As more associations prepare to transition to or enhance online learning programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest concerns for many is how the move will impact engagement. In-person training offers members valuable opportunities not only to advance their knowledge and skills but also to network with peers, find out what’s happening in the industry, and share best practices.
The good news is that many of the things you’d normally do in face-to-face environments can be replicated online, and there are other actions you can take to make digital learning even more engaging.
Before you start, do you have everyone you need at the table?
In times of transition and uncertainty, it becomes more important than ever that stakeholders rally around a set of common goals. Online learning is no exception. Some of the key business units you’ll want to involve in your decision-making processes are membership, communications, accounting, IT, advocacy, and program management.
Together, work to:
- Define the direction your association wants to take.
- Identify what contributions each person or team will make throughout.
- Prioritize the most important tasks in front of you.
- Settle on some fundamentals, such as learning objectives.
- Consider any changes in business processes and operations that this transition will require.
1. Encourage members to collaborate with each other
One of the main draws for members when it comes to in-person events is being able to see peers whom they may otherwise not get to see all that often. It gives them the chance to catch up, see how things are changing, and find out if there’s anything they can work together on.
When it comes to online learning, there are several tools you may be able to use to help facilitate those types of interactions. In Brightspace, they include the following:
- Online discussion forums enable learners to communicate, share, and collaborate with each other, both as part of the wider community and in smaller groups.
- Virtual Classroom and integrated web conferencing give you a seamless way to connect face to face with members. You can host large training sessions, offer smaller check-ins, and incorporate group work, live discussions, and debates. You can even record sessions to give existing members on-demand access or add a new revenue stream by attracting nonmembers.
- Video Assignments let people take part in situational learning experiences, contribute their knowledge remotely, and easily share meaningful and relevant feedback.
- Activity Feed helps learners stay informed with everything that’s happening in their courses and within their association. This can prove to be an effective tool to keep members up to date during this time of uncertainty.
2. Make learning experiences interactive
There are a variety of ways you can make online learning more dynamic, but one of the most common and popular is by gamifying it. At its core, gamification is simply integrating game elements into nongame situations and learning to motivate learners and reward them for their progress. You can do this using leaderboards, awards, badges, and certificates.
What’s great about gamification is that it benefits both your association and its members. It gives you real insight into the competencies your members are developing, how fast that’s happening, and the paths they’re taking to get there. This is because, like players in a video game, learners need to demonstrate a specific skill or set of skills in order to unlock each level, badge, or award. For your members, it’s about getting tangible and portable representations of the progress they’ve made and incentivizing them to keep going.
Want to learn more? Check out Jeff Salin’s webinar about how to address the skills gap with micro-credentialing and blog outlining seven best practices to keep top of mind when creating a badging program.
3. Create personalized learning paths for your members
Personalizing the learning journey does three things for your members:
- It makes experiences relevant and customized to their professional development goals.
- It gives them a clear understanding of what the road to growth and success looks like, something today’s busy adult learners really value and appreciate.
- It encourages member engagement and can also be used for promoting member recruitment.
But at the association level, you also want to strike a balance so you’re able to scale personalization. That means automating program delivery, setting up checkpoints to get feedback, monitoring progress and performance, and using that data to enhance your learning programs.
4. Leverage case studies and examples that members can connect with
Story is an incredibly powerful tool in helping you bring learning to life. By starting a module with a story or weaving it throughout, you can show people how, where, and when the information they’re learning could be applied in a real-world situation.
It can also make more experienced members more receptive to the information, because if they’re presented with a scenario and realize they don’t know something they thought they did, they’re more likely to see the course as helping them fill a gap in their knowledge versus reiterating something they already know.
During this health crisis, expertise is close at hand
As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread globally, we appreciate and understand that this may be a scary and uncertain time and want you to know we’re here to support you as you move toward creating a “new normal” for continuing education over the months ahead.