The State of Continuing Education Content: Results of the 2016 Survey of CE Professionals

The outlook for the continuing education (CE) and training market is extremely strong, with both spending and demand expected to increase fairly consistently over the next several years, causing many organizations to increase the number of educational programs they intend to deliver in 2016. At the same time, participant expectations are changing as tech-based learning options become more accessible. What impact will this have on those responsible for developing and implementing educational programs? What challenges will they face in 2016 and beyond?

We conducted an online survey of 90 continuing education and training professionals to understand the current state of CE content, key challenges, and how organizations are preparing for the future.

Insight #1: More than half of respondents are planning to deliver more programs this year, with little to no increase in budget.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed expected the number of training programs to increase slightly or significantly, while only thirty-two percent anticipated an increase in budget. This will likely present challenges for training professionals, particularly as they also plan to increase the breadth of content formats offered to learners providing a greater blend of print, digital, and mobile, and with it, increased choice for learners.

What other insights did organizations provide about current and future challenges facing CE professionals? Read the full report here, and let us know what you think.

How to Make Your Training Content Work for Busy People

Modern life is fast-paced. Between work and family obligations, many people have a hard time fitting in professional development, even if they’re motivated to earn certification or pick up a new skill. Those who do manage to register for a course may find it nearly impossible to set aside quality study time. The result can be a disjointed approach to learning: read a little bit whenever you get the chance.

This catch-as-catch-can approach only works best if your continuing education (CE) training materials meet your learners where they live, work, and play. No, you don’t have to deliver your course individually in each person’s living room. But your CE content should be able to travel with them so they can learn whenever and wherever they get a chance to do so.

Many CE professionals mistakenly respond by providing an online-only approach to learning. But you might want to take a minute to reflect first. Many studies suggest that reading the printed page leads to better comprehension and retention than reading on a screen. Appeal to the best of both worlds—modern-day convenience and best practices for long-term learning—by offering your course participants both print and digital materials.

Omnipress helps associations offer CE materials in print and online to facilitate learning anywhere. Contact us to learn more.

5 Ways to Use Online Conference Materials to Increase Attendance

Are your online conference materials working for you? In other words, is the content your association’s speakers create for the annual meeting used to draw attendees to the conference? If not, you’re missing out on one of the benefits of providing online access to your conference content: marketing your annual meeting.

Online conference materials help your members realize that attendance at your annual meeting will benefit their careers. Here are a few examples of how online access to content can reap rewards for your association:

  1. Improve your SEO: The more information and metadata that lives online and refers to your association, the better your search results. That means your association is easier for potential members to find when they look for professional development.
  2. Give potential attendees a sample: To whet their appetites, offer a few papers from last year’s conference to show members the quality content they can expect this year. Put your best foot forward: Choose a sample that was well-regarded by attendees.
  3. Entice members with the promise of access: Include 12 months of access to all conference materials with paid registration. Some will consider this great benefit alone worth the price of admission!
  4. Offer a preview: Looking to garner more early registrations? Send an exclusive video of the keynote speaker to those who register by a certain date.
  5. Allow registrants to peek behind the curtain: After a member has decided to attend and has paid the registration fee, use content to build excitement. You could, for example, make handouts for a few popular speakers available before other conference materials are ready to go live.

Online access to conference materials can give your association an attendance boost if you use the tool strategically. Employ teasers to build excitement. You’ll create a FOMO (fear of missing out) vibe for your conference, which helps members understand how valuable attendance truly is—and gets it on their calendars.

Do you use online conference materials to promote your event? How? Share your experiences in the comments!

Know Your Options: Protecting Your Online Continuing Education Materials

You understand the value of making your training materials available online. Learners can familiarize themselves with the content before the continuing education class begins and show up prepared to engage more fully. Your association can leverage the opportunity to generate additional non-dues revenue by offering both printed and online training resources. To make it even easier, you can work with a partner that can integrate online training materials with your registration system.

Maybe you wonder whether or not your training materials are safe online. High-quality training materials are an important benefit of membership in your association. Professionals cite this as one of the top reasons they join the association in the first place. Doesn’t making this information available online run the risk of making that value-add available to others, who haven’t paid for the privilege of membership and therefore, have not earned the access?

