As we head into the new year, you’re busy planning— from your budget, to your event calendar, to your various networking and speaking engagements. With that planning comes your learning business strategy for the new year, including how you can scale up your offerings to provide more member and sponsor value, increase engagement, and raise non-dues revenue. Whether you’re feeling stagnant in your learning business, encountering challenges to scale up, or simply looking for ways to innovate, it’s worthwhile to revisit your strategy for the new year to look for opportunities for improvement. We’re going to cover the following three ways that you can elevate your association’s learning business in 2022:
- Invest in a new LMS.
- Work with an eLearning consultant.
- Explore educational content.
Invest in a new LMS.While implementing a new learning management system (LMS) is a major investment and not one to be taken lightly, it’s also true that if you’ve outgrown your current system it can be actively holding your learning business back. If you’ve outgrown your system, you might be facing any of the following issues:
- Untenable administrative burden that eats up both your staff members’ and users’ time.
- Decreasing member retention due to low perceived value when using the system.
- Low non-dues revenue generated through educational offerings.
- Intuitive integrations, including with your organization’s association management software (AMS), which allow for the seamless transfer of data to and from your LMS.
- Virtual and hybrid event capabilities that allow you to host conferences and educational sessions rain or shine.
- Course authoring tools that allow you to create new courses directly within the system, without needing to invest in additional software.
- Intelligent course recommendations that are tailored to your members’ interests, enticing members into purchasing and completing additional experiences.
Getting Started With This TipThe first step you should take when investing in a new association LMS is to create a request for proposal (RFP). An RFP is a comprehensive document that outlines what you would like to accomplish with your new LMS and the specific features and functionalities you’re seeking. Vendors receive the RFP and respond accordingly, returning a proposal that provides an overview of their LMS solution and their plan for bringing your learning business goals to fruition. Not only does this document allow you to examine various LMS options in the context of your learning business’s needs, but the act of compiling an RFP allows your team to organize and document your LMS needs to truly understand what you’re seeking. An LMS RFP should contain the following information:
- Proposal submission details
- An overview of your organization and learning business goals
- An explanation of the specific features and functionalities you’re seeking in your next LMS
- The terms you’re seeking in an LMS contract
- The process you’ll use for selecting the winning LMS proposal
Work with an eLearning consultant.An eLearning consultant is an individual who provides guidance to help you strategize and bring your learning business to new heights. Whether you’re looking to entirely restructure your business in the new year, or you’re simply running out of ideas to continue improving your strategy, an eLearning consultant can provide a fresh perspective to elevate your organization. They typically come in two forms— external (brought in to work with your team for a set period of time or on specific projects) and internal (permanently employed within your organization for the explicit purpose of providing learning business guidance). According to Web Courseworks’ guide to eLearning consultants, these partners offer a variety of services including:
- Learning business strategy development. This could be as general as overall business direction or more specific, like creating the pricing strategy for specific courses.
- Technology identification and implementation. A consultant can help you research LMSs and course authoring software options, evaluate those solutions against your needs, and make a plan for implementing that solution into your organization.
- Content development strategy creation. They can help you discover which types of content have the highest engagement for your members, author new courses, and even manage subject matter experts to ensure your courses represent thought leadership.
- LMS administration and call center management. This can drastically reduce your team’s administrative burden as you can trust the consulting team to keep your LMS up and running and solve any technical issues that your members encounter.
- Learning business analysis and reporting. The consultant can create and automate reports pulling data from your LMS, to help you understand where there are opportunities to continue improving and expanding your learning programming.
- Virtual and hybrid event management. Many associations moved events to the virtual sphere in the past year, and an eLearning consultant can help you plan virtual and hybrid events in a way that maintains the value of in-person experiences.
Getting Started With This TipKeep the following tips in mind to hire the right eLearning consultant for your team:
- Look for a strong personality fit. Consider the consultant’s working style, communication style, and reasoning behind being interested in working with your organization. They will be working closely with your team and need to align with the processes with which you already function.
- Choose a consultant who aligns with your general industry and size. For example, avoid choosing a consultant who specializes in working with enterprise-sized trade associations if you’re a large, but not enterprise-sized, professional association.
- Analyze past work. Ask for case studies and testimonials to see evidence of the consultant’s effectiveness on paper.
- Ask for references. Ask if you can speak with any of the consultant’s past clients. What did the client like most about working with the consultant? What would they have preferred went differently?
Explore educational content.Last but not least, one way to elevate your learning business is to learn from your peers in the field and take tips from what has (or hasn’t!) worked for them. By looking outside of the box for solutions to your learning business challenges, you can discover fresh perspectives that you may not have considered previously. There are a variety of thought leaders that you can turn to in the eLearning sphere, including:
- Similar associations in the space
- Software vendors
- eLearning consultants
Getting Started With This TipTo kick off your educational content exploration, add the following learning business podcasts to your listening repertoire:
- The Association 4.0 Podcast: This podcast and accompanying resources on the .OrgCommunity website give your association access to 200+ live events, videos, and webinars. From how to use data to fuel membership growth to how to create content that engages members, these resources run the gamut.
- The Managing eLearning Podcast: This podcast focuses on the business side of running a learning business. The Web Courseworks team covers topics such as pricing eLearning courses, selecting learning platforms, and managing digital transformation.
- The Leading Learning Podcast: This podcast is hosted by Tagoras co-founders Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele. In it, they cover tips for learning business professionals across a number of topics.