aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘professional development’

What Corporate Trainers Can Learn from Associations

Posted by Ellen on March 8, 2012

In her reaction to our recent post, “Did You Feel That?” Adrienne Gross said, “One thing that technology can’t really help with though is motivation: ‘I want to do this training.’”

I responded by agreeing that we can lead people to training but we can’t make them learn.

And that got me thinking about a key difference between corporate training and association training. Our problems are 180-degrees in difference.

Corporate trainers struggle to get learners engaged. Often they’re showing up for courses because they’ve been sent, the sessions are mandatory, attendance is required. They aren’t always in the mood. They don’t feel close to the content. Etc. Etc.

Trainers spend a lot of time with “WIIFM” — what’s in it for me. Getting learners to connect with the content. Trying to motivate them to engage in the content, to figure out how they’ll eventually apply what they’re learning.

Yes, we do some of that.

But mostly we’re struggling with getting the trainers — usually our volunteer content leaders — to get out of the way of our members, who generally show up ready and eager to learn.

Quite the opposite of corporate trainees.

Corporate trainees attend sessions that the company pays for. Even when that training requires travel, the employee’s costs are covered, at minimum via a per diem.

Our members, on the other hand, consciously choose to attend our learning events, whether they be online or face-to-face.

Think about that a second.

They’ve paid to be a member.

Now they’re paying a registration fee to attend an event.

Sometimes they even pay to travel to that event.

That’s motivation, don’t you think?

So if we’re sending people out the door frustrated that they didn’t learn anything, that’s our bad. Our very bad. (And the topic of a different post entirely.)

What are we doing right that corporations seem to be getting wrong? Why are our learners showing up so ready to learn while corporate learners are reluctant to show up at all?

What can corporate trainers learn from us?

Probably a lot more than what I’ll describe here, but we’ll consider it a start. In no particular order, we design sessions that:

  • Deliver what people need to know and do so they can make better decisions and perform tasks more efficiently. We don’t assume we know what they need — we find out from them what they need to know, and work from there.
  • Leverage various experience levels, so those newer in the profession learn from those who have more experience and do so in an environment where organizational, reporting hierarchy doesn’t matter. We know our sessions will be filled with individuals from across the professional spectrum, and do our best to make that combination work for the session, rather than against it.
  • Create online and in-person environments where social, informal learning is a natural outflow from the session. We expect attendees to meet others and learn from them in the hallways, during breaks and meals, and often well beyond the session itself.
  • Start with the assumption that people want the latest information, research, strategies, tactics, tools, etc. They want an edge over their competition and know we can give them that edge. Never mind that those competitors are often sitting in the same room!
  • Encourage an atmosphere of open discussion, networking, debate, sharing, and exchange. Our members have discovered over time that often they get the answer to a problem in the least-expected way — usually outside of the formal training situation.
  • Appreciate the value of social interaction. Sharing meals, taking tours, and participating in other activities together isn’t just about “team building.” It’s about relaxing enough in the presence of others that you can feel comfortable sharing your problems, asking necessary questions, and generally letting your hair down.

Corporate trainers out there: yes, you probably think you’re doing these things already. But you’re not. The next time you attend a professional development event offered through an association, pay close attention.

  • What made you want to attend this event? What about your decision can you incorporate into your corporate offerings? Do you need to change a venue? Re-order your agenda?
  • When were you particularly engaged? Why? What was being done that you can steal and use in your own sessions? Do you need to change-up your facilitators? Tools? Training techniques?
  • Where were you when you picked up a particularly helpful bit of information, advice, skill, or other nugget of learning? Do you provide that sort of interaction in the corporate training sessions you design? How can you do that?
  • Did your attention flag at some point? When? Why? Do your corporate training session attendees suffer in a similar way? What do you wish had been done during that session to re-engage you? How could you elevate the engagement in your sessions, based on what you experienced at the PD session?
  • When did you feel most comfortable? Why? What about the session’s environment or facilitation or other aspect made you feel this way? How can you integrate that into your own corporate sessions?

Generally, you can approach this from a lot of directions.

Here’s one more (a bonus suggestion!): if you were to put a pricetag on the corporate sessions you offer, what do you think your employees would be willing to spend on them? Why? Would they be willing to pay membership dues, then a registration fee and travel costs on top of that us to attend?

What can you be doing differently so they would?

Answer this question, and you’ll likely solve much of that  “motivation” problem that Adrienne mentions and that  plagues so much of corporate training these days.