It’s a good question, and like all good questions, the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” Anytime you make content available online, there is a risk of unauthorized use. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that if it’s out there and a learner-cum-hacker is tenacious and tech-savvy enough, someone could get access to your information.

You can, however, put protections in place to make that process more trouble than it’s worth. There are options available to safeguard your CE training materials a little (watermarking) or a lot (digital rights management). Paywalls will discourage most would-be content thieves, so putting a subscription management solution in place may help as well.

  • Watermarking: “Stamp” a date, time, and username on content that’s downloaded by an authorized user and that’s where it’s likely to stop. Think of this as discouragement of sharing by peer pressure.
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM): Give your CE training materials an extra level of protection with DRM. Users can download one document per device. Period, end of story. Because this method is more stringent, many users find it cumbersome and less user-friendly than watermarking.
  • Subscription Management: Offer learners online access to materials instead of a digital download. The upside is that they can read your CE materials just about whenever and wherever they want. The downside? Internet connectivity is required.

Don’t let protection of digital materials get you down. Think about it this way: How secure is a printed course book? Once it’s in the hands of a learner, they can do whatever they want to with it. If Sarah purchases a course book, takes the class, and becomes certified in the subject, what’s to stop her from lending that book to her friend Jackie in the next cubicle, when she wants to be get her own certification?

Honestly, nothing. Like it or not, unauthorized sharing already happens. Even with all of the digital protection in place, there’s nothing but a sense of fairness and integrity that can keep Sarah from sharing her password for online access to course materials with Jackie.

Understand that if it’s important to you to do whatever you can to protect your association’s training materials, you can count on Omnipress to help. For most learners, just seeing that your association wants to keep the content under wraps, for sole use by course registrants, will be enough to appeal to their better selves. Sarah’s conscience will tell her to stop, even if a paywall doesn’t. A good show of faith that you understand the importance of the information they hold in high regard goes a long way towards proving that your association’s CE program is appropriate only for learners who have purchased access.

Curious about this issue? Contact us for more information on online training materials and content protection options.

6 Features of an Online Conference Materials Site You Didn’t Know You Needed

Your attendees love being able to access your association’s conference materials online. There are plenty of features built into Omnipress’ system for them, including full-text and faceted search capabilities, multiple display options (by schedule, speaker, and track, for instance), and responsive design, which means that the site looks great, regardless of the device used to view it.

But what’s in it for you?

Our online conference materials offer features that benefit the association staff as well as the end users. These hidden, “back-door” features will make it easier for you to bring your attendees the online access they crave.

  1. System integration: Our system plays well with others, including your AMS and registration system. This gives seamless access for attendees and cuts down on double-entry for your staff.
  2. Google analytics: Track users’ interactions with the site to learn more about what they value. Use that data to make informed decisions for future conferences.
  3. eCommerce options: Who doesn’t need another source of non-dues revenue? Offer access to content to those who couldn’t attend the annual meeting for a fee and you’ll have one!
  4. Subscription management: Here’s another opportunity to generate revenue while giving members access to the content they value. Offer annual or lifetime subscriptions. Got other creative ideas for subscription management? Just ask!
  5. Administrative access: Our system is easy for your association staff to manage, whether it’s being used by a seasoned association professional or a part-time volunteer. No programming experience is needed and the interface is very user-friendly.
  6. Access control: Your association gets to decide who gets to see what. Does someone with a certain membership level get unlimited access? Are attendees the only people who can view online content for the first 30 days after your annual meeting? However you decide to break it down, we’ll do our best to make it happen.

The best systems for online conference materials offer features that both administrators and end users will appreciate. To learn more about how this fits in to Omnipress’ conference content ecosystem, download our white paper Best Practices in Conference Content Planning & Production.

Your Printer, Your Process, Your Inventory Management

When you find a process that works, you stick with it. Whether that means doing loads of laundry in a specific order, making scrambled eggs with your own special technique, or going on the same walk around your neighborhood, you figure out what works and your keep it up.

Managing your continuing education materials may involve a process that works well for you, or it might be a task in search of a better process. Could you use some help making sense of inventory management of your CE titles?

