Personalizing Training Leads to Better Results

 

My favorite topics for these blog posts are the ones that stem from conversations with organizations on the front lines of training adults. Recently, I was speaking with Todd Macey from Vital Learning, a company with a long history of training leaders and management of Fortune 500 companies. As we were talking, I realized his insights into the personalization of learning could be helpful for all organizations that provide training.

Personalizing Training

Todd pointed out that companies are moving away from offering a large online-only library of courses. This self-study approach has been a popular way for companies to facilitate cost-effective training over the past few years, but not necessarily meeting their learning objectives: “Companies are rethinking that approach of giving access to a bunch of courses and letting participants go their own route. That type of solution is not providing the results they are looking for and it’s not robust enough.”

Instead, Todd sees a shift towards a hybrid learning style approach that combines online course content with an element of instructor-led training, either online or in-person: “More and more companies are emphasizing that blended approach. They get the efficiency and ‘just in time benefits’ of an online experience, but couple that with a robust learning plan, one-on-one coaching, skill practice with others on their team and follow up exercises.”

Adding a Local Element to Training

Companies are also adding an additional layer of personalization to their training by finding ways to use local resources when possible. Organizations are turning to local facilitators, local universities and community colleges to enhance the learning process. The extra level of local control allows content to be tailored to the area, rather than taking a national, one-size-fits-all approach. Todd added, “A big reason people are starting to prefer local is that people like to have a more personalized experience. I think part of it too is that companies want to be personalized to their company and the individual learner.”

To Todd and the team at Vital Learning, it all comes down to results. “Online courses can be good if you are looking to improve a specific task. This approach does not work as well with soft skills or more complicated skills where you need more interactivity and practice.” Todd thinks adding elements that personalize the learning creates an environment that helps the skills, “become second nature and really sink in to become part of your process and use them on the job.”

Thank you, Todd, for sharing your perspective!

6 Reasons You Should Print Training Manuals on Demand

When you prepare to print training manuals for your association’s continuing education courses, do you struggle with choosing the number of initial copies to print? All the historical data in the world can’t ensure that you won’t waste time, money, or paper on books that no one will use. Choosing to print training manuals on demand, however, can solve these problems.

When you print training manuals on demand, you can rest assured that amount of that waste will be kept to a minimum. Here are six reasons to choose print-on-demand for your organization’s continuing education materials:

Update content easily

How long does content in your industry remain current? Some organizations can effectively use large print runs because the content in their training materials doesn’t change much year-to-year. For other organizations, particularly those in highly-regulated industries and in STEM, content is updated more frequently, meaning the potential for material waste increases.

Lower overhead costs

Start-up costs for large print runs can be prohibitive or, at the very least, frightfully expensive for some organizations. Print-on-demand requires a smaller initial investment, keeping overhead low. Having less of your budget tied up in printed materials also leaves you free to spend capital on other projects to improve your continuing education programs.

Reduce guesswork

Inventory management becomes easier when you keep a smaller number of books on the shelf. Print-on-demand solutions often create a micro-inventory that feeds orders as they come in, and more books are printed as needed. You’ll know exactly how many books you have in-stock, removing the guesswork from the process.

Minimize waste

When you keep a micro-inventory instead of a large quantity of books on the shelf, you reduce the risk of having to toss out hundreds of materials when content is updated or a class is canceled. And, even better, your organization is only charged for the number of books that were sold from your micro-inventory, saving you extra money.

Eliminate back-orders

Learners can get frustrated when they are unable to order materials they need for a class because you ordered too small of a print run initially. Using a print-on-demand model eliminates this scenario entirely, saving you from the trouble of dealing with back-ordered books.

Improve turnaround time

Even when dealing with the most experienced print vendors, large print runs require a certain amount of lead-time to complete. Print-on-demand requires less set up and fewer resources, making turnaround much faster.

