The Inadvertent Dangers of Outsourcing Your Continuing Education to Third-Parties

When it comes to offering continuing education (CE) courses, associations typically have three main options: they can send their members to third-party learning sites, host their own programs, or offer a combination of both.

For some associations, they choose to send their members to third-party eLearning sites for their CE courses. This is largely due to the convenience and affordability of these sites.

However, when associations choose to send their members to third-party learning sites, they are inadvertently doing more harm than good.

In this article, we’ll be examining why you may want to rethink directing your members away.

1. You’re losing out on valuable member engagement opportunities.

When members are sent to third-party learning sites, their overall engagement with your association decreases; they’re less likely to interact with your website (their courses aren’t there, after all!) and other communication channels.

You are inadvertently restricting your member’s ability to interact with your association by sending them to another site.

Remember–members are often drawn to associations because of their professional development opportunities.

If you aren’t providing these yourself, you’re distancing yourself from your audience. This makes it harder to engage with them and keep them up to date with your initiatives. It can even lead to member attrition!

2. You’re missing out on revenue.

When your members take courses on third-party eLearning sites, your association loses a huge area of potential for generating non-dues revenue.

You’re directing your audience away from your site–and any of its other possible revenue paths–into the hands of a likely unaffiliated entity.

These other organizations then have the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell products and services to your members–some of which may even overlap with your own offerings!

The convenience of being able to buy multiple products on one platform should not be discounted.

Consider: would you rather purchase several products on several sites, or several products on one site?

It’s easier for your members to buy from one place, and it’s easier for your association to sell products when you can upsell and cross-sell.

3. You’re losing out on valuable data.

When members take courses on third-party eLearning sites, your association loses out on valuable data that could be used to improve your services. Gathering useful data (including what courses are being taken, how members are progressing, and what their overall satisfaction levels are) is crucial for understanding the wants and needs of members, as well as how you can better cater to them in the future.

Don’t look down on analytics–they can pinpoint areas of weakness in your programs, as well as provide key insight on what makes your more successful products work. Information is valuable for a reason!

4. You’re sacrificing quality.

It may be cliche to say “quality over quantity”, but it’s a truism that applies here.

When you send members to take courses on third-party eLearning sites, you have no control over the course quality. This means that your members could be taking low-quality (or even inaccurate!) courses that do not meet their needs.

Additionally, third-party programs are typically created to appeal to the widest audience possible; they may not even offer courses that cater to the more niche needs of your member base.

As an association, you know your members better than anyone–so when it comes to offering quality, relevant content, it doesn’t make sense to send them anywhere else!

You may also like: Never Stop Learning: Continuing Education Inside and Out


So, while it may seem like a good idea to send your members to third-party eLearning sites, in reality, it does more harm than good.

If you want to keep your members close and nurture your relationship with them, it’s best to keep them within your organization. Not only does this allow you to better serve them–it also helps you grow your association as a whole in the long run.

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