Ask These 6 Questions For A Better Print and Fulfillment Quote

If you print, warehouse, and ship training manuals or other materials as part of your educational programs and plan to go out for bid for those services, include these six questions in your print and fulfillment estimate request to ensure you’re getting accurate, transparent pricing.

The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and feel risky. Will a new partner really deliver on all that was promised? Will it be disruptive to your organization or your end-users? And will there be any hidden or unanticipated costs?

Most organizations provide a formal request for proposal or request for estimate to prospective print vendors to gather standardized and objective data to minimize uncertainties about costs and capabilities.

Where Print and Fulfillment Estimates Usually Fall Short

 The most logical place to start when requesting a quote is by providing all print and mailing specifications to prospective vendors, including print quantity, page count, paper type, size, etc.

With this information, print providers typically calculate a roll-up of total costs that may include:

  • Price break quantities
  • Per-piece cost, and
  • Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination

While this roll-up of pricing is usually sufficient for a one-time or less frequent print run that is shipped all at once or in bulk, it does not provide the level of detail necessary to truly understand all annual costs to print, warehouse, and ship materials on an ongoing basis.

Six Costs That Should Be Included on Your Estimate

In addition to understanding the overall cost-per-piece for each title in your training library, you’ll want to be sure any print and fulfillment estimate clearly outlines the following:

  1. Average print cost per title and/or per course
  2. Average number of items in a package
  3. Average box weight
  4. Average orders per month
  5. Average cost per shipment
  6. Total cost per class/course and the annual cost per class/course

Including these six calculations on your estimate request forces your proposal writing team to include the right amount of detail in the RFP so prospective vendors can better understand your current processes, workflows, and requirements early on. This helps to ensure you find someone who is truly a best fit for your organization.

It also results in more accurate and transparent pricing because it helps to eliminate any assumptions that may be unknowingly included in the vendor’s calculations.

And by having this level of detail early on, the best prospective partners may be able provide new ideas that could save you money and create efficiencies.

Fast Data Makes Educational Programs More Agile

For years, organizations have been focused on the concept of “Big Data,” which is having access to a large volume of customer, operational, and financial data derived from a variety of sources. By cross-analyzing these different data sets, we can extract insights that help us make more meaningful and measurable decisions.

In other words, “Big Data” provides a more accurate picture of what’s happening across the organization.

Recently, the focus has shifted from “Big Data” to “Fast Data.” We still need accurate business intelligence to make better operational, strategic, and tactical decisions. But we also need to make those decisions more quickly across the organization than ever before.

The Rising Trend of Fast Data in Associations

In a May 2019 article by ASAE, Fast Data—or the ability to apply data insights immediately to make real-time decisions—was identified as, “one of 46 drivers of change that are likely to have a significant impact on associations in the future.” The rate of change in our world has increased exponentially—from industry and technological innovation to consumer behaviors and preferences. Organizations must be nimble and responsive to keep up with these changes. Fast data is one way to achieve agility.

Here’s how this applies to training programs.

A training professional monitors member conversations and questions to identify opportunities for professional development and creates new courses or programs accordingly. Instead of planning everything a year or more in advance, these organizations are now leaving room to deliver the education their members need at the exact time they need it.

Agility is a Must-Have for Education Professionals Today

In mid-2019 when ASAE published their article, the concept of fast data and its application for associations was just starting to gain traction. A year later, it  became an absolute necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our priorities and in short order.

It changed how every industry operates, which means at least some of our existing educational content may no longer be as relevant. We had to pivot quickly to develop and implement new curricula that reflect ever-changing research, policies, procedures, and standards. Given how important it is that our learners understand, retain, and apply this knowledge quickly, we need to use real-time data, such as program and learner performance, to address any gaps immediately.

Fast data not only tells us what content to develop but how to deliver it. It can provide insight on exactly how your participants learn best, and how hey want to engage with the content. With this information, you can choose your program format (virtual or in-person), tools, and technologies to better support your learners.

Getting Started Down the Path to Fast Data

Creating a more agile decision-making process using real-time data should ideally be a strategy that is enabled and embraced across the organization. But for some, this will require significant organizational transformation to achieve. Regardless of where your organization is with your data access and intelligence initiatives, you can begin to adopt a fast data mindset within your own team or department.

Start by making a list of the data points you already have access to and those you could easily gain access to through collaboration from other teams, such as marketing. Some examples may include:

  • LMS or video platform user data, including participation rates and quiz or test question answer stats
  • Google analytics/website user data
  • Email performance
  • Member forums and chat topics
  • Social media conversations
  • Webinar data
  • Virtual conference chats and discussions

Determine which data sets will help you quickly assess whether your current priorities are performing as planned, and if not, which immediate levers you can pull to affect change.