No two organizations are the same—your reasons to print training manuals on demand may differ greatly from another organization’s. What is clear, however, is that print-on-demand works well for many organizations offering continuing education courses, and it might by the right choice for you, as well.

Optimize Your Courses for Millennials’ Unique Learning Style

 

Not too long ago, Millennials were the generation to plan for, the group of professionals who would someday be starting their careers and joining associations. Things have changed, however, as Millennials now make up a significant—and growing—portion of the workforce. As this generation looks to advance their careers, associations that offer continuing education opportunities tailored to meet their needs will be the resources that Millennials turn to.

It’s not enough to simply welcome this new generation into your existing courses. Technology has helped Millennials develop a different learning style than previous generations, and as a result, they expect your continuing education courses to meet these unique needs. Courses that blend traditional resources like workbooks and study guides with flipped classrooms, bite-sized learning and social media will be more likely to appeal to Millennials.

Flipped Classrooms

In the traditional classroom setting, an instructor introduces a concept during an in-person lecture. Students are then expected to complete assignments on their own to further their learning.

A flipped classroom reverses this approach. Students use study materials such as textbooks or online course content to learn new concepts ahead of time. Classroom time can then be used to discuss the material and allow students to participate in activities that reinforce those concepts. This method allows for more collaboration between students, and more individualized instruction for students who have questions about the material.

Blended Learning

Online training materials—particularly those accessible via a mobile device—offer students the convenience and flexibility to access materials any time they please. But this does not mean they are interested in forgoing printed materials completely. Instead, digital materials can be an effective supplement to traditional training materials.

As our Millennials and Training report shows, 59% of Millennials prefer printed materials when learning new concepts. Offering training materials in both print and online formats is the best way to accommodate Millennials’ diverse learning styles, and is key to helping them succeed in your courses.

Bite-sized Learning

Millennials want access to content when and where they prefer, and this applies to your educational content, as well. Structuring lessons into bite-sized or micro-learning segments can appeal to their shorter attention spans and make it easier to fit learning into their busy schedules.

Utilize short videos, small chapter sections and other more succinct lessons. Resource libraries are also good ways to allow learners to return to the material whenever they need to. The goal is to provide material in a convenient format that offers the flexibility of on-the-go access.

Collaboration

Social sharing and engagement should play a role in your continuing education courses, in-person and online. This generation thrives on networking and collaboration, so encouraging your learners to interact with their peers is an effective way for them to deepen their understanding of a topic.

Online collaborative learning may also be an option for your training courses. This allows learners to work together even when they may be geographically dispersed, creating an interactive online learning community.

Social Proof

Millennials often rely on the recommendations of their peers to help them make decisions. Not only do they consume these testimonials, but they also like to share their opinions with others. This phenomenon of peer recommendations is called social proof.

Offer Millennial learners the option to help spread the word about your training courses online through guest blogs, Facebook events and online reviews. They’ll appreciate the ability to share their opinion, and you may see an increase in enrollment as a result.

Gamification

Incorporating game-like features into your learning materials, both inside the classroom and out, can increase learners’ engagement. Consider adding incentives, rewards or leaderboards to online training materials and try to incorporate competitive aspects to in-class scenarios and challenges to “gamify” their education.

Credentialing

If your course provides learners with a certificate or something similar to recognize course completion, consider utilizing technology to better apply this to your digital natives. Provide Millennials with a digital credential, or online badge, they can display on social media sites like LinkedIn.

Millennials will be able to show off their industry-specific skill set and accomplishments while your organization benefits from word-of-mouth advertising within their networks.

Fine-Tune a Training Program for Your New Generation’s Learning Style

It’s important to recognize how Millennials’ unique learning style differs from those of previous generations. Associations that are able to structure their training courses to include blended learning, bite-sized materials and offer engaging, collaborative approaches will become the resources Millennials turn to as their careers’ progress.