Omnipress is more than a printer; we serve as your partner in bringing your CE materials to life. That means we understand your business and your challenges. We’ll create a customized process to meet your association’s specific needs.

Our experience, along with our collaborative approach to customer service, offer you the perfect marriage of professionalism and kindness. To make it even easier for your association to deliver CE materials to learners, Omnipress offers help at every step: formatting and design services, printing, order fulfillment, custom kitting, inventory management, and online training materials. We even help you offer your CE materials to learners for purchase with a complete storefront, where your association can sell both printed books and online training materials (digital files and/or subscriptions).

Get those boxes of CE books out of your office. Free yourself from keeping track of how many books of each title you have on hand! Eliminate the embarrassment of back orders.

Instead, count on reporting tools from Omnipress. Let us house your course books on our shelves. Enjoy the peace of mind you’ll have when someone else is taking care of your CE materials so you can focus on expanding and improving your courses and marketing them to entice more learners.

Experience the Omnipress difference! Reach out to us to get started. We’d be happy to discuss your current process and our suggestions for improvement. We want to be your printer and your partner, after all, and we can’t wait to get the conversation started.

When It Comes to Access to Training Materials, More Is More

 

Less is more, as the saying goes, but sometimes that’s not true. Now and then, more is more.

When it comes to your association’s continuing education training content, for instance, giving learners multiple access points is a good thing. Why?

Your association’s mission likely includes a commitment to lifelong learning and professional development.

Take a minute to think about what that looks like. Sometimes that will include an hour-long study session, reading the course content from a printed book. Sometimes it won’t. Is your mission limited to when your learners have large swaths of time to spend, or would you also include learning that busy members manage to squeeze into their days? Learning doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

People want to be able to read professional development materials whenever, wherever they get a chance.

Giving them access to training materials online is how to make it happen. Learners want to capitalize on those precious moments of free time in their days.

If a friend is late for lunch, they want the option to bring up the CE content on a smartphone or tablet and get a little review time in. Waiting in line? Read a few pages from your CE course book.

If your materials aren’t available online, members might choose Candy Crush instead. (They might in either case, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.) Which option supports your association’s mission? That’s only possible with online training materials.

Online access to training materials also leads to learners who come to the course ready to learn and participate.

When printed course books are the only option, learners come to the class site curious, but in some ways, unprepared.

From a cost and logistical standpoint, it’s best to have all course books sent to the site of the learning event. That doesn’t help get the class off on the right foot, though. If online training materials are available, your instructors can assign a short reading to be completed before the first class starts. Learners come with enough background knowledge to hit the ground running.

More access points to your training materials means more successful courses and learner experience.

7 Reasons to Offer Online Conference Materials—Even If You Already Have an App

When it comes to conference content, your association has accepted that many attendees prefer digital distribution. In a digital world, a printed program alone just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Attendees seem to bring smartphones everywhere they go, so a conference app felt like the best choice. You’ll still distribute some printed programs to cover your bases for attendees who don’t download the app or want to read content in print.

So now you’re covered, right?

Not so fast! Apps bring many benefits to the table, including a personal itinerary for the annual meeting and tools to engage with others, but there are many reasons to offer access to online conference materials as well.

  1. Better search: The search tools available online, including full-text and faceted search, are superior to the basic keyword search on the app. When attendees are looking for a specific presentation, it matters!
  2. Post-meeting access: Apps are most useful during a conference. Many attendees don’t use it at all once they board the plane home, though the content is still relevant and worth a second look. Viewing materials on a computer, when back in the office, is easier.
  3. Better reading experience: Deep reading is challenging on a small screen. That’s why many attendees choose to pore over new research on a full screen, rather than using the app.
  4. Long-term access: Most apps have a 12-month license. Once it’s time to release the 2016 app, all of the digital materials from 2015 will be removed and … well, then what? If you offer online conference materials, however, you can begin to build an archive of content that extends through the years.
  5. Search engine accessible: Websites are accessed by search engines; apps are not. To increase your SEO (search engine optimization), which helps new members find the association, and give presenters and authors maximum exposure, online is the way to go.
  6. Responsive design: Websites built with responsive design appear differently, depending on the size of the screen used to view them. If an attendee brings a tablet to your conference, as many do, viewing conference materials online will trump an app. Setting up an itinerary, receiving push notifications, and connecting with other attendees, however, are reasons to keep the app as well.
  7. Non-dues revenue: As you build your association’s conference content archive, you can plan to charge access for past years. You can also restrict access for current content to attendees and/or members. Generate non-dues revenue and control access online.

