3 Ways to Elevate Your Learning Business in 2022

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.
  While these tips will focus on ways to elevate your learning business internally, recognize that scaling up your business will allow you to offer more value to individuals in your membership program as well. It’s a win-win scenario.   Let’s get started.

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.
  When you scale up and invest in an LMS that’s well-aligned with your learning business’s goals, you can overcome these challenges and more. For example, some of the top LMSs come equipped with features such as:  
  • 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.
  That’s just a small fraction of the robust features and functionalities that you can access when you scale up your LMS. Investing in a feature-rich LMS also future-proofs your learning business— as your needs grow, the platform grows with you— so there is no need to invest in another solution down the line. 

Getting Started With This Tip

The 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
  Once you write your LMS RFP, share it with pre-qualified vendors— that is, vendors that you’ve done some initial research into and who appear to be well-aligned with your goals from that research. Then, once you receive proposals from these vendors, you can evaluate them side-by-side to discover which best aligns with your LMS goals for 2022.

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.
  In the ideal scenario, the eLearning consultant you partner with will be well-suited to meet your organization’s needs both for the specific projects you’re currently working on and well into the future. Because of that, you want to carefully choose a consulting partner.

Getting Started With This Tip

Keep 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?
  Lastly, look to your LMS vendor. Some vendors offer eLearning consulting services in addition to providing the technology itself. This can be a valuable partnership to consider as the vendor will have expertise in your specific LMS instance and how it can be used to elevate your learning business.

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
  It’s becoming increasingly popular for the groups listed above to operate their own blogs and podcasts, through which they share educational information about learning business and association management. Exploring these resources can help elevate your organization’s efforts.

Getting Started With This Tip

To kick off your educational content exploration, add the following learning business podcasts to your listening repertoire:     These are just three of the many valuable resources available online— from blogs, to podcasts, to vlogs, there is likely an expert online covering the challenges you’re encountering. From scaling up your technology, to extending your team, to leveling up your personal knowledge, there are a number of ways to elevate your learning business in 2022.   Take a closer look at where your learning business is struggling and focus your attention first on the solution that targets that area of your business. So, if you’re feeling stagnant and in need of inspiration, bring in a consultant and start refreshing your knowledge. Or, if you’re feeling held back by lacking technical capacity, it may be time to invest in new software.

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