How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Introduction

If your organization provides printed training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials to learners as part of a course or training curriculum, those materials are a critical component of the learning process. They need to be of the highest quality, be cost-efficient to produce, and of course, must be delivered to instructors and learners on time. If any one of these three criteria is no longer being met, it may be time to think about switching your print vendor.

The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming—time that your team doesn’t have to spare. And these types of changes come with risks—namely, the risk of the unknown. Will a new partner be able to really deliver on all that was promised? Will the transition add work to your plate? Will you have to change some of your long-standing processes to fit into a new vendor’s workflow?

The Print Vendor RFP Process: What it does (and does not) achieve

To help simplify the process, many organizations undergo an RFP process that is meant to level the playing field by gathering standard, objective data from each print vendor being considered. The goal is to make it easier to make an apples-to-apples assessment of costs and capabilities.

Most print and fulfillment RFPs are designed to assess vendors on three criteria:

  1. Capabilities match: do your needs fit within the print vendor’s “sweet spot”

    • Print type & print run size
    • Finishing and binding options
    • Warehousing and inventory management
    • Shipping options
  2. Quality metrics

    • Certifications
    • Turn times
    • Order accuracy rates
    • Quality control procedures
    • Length of time in business/financial stability
  3. Cost alignment – do their costs align with your expectations

    • You provide all specs and requirements
    • They provide a quote, often at multiple quantity breaks

While all these metrics are extremely important, they should be considered a basic “cost of doing business.” Most legitimate print providers with a long-standing history of success will be able to answer questions on capabilities and quality to your satisfaction. This means more of the decision is made based on cost.

But even in doing that, you still haven’t addressed the risk and uncertainty that might prevent you from making a needed change because most standard RFP questions don’t really tell you what it’s going to be like to work with a print provider, day-in and day-out. This could leave too much “gray area” around key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

Instead, your evaluation process should consist of a two-way conversation designed to answer questions like:

  • Are they transparent?
  • Will there be any hidden or unexpected charges?
  • Are they going to make things easier for me and for other stakeholders in my organization?
  • Are they just going to take my orders, or will they add value?

Going Beyond the RFP: Better Questions for a Better Print Vendor Match

We’ve created a four-part series of articles that highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor:

Part 1 discusses the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

Part 2 addresses a better way to assess true print quality.

Part 3 reveals the insight that can be gained from sample reports and invoices.

Part 4 stresses the importance of knowing who’s on your team, and what you should expect of them.

Including these relatively simple requests as part of your print vendor selection criteria will make it easier to know what level of service you can expect, if they’re going to make things easier for you and your team, and whether they’re going to deliver on what they promised in their RFP response.

Continue to Part 1: The Estimate

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Estimate

In the introduction of this blog article series, we discussed the fact that when it comes to vetting potential new vendors to print, warehouse, and ship your training and educational materials, the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to with a new vendor.

Beyond capabilities and cost, RFPs limit the opportunity for a two-way dialogue on the “soft” details of the vendor relationship, like expectations on roles, processes, workflows, and communication. These are the details that can end up creating more work for you and your team if they aren’t addressed early in the process.

The first, and perhaps most important place to dig deeper with a potential new print and fulfillment vendor is to request the detail behind the print estimate they provide.

The Standard Print Estimate Process

The process to secure an estimate for print and print fulfillment services typically goes like this:

  1. You provide all specifications of your printed materials, including:

    • Single or annual print run quantity
    • Page count
    • Paper type and weight
    • Finished size
    • Finishing and binding
    • Proofing requirements
    • Shipping/mailing requirements
  2. Each vendor being considered uses this information to provide a total roll-up of costs that also may include:

    • Price breaks for different quantities
    • Per-piece cost
    • Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination

If you are looking for costs on a one-time print project only, this process is usually sufficient. But if your training course or publications library consists of multiple titles, each with different specifications, different levels of demand, and are in different phases of their lifecycle, you’re going to want to dig deeper than the top-line number.