How Social Proof Can Increase Enrollment In Your Training Courses

 

Social media offers many new and innovative ways to promote your training courses online, but it also excels in one of the oldest: recommendations from a learner’s peers. Of course, in the online world, everything needs a buzzword, and in this case, “peer recommendations” is now known as “social proof”

Social proof is a simple concept: people trust the recommendations of their friends and peers more than they trust traditional advertising. Leveraging these recommendations is a great way to expand visibility, increase enrollment and validate people’s confidence in your continuing education courses.


Social proof can be a powerful addition to your overall marketing strategy, and who better to leverage for these positive testimonials than your current learners? Oftentimes though, your learners would be willing to share their thoughts about your course but aren’t sure how to do it, so while in the classroom, let them know that you’d appreciate the feedback and explain how they can help advocate for your continuing education courses online. Here are just a few of the ways your current learners can help become advocates for your courses online.

Write a guest blog article

Have a current learner write a guest blog post about their experience in your training course. They can share their key takeaways from the course or any tips they’d like to pass along. This is a great way for future learners to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to take your course.

Social proof: Guest blogs give a personalized account of your training that a potential learner can identify with and see if they’d be interested in taking it themselves.

Provide a case study

Interview a current learner and use the information you collect to create a case study about their continuing education experience. Ask about their impressions of the course and the instructor, as well as how they plan to use the knowledge they acquired through taking the course. Make sure to follow up with that student to see how the information they learned has helped them in their career. These case studies can be posted on your website or blog.

Social proof: A case study can be an effective way to increase enrollment in your courses by showing specific examples of how the knowledge from your training courses can lead to a better career.

Share on social media

Learners can share their experiences or interesting facts presented in class on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter during breaks or before and after class. Then, your organization can share or retweet the posts as a quick testimonial.

Social proof: Social media posts help show the learner’s friends and colleagues that they are advancing their careers, which can help inspire their peers to do so, too.

Create Facebook events

If you’ve set up Facebook events for your future continuing education courses, your learner-turned-advocate can personally share and invite their friends who might be interested in taking a course.

Social proof: The invitation from the learner themselves will serve as a personal recommendation rather than an advertisement. Facebook event invites can also create a sense of community before the class even begins.

Leave an online recommendation

Whether it’s on your organization’s Facebook page or your website, positive reviews speak volumes. Ask your trainees to leave reviews sharing their experiences and recommendations online. This is something you can ask all of your learners to do after the course is over to gather more testimonials and boost your brand.

Social proof: Reviews increase the confidence in the value you provide through real-life feedback from actual learners.

In the world of social media, social proof goes a long way and can increase both the awareness and positive reception of your organization. If current learners are willing to share their experiences online, both future learners and your organization can benefit.

 

If you are interested in learning about other ways your organization can spread the word about your training courses and increase enrollment using social media, download our free whitepaper, “Promote your Training Courses with Content Marketing.”

 

 

Instructor-Led Training: Is It Still the Delivery Method of Choice for Continuing Education?

As technology continues to expand into more areas of our lives, some in the continuing education field have predicted the move from in-person, instructor-led training to an on-demand, digital approach. As we talk with customers and other CE professionals about the future of the field, however, we realized something: while the trend has been predicted for years, we’ve seen very little abandonment of instructor-led training.

Rather than a complete switch from instructor-led training (ILT) to digital learning, continuing education courses often include both in-classroom and digital training. Trainers and educators are now offering more options for learners to consume their educational materials how, when and where they please.

We turned to ATD’s State of the Industry Report, as well as our very own State of the Continuing Education Industry Report, for the data to support these conclusions.

Instructor-Led Training Still Leads the Way

Although there has been a slight decline in instructor-led training in recent years, it’s not declining nearly as fast as some association professionals had anticipated. From 2012 to 2015, the percentage of instructor-led training courses declined by 7%. That’s only a 1.75% decline on average each year. At this rate, ILT will still be the most popular way for organizations to deliver training for approximately another decade (2026).