Whether or not organizations are pursuing fast data as a strategic initiative, we still have an opportunity to make real-time decisions that positively impact our current programs. In most cases, we already have the necessary data. We just have to apply it in smaller, more manageable pieces to better serve our members, learners, and stakeholders.

Why Your Virtual Educational Event Shouldn’t Be 100% Digital

Over the past several years, we’ve become humans who prefer to do more things virtually. This includes the meetings, conferences, and instructor-led training events we would have traveled to once upon a time. But going online doesn’t mean that all of your educational content should be delivered digitally. In this (now) virtual world, there are still significant benefits to offering a blend of printed and digital materials to enhance learning.

Using a Mix of Media to Increase Learning Comprehension

Since the rise of the internet, e-readers, and mobile technology, researchers have been studying the differences in reading and learning comprehension when content is provided in digital format versus print. In 2017, the American Educational Research Association published findings from their research on the impact of reading print material versus digital and what effect each has on learning retention. Here is a summary of some of their key takeaways:

Reading on a digital device:

  1. Students prefer to read digitally
  2. They read faster online than in print
  3. There is little-to-no-difference in how well the student understood the main idea of the selected text when reading online versus reading in print

Reading printed material:

  1. Students tended to read more slowly in print
  2. Comprehension of more specific details and concepts was significantly better in print than digital

Reasons for the difference in deep learning on a digital device versus print

When you think about how we generally consume content online or on a mobile device, we’re conditioned to “scroll and scan” as a means of sifting through a tremendous amount of content—in our social and news feeds for instance—as quickly as possible. Interestingly, the act of scrolling itself was found to be more disruptive to comprehension than turning a page.

Additionally, researchers since the 1970’s have noticed that memory appears to be visual-spatial. The tactile sense of progress through a book aids the reader with understanding the progress of the story or text.

These findings, however, do not mean that a virtual course or conference is inherently less effective. What it does mean is that there is a place—and even a significant need— for both to co-exist as part of an integrated learning strategy, instead of the either/or approach that many organizations tend to take today with their educational programs.

Using a Mix of Media to Increase Retention and Application

Incorporating a blend of print and digital materials into your virtual educational programming does more than increase initial comprehension. Allowing participants to learn multiple ways also increases learning retention and application.

According to the Principles of Adult Learning & Instructional Design, we tend to retain only 10% of what we see, but 90% of what we see, hear and do. Judy Willis, a noted neurologist and researcher on learning and the brain observes, “The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorized.”

Using a Multi-Media Learning Strategy in Your Virtual Educational Event

In-person events provide a tremendous amount of value that can’t always be easily replicated in an online environment. So instead of trying to mimic in-person learning, use your virtual educational event as an opportunity to re-think how a multi-faceted approach could work together to provide a better learning experience for participants. Some considerations include:

  • What is the role of each element of your course or event? For instance, the learning materials could serve as a general introduction to a concept, while the speaker or instructor video takes a deeper dive to help reinforce the content. Meanwhile, supplemental materials, exercises, and virtual discussion groups could help participants apply knowledge in practical scenarios.
  • If your in-person event uses printed learning materials such as manuals, books, proceedings, etc., why not send materials to virtual participants ahead of time? This will not only help maintain the value of the event, but it will also help to build pre-event anticipation to help boost participation.
  • If you are sending printed materials directly to individual participants, consider adding elements to the page that provide a gateway to a multi-media learning experience. One example would be incorporating QR codes that direct the reader to supplemental learning tools such as videos, interactive applications, or even a podcast.

While we don’t know what the future holds, it’s highly likely that virtual educational events such as training courses and conferences will continue to compliment in-person learning. Think about how you can use your virtual platform to deliver a more multi-dimensional approach to learning.

The Ugly Truth About Google and Your Educational Programs

Associations are known for providing high-caliber educational programs to their members. But do your prospective members know this? Increasingly, no. Google has created more competition for your association’s conferences, training courses, and other educational content. Luckily, Google can also be the solution.

Google’s Rise in Importance for Associations

Once upon a time, associations were the singular source of industry information and knowledge. But today, they face stiff competition from other industry resources. Vendors and other organizations who are trying to sell their services to your members are producing their own educational content to get their attention.

Perform a Google search on almost any topic, and you’ll find a lengthy list of educational programs like conferences, mini-courses, workbooks, webinars, and podcasts, being offered by industry corporations and other organizations. These organizations make sure their content appears when someone is actively searching for information, answers, and guidance.