Questions Your Print Vendor Should Be Asking

Data your print vendor should request from you before creating an estimate includes:

  • How many titles do you have?
  • How many are your top sellers?
  • What is the annual sales volume of your top sellers?
  • How frequently does your content change? What drives these changes?
  • What are your current print quantities/frequencies, and why?

A More Insightful Way to Provide a Print Estimate

When they provide a quote, ask them for the detail behind the estimate to understand how they arrived at those numbers. A potential print vendor should be able to show you how they calculated:

  • Average print cost per title and/or per course
  • Average number of items in a package
  • Average box weight
  • Average orders a month
  • Average cost of shipping
  • Total cost per class or course and the annual cost per class or course

Requesting this level of detail achieves three important objectives:

  1. Know they understand your needs

    Before you sign on with a new print and fulfillment provider, you want to be sure they truly understand how materials are fulfilled for each course, and how well they know your needs, processes, and workflows. Any print vendor can put ink to paper. But can they work with you in a way that solves problems and adds value? If all they have provided is a top-line estimate without getting to know the ins and outs of your print and fulfillment process, you’ll never know for sure until you start working with them.

  2. Establish transparency

    The more detail a vendor provides on their estimate, the less likely you are to miss any hidden or unexpected expenses, like warehouse location upcharges, so you can prevent any surprises to the budget.

  3. Challenge the status quo with new ideas

    If your vendor has gone through the detailed exercise of calculating not just the cost per quantity but the overall cost per title or cost per course, they will have significantly more visibility into how your training programs run. With this information, they can help to find new ways to save money or create efficiencies. For example, they could use your data to determine the best mix of print run methods for each title in your training library that reduce costs, maximize cash flow, and minimize spoilage.

A truly optimal print solution is about more than securing the lowest price-per-piece. It’s making sure your print and fulfillment services provider understands your true print volume needs based on how each title is used and where it is in its lifecycle. Using this information, a print services partner won’t provide just a quote; they’ll look for ways to help you better manage your costs.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 2: The Print Sample

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Sample

Welcome to Part 2 of this 4-part blog series, where we highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor. The goal is to get beyond the basic criteria of cost and capabilities, and truly understand how well they will work with you on key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

We started with the Series Introduction that discusses why the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to work with a new vendor.

In Part 1 of the series, we address the importance of digging into the detail behind the estimate, and what calculations you should request from vendors.

In this second part, we’re going to make a bold suggestion for how to validate the print quality promised by a prospective print provider.

Don’t Take Print Quality for Granted – Get a Print Sample

Producing a high-quality product is something you would expect every printer currently in business to have down to a science. But that’s not always the case. Much of it depends on just how close to their “sweet spot” your project is. The further on the fringes, the greater chance of receiving inconsistent print and finishing quality.

Other factors that can affect print quality include:

  • How well-established their quality control processes are to catch pre-production issues, match color, etc.
  • The skill level of their staff, how well they communicate and set expectations to address potential issues
  • What type of print and bindery equipment they have, and whether that equipment is better suited for single-page projects like postcards and pamphlets, or higher page count projects like books and manuals

At some point in your selection process, you may request printed samples from potential vendors that have similar specifications to your piece. And most vendors already have a library of samples they can readily send. The problem with this scenario is twofold:

  1. You don’t have the appropriate context behind the piece to really measure the quality. How does it compare to the proof? How does it compare to customer expectations? How well does the piece hold up with continued use over time?
  2. Prospective vendors are, by nature, only going to send you what they consider to be their highest-quality examples.

A Better Way to Measure Print Quality

Once you have narrowed down your pool of prospective print vendors, but before you have made a final selection, we highly recommend requesting a printed sample of your existing training manual, workbook, or another booklet from their presses so you can compare their print quality to what you’re currently producing—whether that’s from a different print provider or using internal resources.