Dan Loomis, Omnipress Director of Training and Publications, said, “With the popularity of digital and mobile formats emerging in the continuing education industry, I was surprised to see that instructor-led training isn’t declining as fast as some believed it would. It’s pretty clear that ILT is still an essential part of the learning process, and will be for years.”

A Workforce of Traditional Learners

Most of today’s workforce was educated in a classroom with an instructor and printed materials. Even those entering the workforce more recently, like Millennials and Gen Z, did a majority of their learning in the classroom, despite having digital materials and the internet at their ready.

As one Millennial told us during our Millennials & Print study:

“I think that, when it comes to educational materials, I will always favor print over digital. While we (Millennials) are the first generation to ‘grow up’ with technology, the technology we grew up with is completely different than it is today and it was used in completely different ways. I had access to a computer both at home and school, but in elementary school it was used to learn to type. In middle school it was used to learn Word and Excel. In high school, it was used for research and writing papers. I wasn’t reading textbooks online, I wasn’t taking class notes on a laptop. The first iPad was introduced in my sophomore year of college and I didn’t purchase one until I graduated. While it is possible to highlight and markup materials digitally on an iPad, it was never part of my educational life—I didn’t learn to learn on one.”

-Emily Wiseman; Director of Administration at Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, Inc.

So, as more Millennials join your organization and attend continuing education courses, many still expect instructor-led courses rather an online-only environment.

Flipping the Classroom to Use In-Person Learning Time Efficiently

It’s clear that instructor-led training remains a significant component of the continuing education experience, albeit not the only part. Since ILT is so valuable, your organization should focus on how you’re using classroom time to make the most of it. One way you can capitalize on in-person training is through the “flipped classroom” method.

“Flipping the classroom” is a popular idea often used in higher education. The concept essentially flips the “traditional” method of teaching in order to better use the students’ classroom time and enhance their understanding of the material.

In the traditional teaching model, an instructor will introduce a new concept in class, typically through an in-person lecture. The students will then take time outside of class to complete activities to reinforce the new ideas on their own.

In a flipped classroom, students take time to learn a new concept outside of the classroom; this can be done through textbook reading, a recorded lecture or many other forms. Then, when students meet in class with an instructor, their time is devoted to interactive group learning. This way, instructors can work one-on-one with learners to further explain course concepts, answer questions and help students solve problems in groups or to apply the new information to real-world situations.

Flipping the classroom combines instructor-led training and digital course materials to deepen your learner’s understanding, help them improve retention, and use class time efficiently.

While it’s safe to say that learners expect more options for how they receive continuing educational materials, it’s also clear that instructor-led training is still a major part of the training experience. Help bridge the gap between generations of learners by offering multiple ways to access materials and effectively use time spent in the classroom.

Note: This is an update of an earlier article that was published in April 2016.

This is One of the Principles of Teaching Adults You Must Keep in Mind

 

Anyone that has stood in front of a classroom knows that there is a big difference between teaching adults and teaching children. Aside from a lack of note passing and paper airplane throwing, adult learners come into your training courses with a specific goal in mind; after all, something motivated them to enroll in your course.

Recognizing your learners’ goals is such an important part of adult education that Malcolm Knowles—the leading voice in the study of adult learning—notes this as the first of his five principles of teaching adults. And it makes sense: By harnessing this embedded desire to achieve, you can steer your students’ motivation and lead them to a positive learning experience.

That means part of your role when designing a course is to make sure learners see exactly how the course can help them achieve their goals and then provide a framework that allows them to achieve them.

Show your learners what they can expect

When starting a new course, it is important that learners see how the in-class lessons will help them reach their goals. Make sure it’s clear from the onset what they can expect to achieve by completing your training course. Once you know their motivations, you can design your course to preview the outcomes they can expect to see once they complete it.

Right off the bat, your course should demonstrate to your adult learners how the content will be relevant and applicable to their lives and careers. Talking about goals and how your course can help learners reach them creates buy-in and can improve engagement.

