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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘research’

Did You Feel That?

Posted by Ellen on February 28, 2012

We’ll call it a technological earthquake (because we’re currently in Soutern California; you can call it a tornado or hurricane or monsoon… whatever).

The “seismologists” are the researchers at the USC Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future. They’re reporting on more than ten years of studies, tracking the emergence and use of technology and online activity. (You can find a summary of the results here.)

The article identifies some key takeaways from their work.

  • Despite its popularity, social networking suffers from just a 14% confidence rate. According to Jeffrey I. Cole, Director of the Center for Digital Future, “…51% of users said that only a small portion or none of the information they see on social networking sites is reliable.” Yep. Makes you wonder: how credible do people think your association’s Facebook presence is? What can you do to improve their confidence in your social networking presence?

 

  • The desktop PC is going to dwindle to 4-6% of computer users — and those will primarily be professionals who rely on computers for their work (programmers, financial planners, scientists, writers, gamers, analysts, and scientists). Tablets will soon become the most used personal computing devices because they are “more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use.” Are you preparing for this shift? And, as you know I like to warn, do your members fit into the tablet profile, or are they in a field that will be in the minority but devoted group of desktop PC users? Because it won’t matter if 96% of the country is using tablets if 98% of your members are still using desktop PCs and/or laptops. Just sayin’.

 

  • The irony about personal computing is that we believed they would be labor-saving devices — and they are — but they have also extended the workday into the evening and expanded the workweek into the weekend. Many people on vacations stay tethered to the office via e-mail, Twitter, and other methods. So here’s what you should be asking about your online offerings: are you making it worth your members’ time to participate in your Webinars, social networking discussions, online courses, and otherwise engage in the online activities you make available to them? Better make sure. The report suggests that people are soon going to have had it with all this and start cutting back. Don’t give your members reasons to cut you out.

 

  • With the exception of four major newspapers (the NY Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal), Sunday metros and small weeklies, most US print newspapers will be gone in five years. The report asks, “How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?” What opportunities for you does this open up? How can your organization make up for any lost quality or depth of journalism? Where are the gaps that you can fill?

 

  • How transparent are you? How do you reassure your members that their online presence with you is safe? “Our latest Digital Future study found that almost half of users age 16 and older are worried about companies checking what they do online; by comparison, 38% said that the government checking on them is a concern,” says Cole. While our members love making purchases and connecting with others online, they’re also very aware that the Web is public, and that information on them is collected with nearly every click. So far that isn’t stopping people from participating in online shopping, surveys, commenting on blogs, reviewing purchase experiences, adding rankings and ratings, etc…. But what are you doing to make sure your members don’t log off your site or your blog or move away from your Facebook or LinkedIn pages thinking, “Darn… I wonder what they’ll do with what I said there?” What are you doing to make sure your members aren’t balking at the information you’re asking for on profile pages? The tipping point for privacy concerns might still be a ways off… but there’s no doubt it’s on people’s minds.

 

  • “Even though online outreach to voters continues to expand, and Internet fundraising is a major priority for candidates, the Internet is not yet considered a tool that voters can use to gain more political power or influence,” Cole says. Yet they believe this is changing and over the next two election cycles the Internet will become “a major factor in changing the political landscape.” Occupy Wall Street, Occupy LA, Occupy [fill in the name of your organization]. Occupy it online. What are the possibilities here? Threats? How can you get ahead of the potential impact of influencing politics online to benefit your organization’s mission? Is there a part you can play in accelerating this trend?

 

  • Can you believe online buying is 18 years old? Amazon has flourished and Borders Books has suffered because of it, to cite an example from just one industry. Music CDs have pretty much gone by the wayside as fans download digital files. “Even though purchasing online has already had a significant impact on buying habits, the changes still to come in American purchasing brought by the Internet will no doubt be even more extensive,” says Cole. Are you leveraging online buying trends as fully as you could be? Are you taking orders online but still shipping out print books and manuals? Time to think hard about converting to ebooks…. I’ll digress from the report summary here to mention that ebook readers have satisfaction rates of 60% and higher (up to 75% for Kindle buyers). Kindle books outsold print books at Amazon this past year for the first time. It isn’t a fad. It’s a trend. Don’t be the Borders to someone else’s Amazon.