Even more importantly, taking this additional step establishes a level of trust and transparency. It demonstrates their willingness to work with you and gives you the opportunity to see first-hand how well a project flows through their system, how well they communicate with you, and how well they understand both what you’re looking for and how the piece is going to be used.

If a print vendor is willing to have this level of dialogue with you about your materials, it puts them in a better position to offer improvement ideas that reduce costs, improve usability, and enhance your brand.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 3: Reports & Invoices

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Reports & Invoices

We’re pleased to bring you this third installment of our four-part blog series discussing why it’s so important to dig deeper than the standard print services RFP, and what questions you should ask to minimize the risk when making a change to your print and fulfillment vendor.

In this article, we’ll make a compelling case for why you should discuss reports and invoices early in the selection process.

When you’re searching for a new print and fulfillment services provider, you’re probably looking at the reputation of the organization, whether its capabilities match your needs, and if costs are in line with your expectations. Reporting and invoicing have nothing to do with print production, and therefore may be the furthest thing from your mind early in the RFP process.

If you have a need to print and ship training and course materials several times throughout the year, if your printed training library consists of multiple titles, and/or if you need to warehouse materials for ongoing orders, you will want to request sample reports and invoices from prospective vendors as part of your selection process.

Why Request Sample Reports and Invoices from Print Vendors?

This is one of the areas that can cause a significant amount of extra, unplanned work for your team and your internal stakeholders. If you don’t discuss details like what types of reports you can expect, and how data is outlined on invoices, you won’t know it’s a problem until after the fact.

There are likely several stakeholders within your organization who need access to print and fulfillment data. That data not only informs decisions that impact programs and resources, but it also needs to be served up in a way that supports your existing processes so all departments—from operations to accounting—can do their jobs more efficiently.

To establish a successful relationship with a new vendor for your printed training and course materials, it’s important to think beyond their print and fulfillment capabilities. Request information and samples that help you understand every phase of the process, including reporting and invoicing. Use this conversation as an opportunity to establish clear expectations, avoid back-end surprises, and ensure they will provide data in a way that makes your job easier.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?

Continue to Part 4: The Value of Ideas

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Team

Throughout this four-part blog series, we have provided recommendations on how to evaluate and select a new print and fulfillment services provider using questions that go beyond the standard cost and capabilities criteria.

In Part 1 we discussed the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

In Part 2 we recommended a better way to assess true print quality.

And in Part 3 we made the case for requesting sample reports and invoices as part of the initial evaluation process.

All three of these steps are designed to encourage two-way dialogue, which is an extremely important component of any new relationship. They also help establish the nature of the relationship you should expect. Are they going to passively take your orders, or proactively provide ideas to help enhance your training materials, improve processes, and manage costs?

Our final recommendation is to make sure you know not only what to expect from the relationship with your print and fulfillment vendor, but with whom.

We are continually surprised by the number of RFPs we receive that ask few if any questions about the specific team that will provide ongoing service and support. Your team is a critical component to the success of the relationship. As part of your selection process, you should have full visibility into questions such as:

  • Who do you direct questions to?
  • Do you have a dedicated contact, or are you put in a support queue?
  • If you do have a dedicated contact or contact(s), what, specifically is their role?
  • How should you communicate with them?
  • How will they communicate with you?
  • How often?
  • About what?
  • What should you expect of them?

Ideally, you will have the benefit of working with one primary point of contact for the duration of your relationship with a print and fulfillment provider. This will help streamline communication and provide congruency across each print run.

Your contact should be the person that handles all your day-to-day needs, including:

  • Answering print and shipping questions
  • Handling urgent orders
  • Tracking shipments
  • Managing international customs
  • Delivering meaningful reports

Having a consistent resource who has an opportunity to really know and understand your organization—how it operates, how decisions are made, business objectives, challenges, and preferences—also means they are in a position to add value to the relationship beyond just taking your orders. They will be able to offer ideas and suggestions that help you simplify processes, save costs, and make your job easier.

Are you thinking about changing print vendors for your training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials? We’d love to start a discussion with you.