Include course elements that fit your learners’ goals

When you think through the goals and motivations of your adult learners, you can use the principles of teaching adults to design a course that helps them learn and grow in their desired ways. It’s also important to think about how your learners’ will use this knowledge after completing your course. What kinds of outcomes do you want to see in your graduates?

This will help you include different course elements that more appropriately engage your learners and help them meet their goals. Depending on how the training concepts will be used, some course aspects will be more relevant than others.

For example, if a learner is taking a certification course in food safety and needs to know the rules and regulations surrounding that topic, ending the course with a quiz is an important step to test their knowledge and ensure they understand the material.

However, for a learner who wants to grow as a professional in a leadership course, a multiple choice test will probably not benefit them much. Instead, your leadership class could participate in a role-playing scenario in which they put their new-found leadership skills to the test.

Keeping your adult learner’s motivations in mind is one of the most important principles of teaching adults. If you structure the elements of your course with this principle in mind, you’ll be helping learners achieve their goals and stay motivated to successfully complete the course.

How To Find New Ideas That Will Improve Classroom Learning

Looking to other associations for inspiration is a common way our customers find solutions to their challenges. And for good reason. Many of the training-related issues associations face are common across member-based organizations. But, good ideas can come from anywhere and associations may be able to find new inspiration by expanding their horizons. To find truly innovative ideas, it’s worth looking outside of your industry, as well. The airline industry provides a great example of finding inspiration in other places.

Finding Inspiration in Unusual Places

A number of years ago, Southwest Airlines set a goal to become the industry leader in on-time takeoffs. They knew that relying on standard industry procedures wouldn’t be enough to reach this high bar. Instead, Southwest decided to incorporate efficiencies from other industries that excelled in managing tight schedules. They found the inspiration they were looking for in NASCAR. The partnership resulted in new procedures the airline industry had never seen before. By looking at the underlying skills needed to improve a process, rather than focusing on how their peers manage the task, Southwest was able to solve their problem.

When we take this lesson and apply it to associations, a whole new world of potential sources of inspiration appear.

Finding Sources of Inspiration to Improve Classroom Learning

Instructor-led training is essential to the mission of the organizations we work with. Customers are always interested in learning what other associations are doing in this area and the results they are experiencing. With the example of Southwest in mind, where might we look for new ideas and leadership on this topic? No industry has a deeper history innovating the classroom experience than the education industry. The initiatives coming from higher education can provide associations with new ideas that will improve classroom learning.

One Higher Ed Initiative Worth Considering: Flipping the Classroom

“Flipping the Classroom” is a popular idea that is finding traction across the country’s college campuses. This concept takes what we consider to be the “traditional” teaching model and inverts it. For example, in the traditional teaching model, a new concept is introduced using an in-person, instructor-led lecture. The student then takes time outside of the classroom to complete activities (such as a workbook exercise) to reinforce the learning.

Flipping the classroom

In a flipped classroom, the student is introduced to the new concept by watching a pre-recorded lecture on her own. Classroom time is then devoted to interactive group learning. Instructors can work individually with learners to cover concepts that need further explanation, and students can problem solve in groups or apply the lecture concepts to real-world scenarios. These activities deepen the student’s understanding and increase retention.

Flipping the classroom is just one example of a Higher Education initiative that could improve classroom learning for associations. Education, of course, isn’t the only industry with innovation to spare. When you think about the challenges that face your industry and association, which groups can you identify that excel in that area? How can you begin the conversation to work together?

Focus on These 12 Traits for Effective Adult Learning

 

Instructing adults in the classroom is different from when they were children. Malcolm Knowles defined the unique needs of teaching adult students with his theory “Andragogy.” Take a look at the factors that make teaching adults different than children and how you can use this information to create effective adult learning scenarios in your next course.

Profile of an Adult Learner

 

From the infographic

Profile of an Adult Learner 

Put adult learning theory to work in your next course! Create an effective learning environment by understanding Malcolm Knowles’ concept of Andragogy and the unique needs of teaching adults.