More avenues to the quality content from your annual meeting is better than fewer. When each format brings key benefits like the seven outlined here, it’s clear that investing more time and effort in conference content will pay off in the long run.

To keep the conference content process clean and streamlined for your association, choose a single-source solution. Omnipress can provide everything you need, from abstract management to all outputs—conference printing, USBs, conference apps, and online conference materials.

5 Signs That Your Conference Content’s Check-Engine Light Is On

Last week on the blog, you learned how to tell if your content engine needs a tune-up. In other words, it would be a good idea to take a look under the hood. It’s not urgent, though. You should do it, but your content engine will still run if you don’t get around to it right away.

When your check engine light is on, however, you’ve reached critical mass. Action must be taken. There are several reasons why those lights on your dash illuminated, from the innocuous to more problematic causes. It could be something simple, like a loose gas cap, or something more serious, such as a catalytic converter that needs to be replaced. Regardless of what the ultimate cause is, you shouldn’t ignore it.

When it comes to your conference, there are a few surefire signs that your content engine needs immediate attention.

  1. You overhear conversations about content outputs at your conference. Two colleagues lament the loss of the printed program, for instance, or voice complaints about the new app. Like it or not, people are more honest in conversation with each other than they are in surveys with you.
  2. You find yourself trying to convince the board (again) to budget for additional formats to deliver conference content. Does your association’s board need to be reminded that content is the engine of the annual meeting? A shift in priorities may be in order. That shock of recognition you’re feeling? That’s the light on your dashboard.
  3. You have noticed that your attendee demographics are shifting. Do you cater to more millennials and fewer baby boomers than you did in the past? According to a survey we conducted, millennials prefer to learn from printed materials. Have you welcomed more international attendees in recent years? They may find printed materials cumbersome; their capacity for additional carry-on space may be limited. Perhaps online conference materials are the best choice for them.
  4. You have learned that attendees have a strong preference for one type of output (say, online conference materials) … except for those who show an equally strong preference for a different one (say, print). As the famous quote goes, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (John Lyndgate) Trying to win with everyone is a losing proposition, so just do the best you can to offer multiple outputs to your attendees—printed materials, online conference materials, USBs/CDs, and a conference app.
  5. You know fellow association professionals (say, the ones you’ll meet up with next week at ASAE) who have had success with offering multiple outputs. We have found that in the association world, it helps to know how other groups like yours are handling their content. Hearing success stories from colleagues (or reading case studies) may have you wondering if you should make a change.

When signs like these point towards potential danger, it’s best to take care of things right away. Conference content is too important to take for granted, or continue on autopilot because it’s easier than making a change. Attendee satisfaction does depend, in part, on whether content comes in the format they prefer—and everyone is different. The best solution is to invest in your conference by providing as many different ways to consume the content as you can.

The Omnipress team will embody the automotive theme we’ve been using in recent blog posts at ASAE Annual 2015 in Detroit. Stop by booth 515 to learn more and pick up a USB that includes our newest white paper, Your 19-Point Conference Content Inspection. We hope to see you soon!

How to Tell If Your Content Engine Needs a Tune-Up

Is it time your content engine got a tune-up?