 

  • A friend recently recounted his nephew’s description of a college party. “About fifteen people were there. And they were all texting each other. In the same room. My nephew said it was quiet. The quietest party you can imagine. Except for the occasional laughter when someone forwarded something funny or texted something witty. Then there would be a laugh, then another, as the message floated around the room.” Yes. In the same room. Texting each other. It’s no joke, it’s true, and the Digital Future’s report validates it. People are spending more time connected online than they do face-to-face. “But is quality being sacrificed for quantity?” Cole asks. “Will those who use social networking services consider them as alternatives to face-to-face involvement with the people in their lives?” In your organization’s social networking and other online environments, how are you ensuring that quality is overriding quantity? That your members are getting something valuable for their time? That they are able to make the same sorts of strong connections online that they make at face-to-face events?

 

  • Are you ready for what’s next? “In 2006, YouTube and Twitter had just been born, and Facebook was a toddler. Six years ago, who would have thought that these nascent technologies would become the standard for social communication in 2011? The next major online trend is being developed right now by a new crop of Internet visionaries just waiting to be heard,” says Cole. How adaptable is your organization to upcoming change? Because there will be change.

And if I were to guess it would be about personalization.  Think about it. You can order M&M candies with any message you want (that will fit their basic specs). You can create your own movies and upload them for the world to see. You can write and publish your own books with a few clicks of the mouse (okay, the publishing part… not the writing part). You can produce your own music and market it to your fans. You can order any number of items with your name or logo on them.

So can your members.

And the youngest members of our associations have been growing up in a personalized, customized, all about “me” world for a long time.

What are you doing to give your members a unique experience in your organization? Do they get the same tee-shirt as everyone else, or do you give them the opportunity to design their own? Do they have a say in the educational sessions available at the national conference? Can they control how and where and for how long they access online learning sessions? Or are you still making them fit your schedule? (Oh, that’s so last century!!)

Okay, glad I got that off my chest.

At least you can start with these ideas from the Center for the Digital Future and your pal here at aLearning, right?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

January Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on January 23, 2012

Whew! It’s been awhile since an aLearning post, but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes on a great new aLearning venture. More on that soon… :)

 

Meanwhile, we’ll make it up to you by providing this edition of Quick Clicks, some links to what we believe are valuable resources, articles, and tools, collected here to help save you the time of tracking them all down.

As always, if you have suggestions for Quick Clicks links, send an e-mail.

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Struggling with Systems Integration?

First, take a look at “Bringing Systems Together” from associationTECH…

Then take in the first installment of their series, this one focusing on AMSes: “Bringing Systems Together: AMS Central”

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MOOCs and Connectivism

Curious about MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses)? Wonder what the impetus was for the first one in 2008 (yes, they’ve been around more than three years now)? Want to see how Connectivism is at the center of it all?

Read all about it at Stephen Downes’ “Creating the Connectivist Course” at his Half and Hour blog.

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Making the Case (Yet Again) for the Legitimacy of eLearning

Still looking for justifying elearning? Looking for support in your argument that online teaching and learning has been validated? Craig Weiss at the E-Learning 24/7 Blog has captured a bunch of facts with bona fide, respectable sources in hispost, “Online Learning in Education.” The post focuses on elearning in higher ed, but hey, if you can get a legitimate university degree this way, shouldn’t it be fine for our association members?!??

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LMS Help

We’ve mentioned Craig several times here at aLearning (and include him in our pretty exclusive Blogroll) because provides enormous help when it comes to LMSes and other systems… Here’s a list of some of the “Must-Reads” from his blog (noted above):

Interoperability – it works every time..Wrong

LMS – Extended Enterprise Space 

LMS Q and A

What about UR infrastructure? Questions 2 Ask B4 Implementing a LMS http://bit.ly/xrRYpI

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eLearning Strategy Mistakes

Of course, we believe you should start with aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning when developing a strategy for your learning programs (especially online offerings)… but you would also benefit from Marc Rosenberg’s “Ten Common Mistakes in Building an eLearning Strategy” from his Marc My Words blog. It’s a quick but very valuable read, and you don’t need to be an eLearning Guild member to access it online.

