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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Brandon’

What Our Vendors Can Teach Us

Posted by Ellen on April 15, 2011

Awhile back, aLearning conducted a brief survey to get some insight into the biggest challenges association learning vendors face in our segment. Turns out, there’s a lot learning leaders in the nonprofit sector can discover from what they had to say.

Who Participated?

Most responding organizations provide consulting services (nearly 90%) and more than half (56%) provide learning management/learning content management systems (LMS/LCMS) as their primary product/service (P/S). None of the organizations provide Web Conferencing systems as their primary P/S, although one company reported it as a secondary P/S. One organization reported their primary P/S as an association management system.

The majority of companies are very small, with ten or fewer employees (73%) while another 20% employ 20-100.

A majority (67%) reported that half or more of their annual revenue is generated from professional/trade associations, societies, and/or other institutions, while another 13% reported at least half of their revenue comes from non-profit charities and/or philanthropic organizations.

So how do these vendors see their association clients? Do their perceptions match your reality?

A quarter of the respondents said they believe their clients expect more for what they’re spending.

You’d agree with that, I’m sure. Don’t we all want the maximum value for our investments?

But do we really know what we’re asking for when we seek solutions to our learning challenges? According to the vendors responding, not usually. Here’s how the question was asked, and how vendors responded:
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One respondent added a comment that said, in part, that clients have some idea of what’s needed, but “do not feel their needs are well defined or feel comfortable that they understand all the options.” Perhaps because of this, most respondents also said they anticipate that the biggest purchase next year in the learning segment will be for consulting services — contracting for help in defining those needs and making the next step.

While associations are looking for guidance when it comes to elearning and the technologies around it, there’s also a shift in how face-to-face sessions are being led, according to at least one respondent: “Their attendees and customers are driving the change and younger generations are not putting up with half-hearted, poor education quality.”

Here’s how another respondent put it: “Whenever I speak about social media, open education, or other new paradigms that involve significantly less control than legacy models, I can pretty much rest assured that the first questions I get will relate to risk, liability, and the (supposed) value of intellectual property. I don’t want to devalue these questions, but for the most part, these are isssues that can be addressed by a combination of common sense, good policies, and the insurance that an organization should be carrying anyway. The bottom line is that organizations are going to have to be willing to stick their necks out a bit if they want to move forward in ways that truly provide value to their members.”

What Advice Do Vendors Have?

Maybe one of the most valuable findings from this survey is discovering how we can work better with those providing learning services and products. Just as there are many things you wish vendors understood better about your job and its challenges, there are things they wish we understood better or would do differently.

Seeing our world through their eyes might be enlightening. Here are a few comments and suggestions:

  • Believing we can control face-to-face events is “illusory,” so easing up on that need to control would mean our educational events could be “much more appealing and relevant to association members.”
  • Sometimes we just don’t understand what our vendors’ specialties are, and that means we all fail to maximize working together. One provider noted that this can be the due to a weak understanding of elearning in general, resulting in confusion about which vendors provide products such as an LMS and which provide custom content development or other aspects of elearning. Such confusion can make for a longer process and risks a disconnect between what an association needs and what it gets — and the awful gap that can unfortunately result, not to mention wasted money.
  • We don’t want to admit that sometimes we have to “spend money to make money.” Recognizing that we need to make investments in P/S that could take some time to earn back is important if we want to move forward, especially when we must invest in expensive outsourcing for elearning development or an LMS.
  • The advantage of getting third-party advice, especially from a “detached source,” is often overlooked, so we end up paying more in lost causes than had we invested in some good guidance up front.
  • How well do we understand the difference between “information” and “education”? Or “training” for that matter? Do we really comprehend what it takes to translate that content so it delivers on its outcomes online?
  • We’re reluctant to recognize that “good education and training can be delivered effectively for a reasonable cost.”
  • Even though the evidence is all around us, we’re slow to accept that the value association membership has traditionally delivered is now available without membership, particularly “with the rise of technologies that enable me to find knowledge resources and make networking connections on my own.”

Perceived Challenges

Learning P/S providers clearly appreciate the challenges alearning leaders face every day, from securing funding to the grindingly slow committee-board approval process that we generally operate within. One respondent commented on the limited time staff members have for any given task. In short, we’re overextended and underfunded.

But some of the other challenges they cited in working with us? Take a peek:

– “funding issues”
– “budget and knowledge”
– “fear of the consequences of changing the design of their events”
– “getting over the Blackboard image — LMS is expensive and only for universities and colleges”
– “meeting learning needs of members/nonmembers”
– “getting them to think realistically”

Another respondent remarked on his perception that “learning initiatives simply are not among the highest priorities” in some organizations, which affects how they are managed… which, of course, affects how vendors fit into the scheme.