They are designed to build awareness and trust among the very same people you’re targeting for membership—young professionals.

Your association may have an entire library of content on the topic (and a network of professionals to consult with), but that’s only going to matter if that content appears in search engine results alongside your competitors.

Young Professionals are the Key to Educational Program Growth

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Millennials in the U.S. —the youngest of whom are in their late 20’s to early 30’s—has eclipsed Baby Boomers. And, according to the Pew Research Center, they are now the largest generation in the workforce.

Generation Z, currently aged 10-25, only makes up 5% of the workforce today. But they are the #2 demographic group by size, just behind Millennials.

Unfortunately, according to our 2022 Training Trends Report, only 20% of associations saw more young professionals participating in their training programs in 2021. 35% did not see any increase, and 35% weren’t sure.  The reason? Only 28% have a well-developed strategy in place to address the training and education preferences of young professionals.

The good news is that early observations note that these young professionals actively seek out professional development opportunities. This, coupled with their size, make them a prime target for educational programs.

How to Make Restricted Educational Content More Accessible to Google

Many associations restrict access to their educational content to protect its value. But this is often done in a way that also prevents search engines like Google from crawling this content.

There are steps organizations can take to maintain access control while allowing this content to appear on search engine results pages (SERPS).

Here are a few ideas of how to do this.

1. Find out what people are searching for online

Make a list of your most popular conference sessions, training courses, or other resources and the specific topics they cover. Use free online tools to uncover the specific questions or keywords searchers use when looking for resources on one of these related topics.

These free online tools include:

  • The Google auto-complete function in the search bar
  • Google’s “People also ask” and “Related searches” tool found on search results pages
  • Google Trends and Wordtracker, which provide search volume history on specific keywords and phrases

2. Turn these search topics into “feeder” content

The goal of step #1 is to uncover common pain points and questions people in your industry are asking. Turn these pain points and questions into content that can be accessed by anyone, like articles and short videos.

Make sure this content is keyword optimized for search engines.  And within the content, include an offer to register for or purchase the related class or content.

3. Create entry points to your events, courses, and resources that are search engine optimized

Some organizations are too protective of their resources. They put everything behind a gate, to the point where someone on your website can only see that you have resources, but not what they are. Which does nothing to attract new participants.

Instead, create a webpage anyone can access that provides a summary or even a short preview of an upcoming event, course, or resource.  Perform keyword and content optimization on this page so that it’s included in search engine results.

If a user doesn’t have the appropriate credentials to access the full source material, that is the perfect place to entice them to register or join!

Associations don’t need to open their educational content to non-members if it doesn’t align with their organizational strategy. But there are ways that organizations can, and should, openly publish samples of for prospective members to discover.  Like it or not, Google is key to organizational growth.

Make Your Training Manuals Mobile-Friendly in 3 Easy Steps

To keep up with the preferences of current and future learners, your digital training materials need to be mobile friendly. Getting there doesn’t have to require a significant investment of resources. There are a few simple steps you can take to optimize your existing content for mobile viewing.

The Need for Mobile-Friendly Training Materials is Increasing

Mobile learning remains one of the fastest growing segments in the e-learning market.  Your training participants want to access educational materials where and when it’s convenient for them. And, they’re becoming even more comfortable doing this on their smartphone or other mobile device.

In fact, your future participants have already fully embraced mobile learning. 67% of students already use mobile phones to complete their coursework (Source: Learning House and Aslanian Market Research Study).

According to the Mobile Learning Global Market Report 2022, the mobile learning market is expected to grow from $54 billion in 2022 to $155 billion in 2026. And it’s projected that over 72% of internet users will access the web only through their smartphones by 2025.

Mobile learning also coincides with two other growing education strategies: microlearning. where smaller pieces of content can be consumed more quickly, and just-in-time training, where information is accessible at the time and place its needed.

Turn Existing Training Materials Into Mobile-Friendly Content

This is what a mobile-optimized document looks like:

  1. It loads quickly
  2. An entire page fits within the width of the screen
  3. The content is broken up into smaller, scannable sections

If you already offer a digital version of your training manuals, booklets, and other educational materials, you don’t have to start over from scratch. It is possible to make a few modifications to your existing content to meet these criteria.

1. Re-flow the document text

If the pages in your training manual have multi-column text, change it to a single-column format to eliminate the need for left-to-right scrolling. While vertical scrolling is common on on mobile devices, horizontal scrolling is extremely disruptive to the user. It increases the time it takes to read a document while reducing comprehension.

