If you’ve been following our recent posts that summarize our 2011 survey, you’ve seen that organizations of all sizes are leveraging online learning in some way or another. (Click here to see part 1 covering profiles and budget, here for part 2 on elearning programs, here for part 3 on social learning.)
But how are associations and other non-profit organizations making decisions about which programs to pursue? Do they have a strategic plan? Do they have a different method they follow?
Again, results were scattered. But, again, there’s a lot we can learn from taking a look at them.
Half or more of responding organizations have some sort of method for planning educational programs (click the image to see it enlarged):
Here’s the question that was asked: “Do you have a strategic plan for your association’s educational offerings? If not, how do you decide how and when to make changes regarding your educational offerings?”
Many respondents didn’t seem to see a distinction between getting input from an education committee (just to use one example) from creating and implementing a strategic plan for the education function. Other organizations were quite clear about the differences, saying (for example) they were in the process of developing a strategic plan.
What are the different methods for deciding how and when to make changes in educational offerings? Here are some responses:
- “courses are evaluated on an ongoing basis by the education committee”
- “an annual education plan”
- “analytic and sales results judge whether programs are implemented”
- “content changes/edits occur at every event, different volunteers lead the program content, including Webinars”
- “Our decisions about educational offerings are guided by our association’s overall strategic plan, which includes some direct strategic directions related to education and online engagement.”
- “input from committees, board and membership”
So does it really matter whether you evaluate your programs in these ways or have a more formally created (and attended to) strategic plan?
We were curious about this, and decided to look at what organizations will be changing in the next year next to whether they have a strategic plan (or follow the organization’s overarching strategy).
See what you think. Does having a strategic plan make a difference?
Certainly major decisions — about whether to incorporate an LMS or get a new one, for example — can be made without a strategic plan.
But as you can see, organizations with a plan had a greater variety of anticipated changes — from implementing mobile learning to adding virtual experiences into the mix.
Did you also notice that organizations with a strategic plan are adding education-dedicated staff members?!?!?
I sure did.
One of the biggest challenges paid education staffers face is limited time. With only so many hours in a day, it’s hard to get everything done. So when the case can be effectively made to add personnel, it’s worth celebrating.
Can such a case be made without an education strategy? Probably. And of course this survey wasn’t designed to try to show a causal relationship between having a strategic plan and being able to hire additional staff (or purchasing an LMS, or making other significant changes), but there does seem to be some relationship between them.
So if you’re thinking you’re okay moving from event to event, making changes here and there, adding a program and subtracting one as the numbers seem to fluctuate… think again. Are you really moving your organization forward in leaps and bounds toward a clear destination, or inching it along to who knows where?
Your organization is relying on you to lead them. Don’t let them down.
My sincere thanks to all of the survey participants, and special congratulations to Mary Beth Ciukaj, Director of Education for the Council of Residential Specialists in Chicago, who won a signed copy of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning.
More general comments about the survey next time, then I’ll put the survey and its results to rest.