aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘e-learning’

aLearning Trail Guide Going Dark

Posted by Ellen on February 9, 2013

Not my choice, but the days for ordering e-versions of aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning are numbered.* The e-reader enabled versions and possibly the PDF version will no longer be available after the end of this month.

If you’ve been putting off purchasing the aLearning Trail Guide, don’t wait much longer. You can order here.

For info on this book and others, click here.

The print version will continue to be available (with its accompanying postage and shipping fees) for the foreseeable future.

*Lulu.com has decided to no longer support DRM, which provides certain protections for the way e-versions are made available.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Time Flies…

Posted by Ellen on January 27, 2012

…when you’re having fun, right?!?

And we have been having fun here at the aLearning Blog! Suddenly, it seems, we’re publishing our 250th post and celebrating five years.

Yep, five years. And so much has changed!

When aLearning published its first post back on January 27, 2007:

  • no LMS systems (that we know of at the time) were designed especially to meet the needs of associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) research endeavors about online learning focused on associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) organizations bothered to survey association learning leaders to find out what we’re doing in the field and how things were going
  • the number of association-specific blogs could be counted on the fingers of one person’s hands
  • social learning and virtual learning environments were mysterious, hocus-pocus, scary entities

A lot has changed over just five changes of the seasons, hasn’t it?!?

Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts

To celebrate this milestone, we’ve compiled an ebook of our Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts. Just skimming through these selections made us realize how quickly the elearning sands shift, affecting the landscape, even moving the horizon.

At over 200 pages, this compilation brings together in one place the best — and most controversial — writing from the aLearning Blog. We’ve included most comments (the fine print is that we’ve deleted pingpacks, backtracks, and outright sales pitches) and are proud of the attention the aLearning Blog has garnered over the years by elearning and education experts.

To Get Your Copy

We’ve made this e-publication very affordable at just $5. To order, go to www.ellenbooks.com/store.html and click the “Buy Now” PayPal button. You should be able to read this PDF from any device with a PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader).

Special Offer

If you’ve purchased aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning, we’ll send you a copy of the Top 100 Posts for free. Just send Ellen an e-mail at ellenbehr@aol.com and attach an electronic copy of your Lulu receipt, and we’ll send you the Top 100 Posts by return e-mail. We appreciate your support and are happy to say “thank you” in this small way.

Thank You!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Conferences, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, LMS, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General, Social Learning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Welcome to the Learning Decade!

Posted by Ellen on July 24, 2011

So says Sam Herring, writing for Fast Company  in his article, “Moving Toward 2010: The Learning Decade” (3/21/11) .

Bravo! I’m all for that. Of course, I wouldn’t limit the value of learning to just one decade, but if we must, this one is as good as any.

Better, says Herring. All because of the Great Recession. “…[M]ore and more organizations recognize that learning can help solve the most vexing economic and financial problems of the day. As a result, we predict that the years leading up to 2020 will be known as ‘The Learning Decade.'”

What about that?!?

He goes on to note the key drivers behind increases in corporate learning investments:

  • Top-Line Innovations
  • Disruptive Technology (especially social media, digital games, and mobility)
  • Competitive Pressures
  • Increasing Speed
  • Beyond Commodity (determining “how to efficiently synthesize this fungible data in order to obtain the incisive clarity required to drive genuine innovation and growth” — yep, that’s what it says)
  • Virtuous Circle (“Knowledge will become the new value-add, and the ultimate growth differentiator, as we approach 2020.”)
  • Emerging Markets
  • Industry Change
  • Industry Consolidation
  • Brain Drain
  • Failing Grade (we’ll come back to this one)
  • Return to Growth (and we’ll come back to this one)
  • Future Jobs (this one, too)
  • Knowledge Workers
  • Leadership Vacuum
  • Culture Change
  • Unanticipated Conditions

All of these offer tremendous opportunities for associations and professional societies’ learning departments. Read the article. Brainstorm all the ways you could fill the gaps that Herring notes amidst this list — you’ll probably even think of a few specific to your industry that he might have missed.

I’ll get you started. Take another look at the three items I promised we’d come back to.

Each of these are very specific to education in general. Some employees (and potential association members) will hire on with gaps in their education we could be filling (Failing Grade); others will have been out of the workforce during this long recovery and will have some educational catching-up to do (Return To Growth); and still other industries will see jobs emerge and change as a result of the shifting times (Future Jobs) — again creating gaps we can fill.

Okay… now that your brain is working, go read that article and start your own list of possibilities.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Valuable Report Stops Short

Posted by Ellen on March 31, 2011

I’m admittedly behind in my reading… this report was issued last March from NTEN, but that doesn’t discount the value of it, nor keep me from pointing out a big chunk of the IT picture it misses.

The “Nonprofit IT Staffing: 2009 IT Staffing & Spending Report” from NTEN in conjunction with the NonProfit Times gives us some great ammo when we’re trying to build a case that our organization needs a strategic plan for its use of technology, that we need more IT staff or better use of the IT personnel we have, or even that training does more than educate our staffers.

First, the helpful stuff. Then I’ll get to what the report DIDN’T give us, but should have.

Key findings of interest:

  • No surprise that larger organizations spend more and are farther ahead as leaders in tech use.
  • But here’s an interesting statement: “Though the median percentage of an organization’s overall budget allocated to IT was 3%, this figure tended to be significantly higher among small and medium organizations that large or very large.” I take this to mean that medium and small nonprofits are investing a larger percentage of their budget, but are still struggling as stragglers.
  • Organizations considered IT leaders are more likely to have a strategic plan for their technology and its use, and more often conduct ROI on their IT projects or programs than non-leaders.
  • “[O]rganizations satisfied with their IT staffing levels were more likely to provide technology training to employees.” Good training = greater satisfaction.
  • In some cases, that training was offered as incentive to highly valued IT employees to retain them during tough times when higher pay wasn’t possible and/or the workload increased because of reductions in staffing. Good training = good incentive to keep appreciated employees.

Here’s another fact that this survey supports: smaller organizations are less likely to participate in surveys such as this one — they continue to be the “hidden element” when it comes to getting a finger on the pulse of the small association/nonprofit sector. In this case, just 15% of the survey respondents work at organizations with annual budgets of less than $500,000 — which is actually the majority of nonprofits.

The report includes lots of valuable information to be sure: IT expenditures, recruiting, and outsourcing among it all.

But here are the things considered within the IT spectrum (whether conducted in-house or outsourced):

  • Social media
  • Help desk
  • Web site hosting, design, content management and maintenance
  • Hardware and software installation and management
  • Database
  • Network administration and support
  • E-mail hosting
  • Telephone services
  • Programming
  • Security and backup

What’s missing?!?

What about that ever-important linkage to elearning? What about learning content management?

Sure, you could explain it away by saying IT isn’t usually in the learning business…

…but you’d be wrong, so don’t even start down that road. Few organizations with elearning programs are doing it without the use of their IT.

eLearning is an essential element in many nonprofit technology portfolios, and omitting it from the mix weakens the value of the study, particularly when the study could have given us a good picture of where elearning fits within the overall IT picture.

  • What’s an IT staffer’s role in helping an organization implement elearning?
  • Are IT staffers involved in the integration of AMS systems and LMSes? To what degree?
  • What percentage of their time and budget is devoted to implementing and managing elearning?
  • Do they have any security or other concerns about how elearning is deployed in their organization?
  • Do they *want* to be more involved in Webinars and other elearning offerings, at least in an advisory capacity?

Someone please tell me there are plans to include elearning in the NEXT NTEN survey….

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

 
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