How to Improve Continuing Education for your Association
Continuing education courses are some of the most effective ways for professionals to acquire new skills and advanced training. For that reason, associations use continuing education as a powerful and attractive membership benefit. Yet, offering meaningful training requires commitment and effort, so associations look for validation and rewards from their work.
To help associations get the most from their investments, the following information highlights some of the best solutions for creating lasting and impressionable continuing education. Follow these tips to become the go-to association for continuing education.
Listen to Your Members
Associations have valuable information right at their fingertips. To best understand what members want most from continuing education, the association need only ask. Try conducting a member survey. Ask members what training they wish they had or would be interested in pursuing. Encourage members to provide honest feedback on current training and follow through on the suggested improvements.
Associations can also use member activity as inspiration. Choose educational topics that would enhance your member’s careers, businesses, or day-to-day operations. If members operate small businesses, for example, offer accounting courses or legal foundations. Associations can also examine their member base to identify demographics of the industry that their courses do not support. In addition to offering more variance and value for current members, this can lead to increased membership.
While some members can certainly see the value in continuing education, it also helps to restate the possible learning outcomes and potential benefits. Don’t take it for granted that members fully understand the benefits of your continuing education initiatives. In addition, associations may want to list some possible careers that leverage such training, certifications that might help members advance professionally, or employers that seek out specific training and/or skills.
Another way to show benefit is by providing course demos for members to test drive continuing education. This may be to show off the online learning system in general or to display a new course or new material. Both value presentations give members and potential members a preview of what they might experience and what they can gain from taking the courses. This leaves little room for confusion.
Provide Guidance and Leadership
Many members look to their association to help guide their professional development pursuits. As the industry experts, the association can provide course and training recommendations catered to members based on their specific interests and career goals. While smaller associations can often provide personalized guidance to individualized members, larger associations have to be more clever in their approach.
For these associations, creating member subsets based on demographics, professions, and experience levels can be quite effective. From there, courses and training can be matched and sent as a recommendation to the entire subset. Not only does this give members the impression of personalization, it adds more value to the association in the member’s eyes. This level of support also cements the association as a helpful resource and one that has its member’s best interests in mind.
Make Sure the Price is Right
Pricing for continuing education has to be done carefully and with consideration to a variety of factors to make it effective and appealing to members. First, associations should analyze their competition. While they may not need to undercut the competition, prices should be in the same ballpark. Secondly, associations can analyze their member feedback and activities to evaluate how their members might value specific training. Match the price to the demand without making it obstructive.
In addition to standalone pricing for courses, training, and certifications, associations can provide alternative pricing options for older or reused courses. Courses may be repackaged and paired with related courses at a discount for members. Associations may also offer discounted rates to new members or those who enroll in a new course. There may also be value in offering early bird pricing for new courses or last-minute pricing for newly opened spots.
Integrate Training with the Entire System
No matter how they access your courses, contemporary users are looking for a seamless process in their experience. For an association with continuing education, that means users can transition between courses, account details, and the association website with ease. Associations can develop this experience by integrating the online learning system with the association management software, making everything accessible from a central hub.
By doing this, members only need to login once. They have access to courses and other membership content from the same location and everything stays on-brand, sporting the same look and feel. The ecommerce and customer service processes are simple and intuitive. Similarly, potential new members want as few roadblocks as possible between them and joining. The easier it is to join and make purchases, the more positive results the association will see.
Highest-Quality Content and Presenters
When it comes to continuing education content, more is not always better. Continuing education requires a significant investment of time and energy from members, so overloading them with courses or training that may not prove useful can have a negative effect overall. In other words, avoid creating content for the sake of creating content. Instead, fill training programs with only necessary and impactful information. Only create a new course when you acquire enough new content to fill it substantially.
Furthermore, associations should invest in the highest quality of presenters, whether it’s for a new course, training program, or an event or workshop. The best presenters not only provide valuable content to audiences, they also generate additional interest and can attract new members. By focusing on the best content and production, associations signal to members that whenever new training pops up, it’s worth checking out.
Creating a social learning environment is not only beneficial for members, it also creates new avenues for advertising. This environment can be established by developing an open forum for members to discuss their training with other members and students. Peer-to-peer engagement can help motivate, stimulate, and keep members engaged in their training and coming back for more.
Associations can also connect the learning system to social media in interesting ways. By making modules or certifications that are shareable or linkable, members can discuss their training with friends and peers online. For graduates, a digital badging system allows members to share their achievements, providing the association with free advertising at the same time. For this to work, however, members need a reason to talk about their training, which requires high quality and meaningful content.
Remaining at the forefront of the industry is important for every association in everything they do, but it is especially important for those offering continuing education. Professionals often want the latest and greatest in training in order to gain a competitive advantage. If associations can identify where the industry is headed and offer training to help members lead the way there can go a long way in allowing them to stand out from other associations.
Furthermore, by focusing on the latest industry in-topics, an association can also position itself at the heart of the discussion. Leveraging the trend and the interest in a topic may help drive members to take new training and certifications. Associations can also utilize this interest to pair or package courses with other related materials or older courses.