid learning allows members to access courses and training from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
- Creating and curating content in a range of formats—videos, readings, activities, quizzes and more—caters to different learning preferences.
- Releasing content based on how members are doing means everyone can work at their own pace, build on existing knowledge through enrichment activities, or reinforce concepts with additional resources when needed.
- Using learning groups allows members to share and learn from each others’ experiences and knowledge, creating unique opportunities for learning that they won’t find anywhere else.
- Learning analytics can alert instructors when someone is struggling, and even automate prompts for learners to log in to the course, check in with their instructor or visit a resource to help them stay on track.
Your association may already be doing some of these things. If not, it’s simple to start implementing them by using the tools that are built into your learning management system. The key here is that personalizing learning doesn’t have to be complicated or labor intensive. It just has to be thoughtfully planned and implemented so that it empowers learners to take an active role in their own development.
Myth #2: Personalized Learning Won’t Work for Pre-Certification Programs
There are some who might think there’s only one way to gain the specific knowledge required to achieve industry certification. But after reading to this point you can probably already see why this isn’t true. In fact, personalizing the learning experience sets members up for greater success in pre-certification programs by giving them multiple paths to the required learning outcomes.
By aligning content with both required competencies and member learning preferences, you help members extend and deepen their learning. Applying their new knowledge and skills in multiple formats allows them to meaningfully demonstrate their mastery of the learning objectives, giving them not only the competencies but also the confidence to achieve their certifications.
Myth #3: Personalized Learning Is Nice to Have but Not Required
Members want personalized learning experiences, and there’s no shortage of competition when it comes time to find them. Even if you’re the exclusive provider of pre-certification programs or continuing education credit for your industry, you’re missing a real opportunity to grow your member engagement and revenue if you consider personalized learning to be optional.
In our webinar How to Drive Member Engagement with Education, Holly Whitaker, Learning Strategies Consultant at D2L, puts it this way: “No matter what kind of education benefits your association offers, you’ve got to be sure that your model engages your members with effective learning strategies. If the learning you offer isn’t effective, your members won’t be members for very long.”
If your offerings are designed with the individual needs and goals of your members in mind, they will be more effective, more engaging and more valuable. Even members who join to tick an industry checkbox will stay if they’re getting value for their membership.
Stand Out From the Competition With Personalized Learning
Continuing education and training programs have a lot of promise for associations. When done well, they can be a key differentiator to attract new members, improve current member engagement and retention, and generate revenue.
As an association, you’re already seen as a top source for networking opportunities, industry information and events. Combine these in-demand offerings with personalized learning opportunities and you’ll have a clear value proposition that will make you the first resource members go to when they need industry expertise.
Learn more about personalized learning in The Complete Guide to Personalized Learning.
Karen Karnis has a BA in sociology from the University of Guelph. She has worked in social services, higher education, communications and journalism. Karen is currently working toward a Master of Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation through Cape Breton University.
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