Andragogy

an·dra·go·gy noun: andragogy; plural noun: andragogies

the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education.

Profile of Adult Learner

Adults Bring

  • Prior experience and knowledge to the classroom
  • Preferences and prejudices that may need to be overcome

Adults Enjoy

  • Solving problems
  • Active learning
  • Small group exercises
  • Moving around the room

Adults Expect To

  • Use the concepts they learn immediately
  • Be respected in the classroom

Adults Need To

  • Know why a concept is important
  • Feel like an active part of the learning process
  • Learn at their own speed
  • Receive feedback and constructive criticism

Strategies for Effective Adult Learning

Action Learning

Allow participants to work in small groups on a real project. Diversity of the group is critical to the learning process.

Experiential Learning

Give attendees the opportunity to set goals, plan and turn decisions into action. Follow up with time to review and reflect on the outcomes.

Project Based Learning

Create real-life scenarios for learners to solve that relate to their actual work environment. Promote teamwork by encouraging students to work in groups.

Self-Directed Learning

Encourage students to integrate learning into their daily routine. Teach learners to determine their own learning needs and identify positive outcomes.

Omnipress has the tools, tips and best practices to help you deliver effective educational sessions. Let’s talk about creating educational materials tailor-made for your adult learners. Start the conversation today! justask@omnipress.com

References

http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/andragogy.html

Choose the Right Method for Training Millennials

 

As Millennials age and encompass more and more of the workforce, they’re going to require continuing education classes that meet their unique needs. Your association must find ways to help these members learn, and that might require changing up the way your courses are delivered. One of the most popular trends in continuing education is the push toward online learning. However, the switch from traditional classroom learning to online-only might not be the best move for your organization.

The first step in creating new continuing education methods is to identify your association’s goals and understand what learning strategies will best help your members. You have a few options when it comes to training Millennials.

Online Training Materials

Millennials are all about technology, and they will likely expect at least some of your educational content to be accessible online. Putting your materials online lets students have access to information 24/7. Many platforms are now mobile-accessible, as well, making it even easier for members to reference materials on their smartphones and tablets on the go.

Offering online training materials can be a big investment, but it can have a big return, too. E-learning is increasing in popularity, and mobile device usage has been growing over the years. Millennial members will likely appreciate the ability to learn on their own time on whatever device they prefer. If you decide to put your courses online, try separating the lessons into bite-size sections so that people can easily complete one or two on the go, rather than having to pick up in the middle of a long chapter.

Traditional Classroom Learning

Despite the growing popularity of online course materials, it isn’t always the best option for training Millennials. Before you throw away all of your printed materials, know that research shows Millennials still value print for educational purposes. We surveyed Millennials for our whitepaper, Millennials and Training, and found that 86% of respondents think there’s still a place for printed materials. More than half of the respondents also said that it is easier for them to learn from printed materials. But what about those students who also want things online?

The Compromise: Blended Learning

Blended learning is a method that incorporates both traditional classroom settings and online courses. There are a number of ways to accomplish blended learning, including varying levels of printed and online materials. Students have the ability to learn from both the printed page in a normal classroom setting, as well as complete sections of the course online on their own time. If your association has a growing Millennial member base with differing needs, blended learning may the best place to start.

Don’t feel like you have to jump to online learning right away. Consider your members and their needs, then try out a method that you think is best. Be sure to involve your Millennial members throughout the program and get their feedback. If the first few classes go well, you can expand it to other programs. Ultimately, the best method is the one that works for your association’s goals and your members.

What types of continuing education methods are you finding successful for training Millennials?

A New Way to Think About Marketing Your Association’s Courses

Marketing an association’s training courses is not an easy task. In fact, according to our 2016 State of the Continuing Education Industry report, 31% of respondents listed it as their greatest challenge. So it’s important to use every opportunity to help members—and future members—see the value in the courses you offer.