A New Approach to Print-on-Demand: What Every Training Org Should Know

Coming out of the pandemic, more training organizations are looking at print-on-demand solutions to manage the financial risk of printing course materials at a time when enrollment is less predictable. But print-on-demand does have a major downside—namely, increased cost.

In response, organizations like Omnipress have developed a new print-on-demand model known as micro-inventory, which combines a low-risk print model with a better cost-per-piece.

Pandemic-induced challenges have increased the need to print course materials on-demand

Data gathered in our 2021 Training Trends Report highlights several of the challenges that training professionals are facing as a result of changes in program performance and delivery in 2020, including:

• Budget shortfalls, as a majority of organizations, reported a decrease in training revenue in 2020
• Less predictable enrollment, as more in-person courses will remain virtual moving forward

Meanwhile, more than half of organizations still plan to provide printed training materials to both in-person and virtual course participants.

Less predictable print runs combined with a need to more tightly manage costs and overhead has caused more organizations to consider using a print-on-demand model, either in addition to or instead of the traditional print and fulfillment model.

A traditional print and fulfillment model works best with well-established, flagship courses where demand is both large and predictable enough to print and warehouse a higher quantity of training materials that can be ordered and shipped quickly throughout the year.

But when a new course is introduced, or the delivery model of that course changes, enrollment is more difficult to forecast, so longer print runs become riskier.

The benefits of printing training course materials on-demand

Printing educational materials on-demand allows an organization to order a smaller quantity of course books or training manuals on an as-needed basis, which provides several benefits:

Improves cash flow

Smaller print runs mean reduced up-front costs, which equates to potentially improved cash flow for the organization.

Reduces overhead

A print-on-demand model often minimizes or reduces the need to inventory materials in a warehouse and the related fees.

Minimizes waste

By reducing the print run quantity, you can more easily make content updates while minimizing the financial risk of tossing books already on the shelf due to the need to make content changes.

Supports a positive customer experience

Because books are printed as they are ordered, the risk of running out of stock is significantly reduced, which means you can feel confident your materials will be delivered to learners on time.

The downside to print-on-demand

While printing materials on-demand offers more flexibility and decreased risk, it does come with a higher price tag. The same 500 course books will cost substantially less if you print them all at once, versus printing them in ten separate runs of 50.

Micro-inventory: All the benefits of print-on-demand, at a better cost

Recognizing that organizations need a better way to achieve both an optimal print run quantity with a better price-per-piece, print providers like Omnipress have established a new print-on-demand model known as “micro-inventory.”

Omnipress Director of Market Development, Dan Loomis, explains how micro-inventory works.

“Using data provided by the customer, we estimate the timing and quantity of each shipment. But rather than printing specifically for each shipment, we run a slightly larger quantity based on a more mid-term forecast of demand.”

In this scenario, Omnipress assumes the risk on behalf of the organization, making sure they don’t over or under-print.

Adds Loomis, “Another very lucrative benefit is that we don’t invoice our customers until the books actually ship. So, if the customer needs ten books at a time, and we end up printing 100 course books at once because we have estimated that to be the total demand in the mid-term, the customer is only invoiced for ten at a time as they ship.”

By using a micro-inventory model organizations receive a better cost-per-piece than true print-on-demand can offer, while mitigating the financial risk of maintaining a large inventory of materials.

When should you consider using a micro-inventory model to print course materials?

Micro-inventory is an optimal solution when the volume and timing of course demand are difficult to predict, such as when a new course is being introduced or is transitioning from being delivered in-person to online. If the content changes frequently or will be changing but the timeline for those changes is in flux, micro-inventory also becomes an optimal solution.

As Loomis points out, “Micro-inventory isn’t an all-or-nothing solution.” Many organizations offer multiple educational programs, each with unique levels of demand. “We look at all of the materials in your training library and determine the best print and fulfillment model for each specific title.”

