This guest author post was contributed by Fonteva.
Many people join associations to meet other professionals in their field and gain valuable resources that further their career or expand their knowledge. A popular offering associations host are continuing education opportunities, whether it’s classes for official accreditation or general classes that increase skills and teach best practices.
While traditional continuing education opportunities are likely to be held in-person, a great alternative is to use e-learning. With new technological innovations and online tools, e-learning can be equally an immersive experience as a live training.
This is not only a great way for your association to increase its offerings, but an e-learning class also opens up accessibility and prioritizes convenience for your members. Those who can’t make an in-person session can instead choose an e-learning alternative on their own time and from the comfort of their own home or office.
However, e-learning can also come with its drawbacks. How can you keep your members actively engaged while there’s a screen between the content and them? For one thing, ensure you’re investing in the right immersive e-learning solution to motivate your members and mimic the interactivity and community that comes with an in-person class. This is just one of many ways to create an engaging e-learning course.
In this guide, you’ll be learning useful tips and tricks to keep your association members engaged, including how to:
- Work with a custom e-learning development company.
- Incorporate e-learning as soon as members join.
- Tailor your course content to member interests.
- Encourage a collaborative learning community online.
At Fonteva, we often help associations navigate their software solutions to increase member engagement and retention. Focus on your members’ needs and make an effort to stay true to your main mission. Doing this will help your e-learning experience bring extreme value to your association.
1. Work with a custom e-learning development company.
Before you get started, we recommend you work with a custom e-learning development company. For example, a company like Artisan E-Learning can provide dedicated help and work closely with your association to ensure you create genuinely valuable educational content that will interest your members.
With aid from an e-learning development company, you have access to assistance throughout the entire process of setting up your online learning experience. This includes:
- A collaborative relationship with course development experts, drawing on the team's educational expertise to create a helpful learning experience for members.
- Storyboard outlining that depicts exactly what your e-learning courses will look like. The development company will outline technical aspects like graphics, narration, and functionality of the course.
- Development of the online course and delivery on the learning management system (LMS) your association already uses. As the course is developed, there should also be an extensive review process where you can watch the progress and even request changes if needed.
Before you start thinking about how to maximize success for your e-learning sessions, you need to have the right tools and resources to do so. Taking guidance from a custom e-learning development company might be the best way to do so! This way you know you’re getting help from professionals dedicated to bringing your e-learning vision to reality.
2. Incorporate e-learning as soon as members join.
E-learning is a great way for your association to open up educational opportunities to more members. However, it won’t be a tool that’s actively utilized unless your members are actually aware of it.
As soon as a member joins your association, try to incorporate e-learning as soon as possible. For instance, consider implementing a digital orientation that asks the new member to follow a simple online course. This can consist of short videos and interactive questions that lays out the various guidelines, your association’s mission, and a tutorial on how to make use of the member portal.
This is a great way to engage members with your e-learning offerings from the start.
Another great tip is to send out a welcome email to new members that includes your e-learning opportunities. This shows them that they can start gaining value from the association as soon as they join. This is a great way to increase member retention and show your community that you are actively working to bring them genuinely meaningful opportunities. You can even send them a “new member” discount code (if the course comes with a price) to incentivize them to register.
When you introduce e-learning early on in a person’s membership, it becomes a natural part of your association’s experience. Members have the opportunity to engage with your e-learning library as soon as they join, making continuing education a natural extension of their membership going forward.
However, it’s possible that your association has members that have been around long before your e-learning curriculum was implemented. These are the individuals who might have the hardest time getting into this new form of digital engagement. To combat that, it’s helpful to create clear guidelines for how to engage with your courses as well as actively market upcoming sessions.
If you want some more tips on this topic, we recommend you read this article on associations making the quick pivot to virtual events and experiences.
3. Tailor your course content to member interests.
The best way to keep your members engaged and interested in your e-learning sessions is to offer course content that they’re interested in. After all, no one’s going to want to sign up for something that brings them no value or isn’t related to your association’s main mission.
To tailor your course content to your members’ interests, you need to genuinely make the effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of who your members are. From personal details like their cultural background to more industry-specific information like their job title, it’s crucial that you have an effective association management system (AMS) to collect and manage these data points.
Within your AMS, all of your member data likely lies in your constituent relationship management (CRM) system. Your CRM is the place where you create reports comparing trends and analyze metric-driven insights all from your data.
Make sure your e-learning platform can easily integrate with your CRM so that any important online data gets streamlined and centralized in one place.
For example, as soon as a member joins, they’ll likely fill out a form describing who they are. These profiles should live in your member directory as a source of information that you can always refer to. Make sure you have data like:
- Personal details like name, background, contact information
- Job/industry/field title
- Length of membership time
- Special position in association (if applicable)
When this data also freely flows into your CRM, you can pull up charts showing you the most common membership metrics and other trends. If your association has a lot of people seeking a certain certification, consider creating e-learning training for this. Or, if your association has members speaking different languages, consider translating your e-learning training accordingly.
Further, the most you offer e-learning content, the more valuable data you can pull from your CRM in relation to that content. Consider data points like:
- E-learning content you’ve offered in the past
- Registration rates for each course
- Engagement rates (like questions asked or interactions between members) for each course
- Duration of each session
- Which e-learning courses have the most completions
Within your CRM, take note of certain topics that were popular and others that were not so popular. This way, you know what courses to offer in the future and which may not garner as many registrations. A data-driven approach is always the best way to plan your e-learning course content.
4. Encourage a collaborative learning community online.
A challenge of e-learning is that it lacks real face-to-face interaction, both between instructor and learners as well as among learners themselves. One of the most valuable parts of an association is its collaborative and networking opportunities, and that can fail to show through with e-learning.
However, there are many ways to promote a collaborative environment with e-learning courses. First, make sure your association management tools include a member portal where members can log in and access a directory of members. This way, members can get familiar with others in the association before they actually meet them.
Further, you can:
- Allow members to ask questions
- Incorporate quizzes and polls to encourage audience participation
- Facilitate a chat for members to discuss topics
- Incorporate gamification tools for a healthy competitive edge
On top of that, consider hosting an online discussion forum where members can come together and discuss various topics relating to your mission. You can even create a dedicated forum for members to discuss their thoughts from various e-learning courses. This is a great way to promote your e-learning opportunities while also facilitating valuable association member engagement and networking.
E-learning is a great way for your association to increase its offerings and bring more value to your members. However, it can be daunting if you haven’t explored digital and online experiences before. How do you keep members interested through a screen? What kind of courses should you offer? Hopefully, this guide gave you some top tips to utilize your tools best and engage your members effectively. Good luck!
About the Author:
Jake Fabbri is the Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.