Associations generally focus on the “direct” value their training provides. Direct value refers to the skills or knowledge that the student receives from taking your course. These skills are the most tangible result of your training, so it makes sense to promote this value to get your students’ interest.

But there is another level of value that your training provides. One that can be effective in turning a potential learner into a registered learner. The “end” value is the result of your learner putting their direct value to work. Here’s an example: A chef that is the member of a restaurant association may receive the direct value of learning safe food-handling techniques. When the chef returns to work, the training she received creates an end value of a good dining experience for a family.

Each of these values can appeal to different audiences. A restaurant employee may see the benefit in learning the direct value, while the end value may be more appealing to a restaurant owner. By incorporating both the direct value and the end value into your training and marketing materials, you can appeal to a wider audience.

Take a look at your existing course and marketing materials. You may need to update these assets if you have traditionally focused on the direct value. This will give you an opportunity to send a new message to students, one that also includes the end value. Here are a couple of questions to ask as you audit your existing course materials.

Do your course materials reflect both the direct and end values that your training provides?

As you read through your course materials, do you get a clear sense of the end value your learner will be providing after completing your course? Citing the end value of a new skill can add context to what the student is learning. It also helps emphasize the importance of certain skills by demonstrating how they are used in real life.

The end value that your training provides is a source of pride for your association and your learner. Do you have a similar sense of pride when you look at your course materials? Or is there something lost in translation? Don’t discount your assessment of the physical appearance of your materials. While you know the content well enough to look past an outdated design or a layout that creates a less-than-ideal user experience, a potential student that is new to your training may not be able to see beyond the cover.

Do your marketing materials promote the end value that your training provides?

When you are promoting your training courses, use the end value to generate interest in the student. A great way to engage a prospective student is to get them to imagine their future after having completed your course. What better way to inspire them to register for your course than to have them understand the value they will be able to provide to their community?

 

When marketing your association’s training courses, there is more than one message at your disposal. It’s important to focus on the direct value that the learners will gain after taking your course. But that is only half of the story. Don’t lose sight of the end value that your training provides. Including both will build enthusiasm in the learner, and also expand the appeal of your offerings.

As your focus broadens, make sure your course materials and your marketing materials are in sync with your message. You may need to refresh your materials to include the big picture appeal that your course offers.

Should Your Association’s Next Course Be Online, or In-person?

The internet has changed just about every aspect of the way associations deliver education. The rush to move training courses online happened at such a furious pace, there was little time to assess the impact it would have on learners.

Luckily, with so many online courses now completed, there are plenty of examples to study. Material that succeeds online has distinct traits compared to those that benefit by having traditional, in-person instructors. Using these findings can help determine if you should hold your course online, or in a classroom.

It should be no surprise that the number one factor that makes a course successful online or in-person comes down to the course content. And this isn’t just limited to what’s on the page. Your decision-making process should also include how learners retain and apply the content. Some material is best learned by an individual at their own pace, and some topics need group interaction to be effectively learned.

Here are three questions to ask to help decide whether to offer a course online or in-person.

What amount of learner interaction does my course require?

The amount of natural interaction required for students to advance through the course is an important first step in determining if it should be offered online or in-person. Technology has enabled chat rooms, forums and video conferencing to simulate a classroom environment for many courses. If your course requires basic interaction between students, online communications can fill that need.

But what if your topic requires learners to work together to solve problems in real time? This is best facilitated in a face-to-face environment. Take a CPR course, for example. As good as our computer technology is, there is still no way to simulate the type of interaction needed for people to work together to save a life. Courses that train people to work closely as a team still benefit from actually being in the room together in one location at the same time.

Does my course material rely on in-person, instructor-led support?

Some topics not only involve student interactions, but also rely heavily on instructor/learner interactions. An example of this kind of course is a food safety course. A computer simulation could replicate a safe food-handling procedure, but in reality, the instructor needs to be present to observe how actual food is handled. That is something that can’t be simulated on a computer. If your course deals with a topic like math, this real-world instructor supervision may not be as essential.