As you’re evaluating the best way to print and deliver printed training materials to both in-person and virtual learners at a time when some of your programs may be experiencing a transition period, consider using micro-inventory as part of your overall print and fulfillment strategy, and as a more cost-effective alternative to the true print-on-demand model.

“Right-Size” Your Print Runs Using a Micro-Inventory Solution

Nothing about this past year has been predictable, including enrollment in instructor-led courses that were forced to migrate from in-person to online. For those organizations whose printed training materials are a cornerstone of the course, these changes in enrollment have made planning print run quantities and shipping materials to virtual learners significantly more difficult—and potentially carry more financial risk. In response, many organizations have migrated away from their legacy print and delivery model to a micro-inventory solution.

The effects of virtual delivery on course enrollment

Due to gathering restrictions and health and safety concerns, many in-person, instructor-led courses were moved from the classroom to an online environment. This change in delivery model presents several pros and cons. On the one hand, virtual instructor-led training sessions provide increased access to a wider audience who are no longer restricted by room capacity, time away from the office, or travel expenses. On the other hand, replicating the intimate, interactive, and hands-on environment of the classroom can be challenging, and in some cases, may decrease the perceived value of the course.

This dichotomy has produced changes in course enrollment, but the effects for organizations are all over the board.

We just closed our annual survey of training and education professionals. While we’re compiling the data for release in our 2021 Training Trends Report, here’s a preview of one important statistic.

When it comes to the impact of the pandemic on course enrollment:

  • 33% of respondents report a slight to significant decrease in participation
  • 34% of respondents report a slight to significant increase in participation
  • 27% have not seen any changes to course enrollment numbers

Maintaining “right-sized” print runs becomes more challenging

This lack of consistency and predictability within the training industry has made planning print runs for training materials being sent to virtual learners more difficult. Without the ability to anticipate how learners will respond to changes in course delivery, it’s harder to ensure you have the right materials for the course, and therefore run the risk of over-printing and throwing books away, or under-printing and not having them delivered to the learner on time.

It may be the perfect time to consider a micro-inventory solution.

How micro-inventory works

A micro-inventory solution provides a perfect balance between having just the right amount of inventory with the best cost-per-piece print costs.

We work with customers to produce smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. You only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization.

It also gives you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses, making it a perfect solution during this time of extreme uncertainty—particularly as restrictions are eased and in-person learning becomes a reality again.

Outside of the pandemic, micro-inventory is an effective solution for any situation where course demand is not well-established, such as with the introduction of a new course or program.

The measurable impact of micro-inventory on print runs

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a micro-inventory model, which eliminated the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe and resulted in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a micro-inventory print and delivery model.

Deliver Online Instructor-Led Training During Social Distancing

In an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19, many states are encouraging, if not mandating, residents to stay at home, while most others have eliminated any sort of in-person gathering. As a result, organizations have been forced to re-think the delivery of their in-person, instructor-led training courses. Maintaining this training is critical – not only does it create a much-needed revenue stream for many organizations, but it is also how mission-critical education information is delivered to members, employees, and learners.

Going virtual doesn’t have to be a daunting proposition. Omnipress has a quick and simple solution that allows your instructors to record and deliver course content as on-demand videos, while also supplying both print and digital course materials and supplemental resources.

Here’s a quick video by Omnipress Director of Marketing Tracy Grzybowski that explains our online video training platform.

1. Turn an in-person course into a series of pre-recorded videos

Work with your instructors to break up their partial day, full-day or multi-day course into shorter sections, and record these lessons using either our presentation capture and recording software or any other tool of their choosing.

2. Upload videos and accompanying PDF course materials

Your instructors will then upload these videos and any supplemental course materials, such as handouts, worksheets, quizzes and course evaluations to our secure Share File site.