How can you tell? Here are a few clues:

  • Attendees have been requesting a conference app and/or online access to content. People are spending more and more time online and on mobile devices. Your association’s conference content should be available there!
  • Your conference content budget has not seen an increase in several years. Are your content offerings in a holding pattern? Remember, content is the engine that moves your meeting—and your attendees. Give it the resources it deserves!
  • Printed programs have been less popular lately. Maybe the shiny, new technologies attract attendees’ attention more than the stalwart conference program. If so, it might be time to offer fewer programs and focus on offering online access to conference content.
  • Printed programs have been more popular lately. In a recent survey we conducted, millennials showed a preference for printed materials for educational content. If you have found that professionals young and not-so-young prefer printed programs or proceedings, make sure you have enough available.
  • Your association offers only one way to access conference content. Just as you don’t offer a single appetizer at the opening reception for your association’s annual meeting, you should give attendees a choice on how they consume conference content. One size does not fit all.
  • Your competition gives attendees more content outputs than your association does. Do other associations in your industry offer more avenue to conference content, like an app, online conference materials, a USB, and printed materials? It may be time to step up your game—or lose members to an organization that already has.

 

Conference Content: The Engine That Drives Your Association’s Annual Meeting

When it comes to your association’s conference, it can be helpful to think of content as the engine of your annual meeting.

It’s true that all other aspects of your conference are also important—ordering tasty and healthy food and beverage, brokering agreements with sponsors, working with exhibitors, booking hotel blocks, handling speaker requests, and so much more.

But without content? Your annual meeting just doesn’t run without it. Much like the engine of car, your association’s conference content is the critical component that brings it all together and, simply put, makes it go.

Your content engine is far too important to leave untended, therefore, and it needs a good tune-up every so often. When was the last time you gave more thought (much less budget!) to your conference content than you did to food and beverage?

Yet the quality of the content—and the method(s) of delivery you used to get it in the hands of your attendees—is what will really determine whether members will attend next year.

When professionals return to the office after a conference, what do their colleagues ask? What did you learn? Did you catch Dr. Smith’s session? How was it? Can I take a look at your notes? Do you think our boss will let me go next year? The conversation is centered on content. Eventually networking events, venue, and that great breakfast spread will come up, but first and foremost is content.

How are you planning to deliver content for your next annual meeting? Printed programs and/or proceedings? Online? Through a conference app? On a USB or CD? A combination of the above, or all of these methods? How will your session speakers be selected? Have you chosen an abstract management system to keep that process streamlined and under control?

If your answer to any of those questions is I haven’t figured that out yet, but you can describe the opening reception hors d’oeuvres in detail, you may want to think about getting your content engine in for a check-up, ASAP.

Stop by booth 515 at ASAE Annual to consult the Omnipress “pit crew” on your content engine. We’d love to help you look into ways you can get your conference content in good shape and keep it that way for years to come. See you in Motor City!

Before & After: How Attendees Use Online Conference Materials

On the blog yesterday, I argued that online training materials helped learners—and especially high-achievers—prepare for class. As it happens, many professionals (not just those who sign up for continuing education courses) are interested in lifelong learning. These individuals are likely to attend your association’s annual meeting and represent a very good reason why you should offer online conference materials.

When you give registrants online access to your conference materials, you allow them the opportunity to make informed decisions on how to spend time at the annual meeting. They can read abstracts behind the sessions they plan to attend and build a personal itinerary on the content they find the most compelling.

All attendees will appreciate online conference materials. Every so often during the workday, you need a break from the task on hand. It’s healthy to make time to clear your mind from your work a little, and then return to it with a fresh perspective.

Personally, I spend this time reading articles about the association industry and tips for personal productivity and living a balanced, fulfilling life. If I were looking forward to a conference, however, I would spend those mini-breaks perusing online conference materials, learning about the speakers, and determining which sessions most interested me. Wouldn’t you?

Online conference materials are also important as a marketing tool. Members who haven’t yet decided whether they will attend your annual meeting can look online for information. Even a short preview of conference content would help potential attendees realize that they need to make the time to come. In fact, they can’t afford to miss it!

Attendees will also make good use of online conference materials after the meeting, poring over abstracts, posters, handouts, and other content to reflect on what they have learned and read about sessions they missed. In order for attendees to get the very most out of your association’s conference content, it’s essential to offer access to it before, during, and after the event. Logistically, it makes the most sense to distribute the content online.

Wherever members are on the spectrum—in their careers, in their decision-making process on attending the annual meeting, and in terms of dedication to their craft—online conference materials help them move forward. Make sure your association offers attendees the opportunity to learn more online.

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