So What Can We Take From All of This?

  • The more you know about elearning and how it works, the better partner you can be with your learning vendors. You’ll have clarity about what you need and why you need it, and you’ll be able to formulate your questions in ways they’ll can answer that help you both.
  • As much as you learn about elearning, you should remain open to the suggestions of your vendors. It’s their professional space, after all, and it’s in their best interest to help you achieve your goals.
  • Consider hiring a consultant to help you plan elearning implementation, especially if you have a small staff, lack IT infrastructure, or face other challenges. The investment will be well worth it.
  • Get curious about the possibilities. Accept there are more options than content management systems (such as iCohere or Blackboard), and that you can provide alternatives to Webinars.

Thousands of resources are available to you — so many that it can be overwhelming.

aLearning is a great place to start:

  • If you haven’t accessed the free tutorials, follow the link on the left to see. There’s no registration, no collection of info — come and go as you please. [You might want to start with the "3 Primary Types of eLearning," then "eLearning Alphabet Soup."]
  • Add this blog to your RSS feed and use the search function or tags to read more on various topics.
  • If you don’t have a copy of “aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning,” get one. “This is one of the best-executed books I have seen in some time on the topic of learning strategy. In my opinion, every association should have a copy of thisto refer to during creation or revision of the professional development curriculum. It will be particularly useful to associations with small staffs….” So wrote William Brandon, editor of the E-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine. Follow the blue Lulu link to find out more about how to get your copy.

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Have your own questions for association-sector learning vendors you’d prefer not to ask face-to-face? Send them to Ellen and she’ll include them in her next vendor-specific survey!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS, Online Learning in General, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

aLearning Featured in “Managing eLearning” Podcast!

Posted by Ellen on October 1, 2009

Curious about where associations are with elearning these days? Looking for a quick summary of the aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning book so you can decide how it can help your association or your client associations?

With many thanks to Jon Aleckson for bringing out the best of our conversation, I’m happy to provide this link to a podcast that covers these very topics and much more:

http://www.webcourseworks.com/blog/association-elearning-book-helpful-vendor-client-relationship

If you’re looking for ways to make sure your content and delivery modes are aligned, your membership is ready for elearning, the options you’re considering are affordable and do-able (does your staff have the skill sets?), and that you have all the information you need to make the best decisions for your association — this book will recover its cost many times over for you.

Just $25 for the download or  $35 (plus shipping) for the print version, you’ll have a manual that will take you step-by-step through each decision and action. If you follow the process outlined in the trail guide, you’ll have completed your elearning strategy, budget, and implementation plans by the time you reach the last page.

For a review, see a sumary of Bill Brandon’s review for the e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-Magazine.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Justifying aLearning, Online Learning in General, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thank you, Bill!

Posted by Ellen on July 22, 2009

Bill Brandon, editor of e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine, published a review of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning that called the book “a stunning success.”

Thank you, Bill! As someone posted to my Facebook wall after reading the review, “If Bill says it, it must be so!”

If you’re not familiar with the e-Learning Guild, consider joining — their basic membership level is designed for the types of budget restrictions common to non-profits and associations — it’s free. Their next level, which provides a terrific value for the money, is just $99/year. Their focus is on elearning development, with a mission to provide specific, practical, applicable, implement-able (!) information and training.

Even if you’re not a techie, it’s important to know enough about the tech side to be able to ask a question that the techies will understand (and translate into their own geek-speak). The eLearning Guild can help you with that.

Most of their members are Web developers, instructional designers, project managers, graphic artists, and others engaged in building elearning, either in-house for large organizations (including large associations) or within vendor companies.

Over the years, they have expanded their conference tracks to include management and strategy, so those of us who oversee online learning can benefit from the practical workshops and tutorials they provide.

If you’re considering hiring a company (for Webinars or custom courseware) to develop elearning for you, or if you’re looking for a good LMS or LCMS, the e-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering (coming up again in March of 2010) is a MUST. You’ll learn more and make more contacts for potential vendors here than at any association-specific event.

I’m not just saying this because Bill had such great things to say about my book. And he does say this:

This is one of the best-executed books I have seen in some time on the topic of learning strategy. In my opinion, every association should have a copy of this to refer to during creation or revision of the professional development curriculum.

It will be particularly useful to associations with small staffs (and no professional development staff). It will also be useful to vendors who have little or no experience or insight into the challenges faced by associations as they adopt e-Learning. Finally, consultants on the staff of associations, who are more and more often asked to help their member organizations create a comprehensive learning strategy that includes online and social media components, should definitely have a copy of this.

If Bill says it, it must be so!

Thank you, Bill! And thank you to those of you who have already purchased your copy – I’m happy to help and you know where to find me if you have questions not answered in the book!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Justifying aLearning, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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