3. Publish this on-demand course to your website, using our online video training platform

Once we have received all instructor videos and course materials, we will publish the on-demand course to your website using a simple line of code that we supply. Participants can then follow along with course content at their convenience.

online video training platform

4. Provide printed materials for enhanced learning

Create a blended approach to learning by supplementing the instructor’s on-demand videos with printed training materials like coursebooks, training manuals, workbooks, and more. We can easily print and distribute these materials—and any other items such as practice exams, handouts, etc.—directly to each participant at their home.

By turning in-person courses into on-demand video lessons, you can make sure the learning continues in this time of extreme uncertainty, while retaining at least some amount of revenue from your courses, and sets you up for greater flexibility in the future.

Printed Training Materials: Design Tips For Learning Retention

In recent years, the definition of a “successful” training program has shifted. Instead of being a numbers game (how many people completed a course), more emphasis is being placed on how well learning is retained and applied. In response, the continuing education classroom has evolved from a place where learners passively consume information to a more interactive, collaborative, and hands-on learning environment.

This has changed the role of the instructor, for sure. But what about your printed training materials? Does the design of your course books, workbooks, and training manuals support an interactive approach to learning?

Printed training materials have the power to serve as more than just text on paper. We’ve compiled these industry-sourced ideas to transform your course materials and support a multi-dimensional approach to learning.

  1. Consider User Experience for Print

Design plays an extremely important role in the usability of your training materials and coursebooks. White space, fonts, visuals, colors, and flow all play a role in how thoroughly and quickly learners not only consume but truly understand the information being presented.

  • Present Content in Shorter Sections. In today’s digital world, most learners have difficulty focusing on longer pieces of text. Consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, and providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.
  • Turn Text into Graphics. Use supporting visuals and graphics wherever possible to accompany or replace text-only content. Iconography allows you to present complex visual cues quickly while minimizing the amount of text needed. If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.
  • User-Friendly Production Specifications. How the book or material will be used dictates how it should be produced. If learners will need to write answers or take notes on the page, paper stocks and binding types matter. Use an uncoated stock for notes pages, as they are easier to write on. Additionally, ensure your piece lays flat. Coil binding works better than saddle-stitch for this purpose.
  1. Incorporate Multiple Layers of Learning

Mastery of a topic is rarely achieved by one read-through of a single piece of content. Most of us retain information by having that same content presented multiple ways. Here are some ideas of how to do that within your training manual:

  • Start each section or chapter with a quick overview of the topics to be discussed
  • Use call-out boxes that provide additional context, such as a “Putting It Into Practice” example
  • End each chapter with a chapter summary, highlighting the key takeaways
  • Incorporate quizzes and reflection exercises throughout each section to foster immediate retention and application
  • Create space for “brain breaks” or even doodling throughout your book to help learners refocus and refresh
  1. Provide a Direct Connection to Supplemental Learning Materials

Extend the learning beyond your book. Incorporate multi-media tools to provide real-world examples and applications.

  • Direct learners to supplemental online materials including videos, podcasts, and virtual renderings that can be accessed on a mobile device. Use easy-to-read vanity URLs or even QR codes—yes, they’re back!
  • If you’re looking to make a more seamless transition from print to digital while still providing the tactile experience of print, consider adding a companion digital flipbook. These multi-media tools have become more relevant in recent years because it’s now easier than ever to incorporate dynamic content such as embedded audio, video, and hyperlinks within printed text.

As you evaluate the strategy and design of your training programs to facilitate better performance from your learners, it’s important to also examine your printed training materials. Be sure to incorporate a design that not only reflects the quality of your training content but supports your learning retention and application goals as well.

Education, Training Pros: Weigh in on the Future of CE

For the sixth year, Omnipress launched our annual Training Trends survey and we need your input!

Each year, we collect data from continuing education and training professionals to understand trends surrounding educational content, including how learners want it delivered, how organizations provide it, and what changes lie ahead as new technologies are introduced and preferences change.

In March, we compile this data into insights that are published in our annual Training Trends Report.

The goal of this report is to use benchmarks and trend data to provide ideas as you set priorities and plan for 2020 and beyond.

