Five Ways to Build an Airtight Business Case for an Online Learning Platform

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If you are an association executive or decision-maker tasked with membership engagement, membership growth, and the generation of non-dues revenue, you will certainly understand the importance of offering continuing education as part of your strategy to achieve your association’s objectives. 

While you may be fully aware of the benefits of offering continuing education programs online, in many cases, you may not have the final say in whether or not your association takes the leap. Chances are, you may need to convince board members (and even some senior decision-makers!) that the initial startup investment and time commitment will be worthwhile. 

For a detailed guide on how to increase revenue and memberships by setting up an online continuing education platform for your association, view our ebook here.

To win over the skeptics, you will need to have a firm grasp on all of the benefits an online continuing education platform can provide, as well as how the association can ensure that this initiative will be financially sustainable.

Here are five ways you can build a strong case and convince your board to invest in an online continuing education platform:

1. Be Prepared

Because you are trying to sell the benefits of online technology, you must first put your best foot forward. To do this, you must research online learning technologies and vendors so that you can collect all of the necessary data to support your case.

For research on online continuing education platforms, read our whitepaper entitled “9 Things to Consider before Offering Online Courses” here

It is important to know that there are many different types of learning platforms, each with its own priorities and formats. Some examples of online continuing education platforms include managed service platforms and self-service platforms. It is important to understand the differences and to outline why one approach may work better for your association than another.

In addition, board members like to hear about facts, statistics, and results. Therefore, it is good practice to do research on associations that have already invested in an online learning platform; you can use this to show how it has helped their association meet its objectives–objectives that may be similar to those of your own association! 

The best way to prove the worth of an online continuing education platform is to use real-life situations and specific case studies to demonstrate a platform’s usefulness. View our case studies here for insights into demonstrating the efficacy of online continuing education platforms.

2. Connect with Objectives

When presenting a proposal to anyone–especially a board or executive team–always remember that you are selling more than just an idea. 

Your presentation needs to demonstrate why investing in an online continuing education platform would align with the executive team’s objectives, would help achieve a better vision, or would aid in reaching their goals faster. Having a sound understanding of what is important to your association will help you connect your vendor of choice to your association’s strategy. 

Make sure to focus on the “why” instead of on the “what.”

If you spend most of your pitch talking about all of the fancy high-tech features of your online continuing education platform of choice, chances are, you may lose their attention! However, if you are able to prove to the decision-makers that these features work towards their specific objectives, they will be encouraged to view your pitch far more favorably. 

To make your presentation more visual and easy to understand, divide this information into different categories so that the decision-makers get a clear picture of the impact that learning technology will have on membership engagement, the attraction of new members, increased referrals, and the amount of positive feedback garnered.

3. Let the Numbers do the Talking

When you are building your case for the board, you need to consider how introducing a new online continuing education platform will affect the organization financially

With any major decision executives make, they always factor in how it will impact the organization’s bottom line. This means that it is key to make a point of saying how the learning platform will positively impact the financial goals of the organization.Include financial numbers and statistics in the eLearning industry during your presentation to show the potential increase in revenue that can be achieved when switching to a new online continuing education platform. 

If the board is focused on the cost of the platform, show how automation through an online continuing education platform can decrease manual operations. For example, automating certificate generation for online courses can decrease manual efforts and save time for staff!  Additionally, choosing a managed service vendor means association staff can focus on member engagement more while administering the learning platform less.

4. Avoiding Stagnancy

As you pitch all of the reasons why investing in the learning platform will greatly improve your association, you should also describe what could happen if they choose not to invest in this opportunity.

Explain to the board that there are risks involved when an association does not evolve and change with the times. 

By choosing not to invest in online learning technology, younger members may not be as engaged in the association’s events. In addition, staff may not be as productive and may fall short of expectations. This could lead to frustrated members since they don’t have easy access to the information they need to succeed.

Building your case in this way can help to show the board that continued stagnancy could cause the organization to be left behind by competitors. Instead, by switching to a new learning platform, they could inspire innovation rather than complacency.

5. Transparency is the Key

As you build your case and prepare your presentation to the board, it can be easy to get caught up in the sales pitch and wow-factor of flowery words. But while there is nothing wrong with highlighting all of the great reasons to invest in learning technology, make sure to always stay grounded–after all, honesty is always the best policy!.

It is important to always be transparent. 

If your presentation does not mention any potential issues with transitioning to an online learning platform, and instead only focuses on the positive aspects, it could raise red flags with the board. They may start thinking you are keeping something from them, which will hurt your credibility and could turn them off of your pitch.

Your case will be more airtight and impressive if you are thorough and state all of the pros and the cons of investing in a learning platform. You want to make sure that the board is aware of all aspects of the switch and understands what to expect. While no one likes to discuss potential challenges during a presentation, this will give you an opportunity to present solutions and alleviate your fears. This type of honesty and confidence will go a long way to impress the board and put their concerns at ease!

Remember, when it comes to convincing others of the power of online continuing education platforms, you have to focus on preparation, targets, finances, improvement, and transparency. With all of this in mind, you should be ready to face your association’s board and dazzle them with your knowledge. Go forth and make your case–your members will thank you!