Program management
Supporter engagement

How to enhance your association’s online learning and credentialing programs

When you examine why people join associations, reasons point to one root desire—to advance their career or business. Convincing prospects and members that the best way to achieve that goal is by taking advantage of your association’s education programs can help you grow your organization. 

Your online learning and credentialing programs help the people and organizations in your industry prosper. The learner data you collect from those programs helps you better understand their interests and design the educational and membership experiences they need.

Reasons to increase your association’s investment in online learning programs

Expand your audience

Many associations made the mistake of abandoning online programs when in-person events returned to their schedule despite the expanded audience they attracted during the pandemic. However, many audience segments can’t or won’t attend in-person programs due to:

  • Budget restraints
  • Lack of employer support for travel expenses
  • Scheduling conflicts or the inability to take time off from work
  • Parenting or caretaking responsibilities
  • Disability
  • Visa issues for international attendees

Ignoring the needs of these audiences is not an inclusive approach to education. Instead, include online options for those who can’t attend in person. 

Appeal to Gen Z

With the growing popularity of online classes for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, many young professionals prefer the convenience and affordability of online education programs. Often, online attendance is a gateway to Gen Z feeling like IRL attendance would be worthwhile. 

Save money

Venue, catering, and other meeting expenses have skyrocketed in recent years. It’s increasingly difficult to break even without raising registration and sponsorship fees. Even if your in-person events grow – adding online events with lower costs can help you show the value of your organization.

Generate revenue

Online learning has never looked so appealing. The technology investment pays off quickly when you can count on recurring revenue from learning subscriptions. Even without subscriptions, a catalog of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (on-demand) learning programs delivers a steady income stream, especially when you use targeted marketing informed by member and customer data. A client recently shared their surprise with us that members were signing up for their online conference even after it began.

Gather useful data

Collect valuable data from marketing campaigns, educational programs (webinars, courses, events, credentialing, and other programs), and program evaluations. This data helps you understand program success, prospect and learner interests and behaviors, and member/customer segment preferences. Predictive analytics tools allow you to refine marketing tactics and anticipate participation trends. Cheaper online events are a good way to invest in and track your memberships’ interests. 

Help industry employers

The market demand for online learning is growing. Many employers are more likely to budget for professional development than for membership. They know professional development is increasingly essential for hiring and retaining talented staff.

A portfolio of online learning programs for all career stages demonstrates the value of your association to industry employers. You prove your worthiness as a workforce development partner by helping students, recent graduates, and industry professionals acquire in-demand skills.

Edge out the competition

Don’t put online learning on the back burner. It’s no secret the changing world of work requires reskilling and upskilling. For-profit learning providers have already established themselves as competitors in many industries. Faced with decreasing enrollment and increasing scrutiny of the value of degrees, colleges and universities also see the revenue potential in adult learning, especially introductory and specialized micro-credentials.

Advantages of offering micro-credential and digital badge programs

With their deeply endowed pockets, higher education is becoming a fierce competitor in the credentialing market. They’re counting on microcredentials to keep alums close, reach new audiences, and enhance their bottom line.

But do colleges and universities have relationships with industry employers like you do? That’s your association advantage. You already have access to member and customer data in your association management system (AMS), constituent relationship management (CRM), and other systems that help you understand the interests and engagement of prospective and existing learners. Imagine how much your competitors would love to have that valuable intel!

Many associations offer certification programs, like ASAE’s Certified Association Executive, which certify the recipient’s broad knowledge and professional experience. These certifications require specific credit hours but are not attached to specific courses like certificates.

In recent years, micro-credentialing programs have become more prevalent. After completing several programs or courses, micro-credentials certify the recipient’s mastery of a specific competency. Many associations offer stackable micro-credentials. The recipient earns (and stacks up) one micro-credential after another.

Students, recent graduates, and early-career professionals are interested in introductory microcredentials. These programs help learners quickly acquire the skills and knowledge they need to get up to speed and be hired. They show off their micro-credentialing achievements with digital badges—the online equivalent of a paper certificate.

Learners display digital badges on LinkedIn and member directories. Digital badges contain data describing the competencies mastered and other information about the program and awarding organization.

Mid-career professionals benefit from micro-credentials, which recognize the mastery of specialized or technical skills, such as remote/hybrid management skills. Micro-credentialing programs appeal to the busy schedules of professionals juggling responsibilities at work and home.

Guide prospective learners into your education and credentialing programs with the help of learning pathways. Learning pathways lay out the competencies (and related programs) required to advance in different positions or careers.

Differentiate your online learning programs from the competition

Anyone can record many videos, post them online, and call it an online course—that’s online learning as a commodity. To differentiate your programs from the competition, provide more value. People want and need effective and enjoyable learning experiences that help them acquire skills, change behavior, and improve their job performance.

Apply learning science

Passively reading, watching, and listening doesn’t make learning stick. Learners need opportunities to recall, practice, and apply new information alone or with others.

For synchronous live instruction, give learners lots of time to participate in interactive exercises in breakout rooms and discussion forums.

Learners in asynchronous on-demand programs need the same practice opportunities, such as pop-up quizzes or written reflection prompts.

Connect learners

Every learning provider sells content, so sell more, such as opportunities to connect with peers. Cohort programs have exploded in popularity because participants meet online weekly to go deeper into content together as well as self-study.

Integrate your learning management system with an online community and web conferencing platform so learners can develop and deepen relationships with each other.

Stay in learners’ lives

End-of-program evaluations are the norm. Post-program evaluations are a differentiator that shows learners how much you care about the effectiveness of your programs. A few months after the program, find out how program alums apply what they’ve learned. Did it make a difference in their job performance or career advancement?

Assign learners to partners or groups who hold each other accountable for using new skills and deepening their knowledge.

Provide job-aid resources to help support the retention and application of new skills and knowledge.

Keep program alums close. Use nurture campaigns to suggest related content and programs, recommend next steps, guide them onto a learning pathway, and elicit program testimonials.

Amidst constant change and uncertainty in the workplace, gain the trust of your members, customers, and prospects by helping them upskill and differentiate themselves in the talent marketplace. Offer them a community of peers, education programs, and credentials that support them as they progress through their careers.

Fíonta supports your association as you bring digital transformation to your professional development programs. We help associations implement marketing tools and design campaigns that help attract and nurture leads for educational and credentialing programs and keep learners close and loyal. 

Contact us to learn how we can help your association integrate your LMS with Salesforce. We can help you leverage your data to improve real-time data analysis and understand and predict behavior using Salesforce predictive analytics tools. We’d like to help you on the path to data-driven programming and marketing decisions.