Here is some of what we learned from the 2019 Training Trends Report:

  • Education professionals, who were already offering at least 11 different courses or programs, expected that number to increase in the coming year
  • These same professionals were also delivering content for each of these programs in a variety of formats
  • While educational programs have the potential to deliver significant value to the organization, there is was a self-reported gap between this opportunity and program effectiveness
  • Although widely discussed, many of the “hot button” learning trends like AI, VR, and mobile were only being put into practice on a limited scale
  • Organizations had not made significant advancements in preparing for Generation Z

What does 2020 look like for training professionals and what new challenges and opportunities will arise? We need your help to determine that.

The survey takes just 9 minutes to complete. All responses remain confidential for the report. As a thank you for your time, you can choose to be entered into a drawing to receive a $100 Visa Gift Card!

Please take a moment to complete the 2020 Training Trends survey. Feel free to pass it along to your colleagues too. We look forward to sharing the results with you in March/April.

QR Codes: A Surprising Way to Deliver Just-in-Time Training

 

If you wrote off QR codes as an over-hyped and ultimately useless fad, you’re certainly not alone. But you may want to set those perceptions aside and take another look at how QR codes could help your association deliver just-in-time learning content without having to completely overhaul your educational materials.

QR Codes: A Useful Tool Introduced Ahead of Its Time

Invented in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary to improve the manufacturing process, a QR code is essentially an enhanced version of a barcode, capable of holding nearly 350 times the amount of information. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for smartphone platforms in the U.S. Soon after, marketers, retailers, and other industries began using them on a wider scale to bridge the gap between print and digital content.

The QR code was made possible by technology—the invention of the smartphone and mobile web browsing capabilities. At the same time, its lack of success is also due to technological limitations. Essentially, the QR code was ahead of its time.  Back in the early 2010s, in order to use a QR code, the user had to first download a special app. They used this app to take a picture of the QR code, wait for the app to process it and redirect to a website—at a time when mobile internet connections were not nearly as fast as they are today. And on top of that, users were often directed to websites that were not optimized for a mobile viewing experience.

Why Now is the Time of the QR Code

Fast forward ten years and QR codes are making a resurgence—particularly among Millennials and Generation Z. Here’s why:

Social media platforms aren’t the only ones jumping on the QR Code bandwagon. Global industries such as food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals have implemented QR codes on labels and packaging to comply with new regulations.  For instance, as part of the Smartlabel QR Code initiative by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, prominent food companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Colgate include codes on their packaging to direct consumers to a website with more product information.

How QR Codes Can Provide Access to Time-Critical Information

One of the most valuable benefits associations provide to their members is knowledge and education. Most training and education—whether delivered as a pre-scheduled, in-person instructor-led class or as an on-demand web course—is typically consumed outside the window of time when the materials will actually be put into practice. While the learners walk away with a great foundational understanding of the material, they may not remember all the crucial details they need in a real-world situation.

For example, if you’ve ever taken a CPR or basic first aid class, you may have learned how to do proper chest compressions or how to use a defibrillator. Now fast forward six months or even longer, to the first time you need to apply this knowledge. Not only are you battling The Forgetting Curve, but you are also having to do so under extremely stressful circumstances, which further affects your ability to recall specific details.

Now imagine if there was a QR Code affixed on or near the available first aid equipment that immediately served a short demonstration video or the music loop for the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” to help you stay in rhythm with your chest compressions. QR codes can be a much more practical way of delivering the exact information you need, without having to pull up and search through a website.

Other examples where QR codes could provide just-in-time learning reinforcement:

  • For employees of libraries, restaurants, schools, and even corporations who may need to access to public health and safety resources, such as how to handle a specific mental health situation, overdose, or allergic reaction
  • For medical professionals who may want access to point-of-care resources to improve health care delivery
  • For technicians who need assistance with diagnosis and repair of less-common mechanical issues while on-site

If like many of us, you wrote off QR codes several years ago as an impractical tool that has lost popularity, you may want to think again. Thanks to improvements in the technology that supports the adoption and use of QR codes, these square snippets of data are gaining traction once again and are being more widely adopted not just by marketers, but by industries and end-users—particularly young professionals. Because of their ease to create and implement, organizations should consider how to adopt QR codes as a simple and cost-effective way to take existing materials and re-package them as micro-learning resources, delivered just-in-time, when they are most needed by the learner.