You can also look for opportunities to add white space and break up longer blocks of text into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read on a smaller device.

2. Minimize the file size

Mobile devices have less processing power than a desktop computer. The last thing a user needs in a time-critical situation is a PDF file that takes too long to open. There are several file optimization tools available in Adobe Acrobat®. The exact steps will depend upon which version of Acrobat you’re running, but some general guidelines include:

  • Use the Reduce File Size command or PDF Optimizer
  • Enable Fast Web View in the File > Preferences dialog box
  • Unembed unnecessary fonts
  • Downsample or compress images

3. Create bookmarks or hyperlinked table of contents

If you have a longer textbook or training manual, it may be impractical to break it up into separate, shorter documents. But it is possible to make these documents easier to navigate by using bookmarks in your PDF. These bookmarks create jump destinations that link to other documents or web pages.

If your content lives in an online resource library or publishing platform, each publication can be broken out into easy-to-navigate, hyperlinked sections.  Many digital publishing platforms offer contextual search capabilities so users don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the answers they need.

Providing mobile access to training materials is going to continue to be a key component of professional development programs moving forward.  Future educational content will be designed using a mobile-first approach. In the meantime, your existing content can still work if you take simple steps to optimize documents for mobile delivery.

The Future of Continuing Education Can be Found in K-12 Classrooms

How we deliver continuing education is changing because our understanding of how people learn best is changing. And no place demonstrates this best than the K-12 classroom.  The school-aged learners of today will soon be the adult learners of tomorrow. Their experiences in the school classroom will shape their expectations for professional development programs in the future.  Is your program ready?

Five Fundamental Shifts in Classroom Learning

We interviewed four long-time K-12 teachers from different school districts to discuss how and why the classroom has changed. All four teachers identified the same five themes present in today’s educational environment.

1. More flexibility in curricula delivery

All our teachers remembered a day early in their careers when a textbook served as the class curriculum.  Lessons came directly from the book. As one teacher notes, the learning was  “spoon-fed” to students. And there was a moderate amount of hands-on or group activities to enhance the lesson.

Today, curricula are much more generalized. Teachers work within guidelines that determine what material is covered and what skills should be developed.  But it is up to the teacher on how they want to deliver the material. As a result, teachers have a lot more freedom to get creative with lesson plans.

One example from a foreign language teacher illustrates this perfectly.

Historically, foreign language instruction included memorization of vocabulary lists. But this does not promote true language fluency. Teachers are ditching the standard vocab tests. Instead, they’re using the same the same strategies that have helped us all learn our first language. Students are actively listening and speaking for the duration of the class, using relevant, real-life applications.

In one Spanish teacher’s example, she has students answer questions about themselves in Spanish as best as they can, and the class takes notes. She then plays a trivia game where the students guess things about their classmates based on the notes they took.

What is the impact this flexibility is having on teachers? According to one member of our panel, “We have to be okay with not knowing everything while we allow our students to try something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but in the end, we all learn from it.”

Another teacher indicated, “We were pretty siloed in our own classroom. But today there’s a lot more collaboration happening in teaching through at-school teams and virtual connections. We spend more time exchanging ideas with peers so we understand what’s already been tried and refined before we bring it to our classroom. We’re all figuring this out together.”

2. Teacher and student roles have changed

With the migration away from a rigid curriculum, teachers spend less time at the front of the classroom telling students what they need to know. In today’s classroom, the teacher often models new material and then, “lets the kids run with it,” moving through the classroom to provide guidance.

Teachers are also spending more time working with students to set learning goals and helping them craft a plan to reach these goals. This means the students have more accountability, as they play a more active role in their own learning.

3. Students have a voice in their own learning

With increased participation and accountability, students are also given greater flexibility to choose how they learn best.

Given the same subject and learning goal, some students may decide to use art supplies to create a project, some may use a computer program, while some may make a movie or slideshow.

This concept of student choice also translates to the classroom layout. According to all four of the teachers we interviewed, you won’t find many classrooms in their schools that contain the standard rows of desks. Many classrooms feature flexible seating arrangements where the kids can sit where they want, including at group tables, in bean bags, on couches or even on the floor.

With a more fluid learning process, there is often more movement incorporated throughout the day, with students transitioning to various areas in the classroom based on the task or assignment. According to one teacher, “As long as they’re staying on-task and not distracting others, it’s up to the student to determine what works for them.”

4. Technology is the great facilitator

Our teachers agreed that technology has played a large role in this transformation. Tablets, laptops and other devices have become substantially more prevalent in the classroom.