Posted in Conferences, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 1 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 »

Why Your Board of Directors is Dysfunctional

Posted by Ellen on December 21, 2011

And it is, isn’t it? Admit it. Well, maybe things seem okay for the moment, but at some point, you’ll experience frustration with a board of directors that you’ll be convinced is off its rocker, in whole or part.

It isn’t their fault.

Think about it.

They volunteer to run for the board of directors of your nonprofit organization, get elected or appointed, and voila! — they’re supposed to know what’s expected of them.

“But Ellen! We have an extensive board orientation program,” you say.

Sure you do.

You cover the organization’s pertinent documents (bylaws, standing rules, etc.), mix in the most critical legal stuff (open meetings laws, liabilities, etc.), spend some time with the financial data, maybe cover some of Robert’s Rules of Order.

Everybody leaves with a fat binder and cognitive overload.But nobody leaves having experienced effective training.

Stop a second and think about that.

You’ve just entrusted major decisions to a group of people based on a binder, a lot of conversation, and maybe a few expert speakers.

You’ve given them a lot of “what” stuff, but very little “how.”

Board members perform several tasks. Learning those tasks requires learning new skills — or adapting existing skills to new applications.

When is the last time your board orientation included practicing performing a necessary task? Or practicing anything?

When’s the last time you presented your board members with hypothetical problems of the sort they’ll need to solve? Case studies? Asked them to work together on a simulation?

I hear your protest: “But Ellen! That takes so much time and we already have several days devoted to this orientation!”

You’re right. You do not want to extend your orientation time. If anything, you want to reduce it.

Instead of walking the members through the bylaws, pick a half-dozen key items and create role-playing scenarios so they will experience them.

Instead of asking members to sit through a presentation by a legal expert, create a few scenarios based on the most likely litigation you could face. Have members work in small groups to work through what they should do and why.

Instead of handing your members a manual on Robert’s Rules of Order and expecting them to magically know the ins and outs of conducting a meeting with them (even assuming they actually take the time to read the manual, which they probably won’t), tell them you’ll be conducting part of the orientation using Robert’s Rules.

Instead of handing them a bunch of financial documents and tediously explaining each item line by line, ask them what they think the most pressing financial issue for the organization is, then use the documents to show the current fiscal situation. Ask them what they think the organization wastes the most money with, then use the budget to determine where the most money is spent, and where the least money is spent.Create an online version that includes explanations of those items through call-outs that appear when the mouse hovers over them so they can continue to refer to it even after the orientation session.

You probably have even better ideas than these to introduce more effective training techniques into your board orientation — the point is to involve them actively in the materials they will be using as board members. Get them thinking like board members through case studies and scenarios and small group discussions. Help them begin to behave like board members by modelling and practicing Robert’s Rules of Order (or other meeting management techniques).

We expect our children’s teachers to be trained in classroom management. We expect our doctor’s office to know how to keep our medical records straight. We expect our attorneys to have the answers to our questions.

Why should our board members be any different?

You wouldn’t want your children in a classroom where the teacher was given a week’s series of lectures and handed a binder then considered ready to do the job. If you’ve had a car accident, you wouldn’t want your insurance agent showing up in his pajamas complaining you interrupted his favorite daytime TV show, would you? of course not. You expect that they’ve been properly trained so you will get the service you expect from them.

Members expect that your board members are properly prepared, too. But taking on a board position is taking on a new job. New jobs require training. Yes, there’s some “orientation” involved, but to overlook the importance of training new board members is to render those members incompetent to fulfill their duties…

…leading to the very dysfunction you really, really, really don’t want permeating your board.

Posted in Learning in General, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on November 7, 2011

We’re a little late to call this the “October Quick Clicks” — but that’s when most of these links were collected…. Watch for another Quick Clicks edition sometime later this month (or early next month… this is what happens when you’ve got a lot going on, but then, I know you live in that same world!).

 

Fun and Games and Learning

Wondering if games can actually get people engaged with the content? Why not try it yourself? The folks at Web Courseworks Ltd have developed a game focused on safe driving amidst a variety of distractions. Give it a go!

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Twitter Teaching

Ah! Here it is: “Practical Advice for Teaching with Twitter.” You knew there had to be some nut-and-bolts help out there somewhere, didn’t you? Though directed at lecturers for higher ed, you can easily adapt these guidelines for learning leaders, particularly for larger sessions. See Mark Sample’s great article in October 22 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education  online here.