To Overcome “The Forgetting Curve,” Re-Use Educational Content

 

For those of you who recently held a conference or training course, your members are about to forget everything you just taught them (if they haven’t already). It stings just a bit to hear that, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, science tells us it’s true. The good news, though, is that associations can (and should) combat The Forgetting Curve phenomenon, at least to some extent, simply by re-packaging and re-purposing this educational content. A little cross-departmental collaboration goes a long way, too.

The Forgetting Curve: Effects of time on learning retention

Educational content is by far the top value your organization provides to your members. But its value is only realized when it can actually be applied in real-life situations. Unfortunately, from the moment a course or conference ends, we find ourselves battling The Forgetting Curve—a term coined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus to describe the effects of time on learning retention.

Within the first few days after a conference or training course, the forgetting curve is very steep. What Ebbinghaus found through his research is that providing “spaced repetition” of learning material can soften this curve, helping us to retain more information for a longer period of time.

In other words, your educational content needs to have a life after the course or conference.

In both of our annual reports—the 2019 State of the Conference Industry Report and the 2019 Training Trends Report—we asked respondents whether they re-use their educational content from the conference or training course for any purpose, and if so, how. The infographic below illustrates their responses.

forgetting curve association training pros meeting planners reuse educational content infographicMeeting Planners:

• 55% re-use conference content
• 26% use it to reinforce learning after the conference

Training Professionals:

• 77% re-use training materials
• 55% use them to reinforce key learning concepts after the course

While a majority of those surveyed are repurposing their educational content, fewer are using it to help promote learning retention—particularly in the case of conferences. This is not only a disservice to your participants, but it also diminishes the value of your program.

How can associations better leverage their educational content to help make learning stick?

1. Refresher courses and mini-events

Look at your most popular conference sessions and create short “refresher courses” on these topics. Add them to your training course roster or deliver them as a series of smaller, regional conferences. Not only does this increase your portfolio of programming as a member benefit, it can also create additional revenue opportunities for your organization.

2. Peer-to-peer learning sessions

ASAE recently published this article on the importance of peer-to-peer learning opportunities at conferences, recognizing the amount of collective expertise attendees bring to the table. What if you could take this one step further, and provide those peer-to-peer learning sessions after the conference or training course? Participants can have the opportunity to share their experiences and learnings as they apply the knowledge learned in the class or conference. Again, these could be developed as a series of smaller, regional in-person meetings, or as virtual events. Today, there are certainly plenty of tools and technology that can be used to foster face-to-face discussions such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Houseparty.

3. Develop post-event homework assignments

Looking to help learners apply knowledge in a practical way while also adding to your member resource library? We grew up doing homework in school for this very purpose, so why not add it as a component to your course or conference! Create a series of homework assignments for learners to complete at specific time-based intervals. If there’s an opportunity to have these count for additional CE credits, even better.

4. Create a post-event communications plan

Short, focused and frequent reminders of key points from an educational session or class is one extremely easy way to keep the material top-of-mind. Take a specific topic, session or chapter and break it up into a series of emails, each focusing on a single point or takeaway. This is not only a simple yet effective way to reinforce learning, it helps to keep your organization top-of-mind, which helps to boost retention, too.

Most of us recognize that learning is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process. But many organizations still deliver educational content as a one-time event—whether at a conference or in a course. Creating opportunities to provide this same content several times throughout the year will certainly increase the retention and application of the material. But there’s an additional benefit for the organization as well. By increasing your touchpoints with members, you can also increase member engagement and the value of your programs. It may require a little extra work, but it’s definitely a win-win.

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