What value do face-time and networking provide to my learner?

It’s important to consider not only the effective way to teach your course content, but what is the most effective way a student will learn the course material? Your course material may be simple to explain, but further discussion could help your learners to take the content you’ve taught them and apply it. A topic like this might be better suited to a workshop format that encourages discussion between the learner and the instructor, and the learner’s peers. It is hard to create that same kind of free exchange of ideas unless everyone is actually located in the same time and space.

 

The answers to these questions should provide you with a good idea if your content is well-suited for an online course, or could benefit from in-person training. There is, however, a third option, blended learning, which combines elements of both.

Blended learning: The best of both worlds

In a blended learning course, there is some amount of classroom instruction combined with some form of online course materials. In this situation, an instructor led training course could assign online content for learners to review before they get to class. Class time can then focus on the specific tasks that are most beneficial to complete in person. Or, online content can be used after an instructor led training course to expand on what was learned in class. This can take the form of a video, or interactive experience. A test can be administered online as well to make sure the concepts that were learned in the classroom were completely understood by the learner.

Conclusion

Asking and answering these three questions should start to give you an idea of whether your course would benefit from having an in-person training component. If you have a course that has historically been taught online or in-person, ask the course “graduates” for their feedback. Would the in-person course have benefited from having more online independent study available? Or, for an online-only course, would the material have been better absorbed through interactions with an instructor or other learners? Finding the right balance for your course is an important step in creating effective training courses.

Positive Energy Returns to the Land of Associations

Of all the places I travel to see clients, Washington D.C. is one of my favorite. The history of the area is something you can see from the plane at 10,000 feet, and after being on the ground a few hours, the energy of the city itself becomes contagious.

It’s no surprise that D.C. is home to many associations. After all, the early roots of associations are intertwined with the history of the country, and a lot of the challenges being discussed in the Capitol today reflect the mission of the associations.

It was not this sense of history that was different for me on this trip, that’s always been apparent. What was new this time (or at least new in recent memory) was the feeling of excited energy that was back in the air at the associations.

That was then…

Since the recession in 2008, many of my conversations with customers have revolved around how the rich history of associations can remain relevant in the “new realities” of the future. Sure, we talked about things like engaging membership and taking materials online, but these conversations were typically coming from a place of worry. A defensive posture. “There’s no room in this year’s budget for a content redesign” or “More of our training is going to have to be online-only to save money”

(If you remember having this conversation with me, don’t worry, I’m not spilling any secrets here. These were very common themes not that long ago.)

…This is now

Don’t get me wrong, these same topics came up on my recent trip. But they were being approached from a different place. Today for the first time in years, these conversations are coming from a place of opportunity, not fear.

This renewed future-forward thinking is giving associations the opportunity to focus on how they can best position themselves to fulfill the organization’s mission. A big part of this is making sure the enthusiasm they feel is matched by the individual members, as well. A strong mission and engaged membership are keys to a strong association.

The “burden” of having to redesign the cover on this year’s training materials is now an “opportunity” to present a renewed image to members. A reminder that the association they are a part of is a vibrant community of industry leaders. And professional-looking courseware makes a great first impression to those that are not yet members.

There is a renewed enthusiasm in creating a better all-around educational experience, too. Cost-cutting measures are no longer limiting continuing education materials to be online-only. Associations are finding these existing resources can be used in the classroom to enhance their instructor-led training courses.

Looking Forward

A positive outlook is providing associations with the energy to engage their members in new ways. And ultimately, that is how we grow membership and remain relevant in the future.

As you look at your current continuing education materials, is your association ready to refresh your existing courseware? We’d be happy to talk with you about some different options to update the look and feel of your content. Sometimes a simple change to the binding and cover design can make a dramatic difference in the way your association’s materials—and brand—are perceived.