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PLN… ALN… Both Good

Thinking about a PLN (personal learning network)? Or creating a sort of ALN (association learning network)? Wondering where to start? Thanks to Carol Brown at Online College for pointing aLearning to this terrific article, “50 Great Ways to Grow Your Personal Learning Network,” with lots of nuts-and-bolts how-to information.

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Some PD on Non-Profit Topics — FREE

Guidestar is offering a great series of informational Webinars they’re calling “Lunch & Learns.” Scheduled for just 30 minutes each, these are free and focus on topics ranging from nonprofit benchmarking to charting impact to “how to read the most valuable parts of the 990 in 25 minutes or less!” You must register to attend; you can register for any one or all; Web sessions are offered via WebEx. Sessions are currently scheduled through November 22.

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How Do You Know Which Online Format to Use?

Ayesha Habeeb Omer, over at CommLab India’s Custom Training and eLearning Blog, posted a succinct guide to identifying content types so you can match that content to your delivery options. Read her “Nature of Content — A Deciding Factor for Training Design” for a brief yet thorough explanation.

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LMS Primer

Of course, we like to recommend our own “Choosing a Learning Management System” aLearning Fundamentals as your place to start with your LMS questions… but the LMS primer TrainingForce has posted online has more detail if you need additional background.

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Have a resource you’ve discovered you’d like to share? Post it in the comments or send me a note at ellenbehr@aol.com.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, LMS, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2011 aLearning Association Survey Results Summary — Part 3

Posted by Ellen on October 13, 2011

Once again, our sincere thanks to the many association learning leaders who responded to our request to participate in the 2011 aLearning Association Survey and to those who promoted it. While we had the best response yet to an aLearning Survey, the number of responses wasn’t high enough for us to confidently suggest that the results serve as any sort of benchmark. Instead, we recommend that you use this summary as a way of seeing what other associations and non-profit organizations are doing in the way of online learning.

Past posts have summarized profiles of the survey participants, their staffing, budget, and online programs.

In this post we’ll take a look at how many of the respondents are using social learning.

Respondents were given these answer choices to a question about how often they have been using social learning:

Every Event
Every Online Event
Every Face-2-Face (F2F) Event
Some Online & Some F2F
Sometimes for Online Only
Sometimes for F2F only
Tried it but haven’t used it consistently
Have Never Used It

For summary purposes, we’ll use the following abbreviations:

EE= Every Event
EO= Every Online Event
EF2F = Every f2f Event
SOSF2F = Some Online & Some f2f
SO = Sometimes for online only
SF2F = Sometimes for f2f only
T = Tried it but haven’t used it consistently
N = Never

Remember, respondents were asked to use the number of members served, rather than the number of memberships to identify the size of their organization. (For example, a trade organization with 500 institutional members that serves 5000 individuals, should have identified themselves as an organization in the 3001-6000 category.) We can’t be sure all respondents followed this request, but we’re trusting that they did :)

Take a look at this table showing how various organizations are (or aren’t) using social learning elements with their programs:


I don’t know about you, but a few things stand out for me:

  • A lot of organizations, regardless of the number of members or staff size, has incorporated social learning in some way. And while we might assume that the larger organizations are more aggressive in this area, our results don’t support that assumption.
  • Some organizations have opted to incorporate a social learning component with every event; it seems that this would only happen if the benefit of doing so had proven well worth the additional time and resources required.
  • Social learning components are primarily tied to face-fo-face events, rather than online events.

This last item is a bit puzzling… Maybe social learning isn’t being implemented as an element of online events because those events are structured to allow for interaction with others — so there is no perceived need for a supporting “social” element. But that wouldn’t explain why, then, a “social” element would be desirable to supplement a face-to-face event, where — presumably — people are about to meet and talk one-on-one. Hmmm! I confess to expecting to see social learning linked to asynchronous events, as those tend to be situations with solitary learners. Supplementing them with social learning elements seems to make sense, don’t you think?

Some of those who commented remarked that they use Twitter but in a general way, rather than tied to specific programs. Another respondent remarked that every event incorporates social learning because all elearning is connected to their organization’s social network. Yet another said they require a social component within a formal, online certification program.

As usual, these variations indicate that associations and other organizations are navigating their way along the social learning and elearning paths… but what big changes do they see coming in the next year?

For that insight, watch for our next post, summarizing more of the survey results.

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

 
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