Two of the school districts have a 1:1 ratio of student-to-device, while others supply devices for classroom use. These devices provide a personalized approach to learning. Math apps, for instance, allow the learner to follow a self-guided path based on their current level of proficiency.

5. Assessments have changed

Historically, tests and other learning assessments have been recall-based. The goal was to know if the student remembers what was taught. But some school districts have started to recognize this does not reflect whether the student comprehends the material. Testing methods are evolving to more accurately reflect true proficiency through real-world, application-based assessments. As one teacher puts it, “We’ve moved from testing on whether a student can remember what’s been taught, to whether they know how to use it.”

Additionally, some districts are also starting to use grading systems that separate effort from proficiency. As one teacher illustrates, “An ‘A’ student and a ‘C’ student can easily be equally proficient. The only difference is the amount of effort they need or choose to put in to get there.”

What’s Driving These Changes in Classroom Learning?

Technology has certainly played a role in the changing classroom because it provides more ways to teach the material. But, according to the teachers we interviewed, research was the central driver.

Over time, studies have shown that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best way to engage students and support retention. The teachers we interviewed agreed. One teacher noted, “Students remember things they want to know. So, by taking the subject matter and allowing them to apply it in a way that is most meaningful to them, we achieve the same goal.”

The Impact on Continuing Education Programs

For training professionals focused on adult learning and professional development, these changes in schools could have a major impact on curricula and certification assessments for future continuing education programs.  These young professionals will enter the workforce expecting their learning experiences to be delivered in a way that is consistent with their previous schooling. Now is a great time to start experimenting with small changes to see what works best.

In a previous blog article, we provide some food for thought on how Generation Z might shape your organization’s continuing education programs.  Here are some other ideas to consider:

  1. Does all the learning have to take place during the course or in the classroom? Are there opportunities to provide real-world applications of the material within a certain timeframe that can then be used for a future assessment?
  2. Are your instructors capable of evolving their role from teacher to facilitator? Do they have the skills to adapt the material from the course book in creative and personalized ways?
  3. You’ll want to provide options for how your learners interact with an apply the course material, while keeping your workload and budget manageable. Can you achieve this by providing simple guidelines for your learners, while putting them in charge of how they want to learn?

While it’s impossible to predict the future, taking a glimpse into the K-12 classroom certainly provides some indications of how continuing education programs will continue to evolve. Each organization will have to determine the best way to adapt in order to achieve program goals in a way that realistically aligns with resources.

Apply Microlearning Concepts to Your Printed Course Materials

Microlearning uses short pieces of content to deliver education in smaller learning units. That content is typically in the form of  e-learning programs and other online content such as videos. But your printed training materials can also support your microlearning strategy.

The Importance of Microlearning

Microlearning is one of many tools in the professional development toolbox. It’s meant to help people achieve a specific outcome quickly through short content that focuses on a single subject.

Breaking up training content into smaller, more focused units helps to improve learning retention.  It also makes the content more convenient and accessible, which supports the concept of just-in-time training where learners access the exact information they need when they need it.

Microlearning is More Than Just An eLearning Strategy

Microlearning is typically delivered through eLearning platforms such as online modules, videos, quizzes, and games because of their convenience, accessibility and portability.  It’s not usually associated with printed materials, like course books and training manuals. These tools typically have longer chapters that introduce multiple, complex concepts.  But that’s starting to change.

More recently, organizations are recognizing the need to incorporate microlearning principles into their printed course materials as one way to improve learning outcomes. To do this, it requires a few simple design and layout modifications.

Four Ways to Format Printed Course Books for Microlearning

Turn one book into a series

Take a single course book and break it out into a branded series of separate pieces that each have a singular focus.  In doing this, you may have room to play with the format and add notetaking pages or other self-reflection and application exercises to make the content more personally relevant.

Keep sections short

Reduce the length of your chapters and sections. Providing more frequent breaks in the material gives readers an opportunity to pause and digest the material. And look for ways to turn long paragraphs into bulleted lists, making them easier to read.

Turn text into graphics

Look for ways to break up long sections of text with graphics that supply and reinforce the same information. For example, if you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic.

Use QR codes to your advantage

It’s easy to blend print and digital educational content using QR codes. Add QR codes to specific pages that link to videos, quizzes, handouts, and other materials. This article, 3 Reasons to Use QR codes in Your Training Course provides additional ideas for using QR codes to enhance learning

If you are looking to incorporate microlearning practices into your existing continuing education programs, consider your printed materials. By making a few changes to the design and layout, you can break up longer content into smaller pieces to increase comprehension and retention.

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