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More on Learning Styles Bunk

Yes, we’re still fighting the “learning styles” myth. Here’s more ammo from Knowledge Factor’s blog.

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Free Image Editors

We all like stuff that’s free, especially when it saves us money and performs a job for us. You can thank Tom Kuhlman at The Rapid E-Learning Blog for a list of five free image editors. Manipulate those clip art images, photos, and other graphics to make your tutorials, newsletters and other documents look the way you want, instead of the way those images are handed to you. Read his post for the full list and links to those editors.

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

Cloudy About ‘The Cloud’?

Posted by Ellen on January 10, 2012

Don’t be. Here’s the easy-sneezy version of what you need to know to help your association or nonprofit.

First, “The Cloud” is just another way of referring to the Web, the Internet, cyberspace. Services “in the cloud” are available via the Web instead of systems having to be installed on your server(s) or applications or programs being installed on your desktop. It means they’re out there — in cyberspace — and you connect to them.

What this means is that the responsibility for maintaining those systems rests on the company providing them, instead of on you.

Yes, this is very good news.

“SaaS” or “Software as a Service” has been around for awhile, and “The Cloud” references have sort of evolved from that.

But here’s the best part. According to TSIA’s October 2011 report, “Understanding the Impact of Consumption Economics on Education Services”:

“Customers no longer have to buy all the complexity. They can buy the capacity, features, and functionality they need, when they need them, and in the amount they need them. The best part for the customer is that huge, up-front payments are replaced by manageable, monthly payments. No longer is the customer held hostage by a product that is too hard to use and too hard to uninstall.”

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Wait! There's more!

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"…[T]here will be constant price pressure as new suppliers enter the marketplace and/or new cloud offerings are promoted."

TSIA anticipates a shift from long-term licensing fees to micro-transactions, which could be pricing per user per month, per feature, per gigabyte of data stored, per content downloaded, or any number of other similar yet singular types of transactions.

We’re already seeing this from some vendors. Charging a $X fee per user per month for up to X number of users is one example.

This is great because we’ll only be charged for the actual number of users in the system and/or for the actual downloads or other access options.

Of Course There’s a Catch

You can get your calculator out and do the math if you want, but the logic is clear: the better the deal is for us (the consumers), the more the vendors will have to work to make the same levels of income.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’ve decided on ACME LMS. Let’s say you’re just starting with elearning so you’ve chosen their low-end “Basic” option: features A, B, and C, for $5/mo per user.

Let’s also say they have a “Standard” option that includes the features you already have and use, PLUS features D, E, F, G, and H for $10/mo per user.

Even with the same number of users, ACME LMS stands to make more  money from you.

They might not try to get you to opt for the “Standard” bundle at first, but you can bet they’ll be looking to “upsell” you at some point. They have revenue needs, and you’re the way to fill those needs.

I’m not saying don’t take the upsell. But I will tell you to ask for the data.

More Cloudy Benefits

A hidden benefit of a product that sits in the Cloud is that it’s generating a bunch of data on your use of the system. You might be getting that data, you might not. But you can bet the company is sucking as many numbers out of the system as it can get.

That’s not a bad thing.

They can tell you how your members are using the system in ways you probably can’t imagine. It’s to their benefit to do that.

So if they’re suggesting an upgrade to another bundle — let’s say to the Standard option in the example we’ve been using — then ask to see the data. Look at how the features you’d be adding could enhance the learners’ experience in the training you’re giving them. How many users would likely be affected if you incorporated those additional features? Would it be worth the additional cost? Why? Why not?

If you’re not convinced, no need to make the jump. The next “level” of service will be around for awhile. You can make the change whenever your organization is ready, and you can do it pretty quickly compared to the old license-renewal cycles that are measured in years.

Yes, there are terrific benefits when you let your elearning programs live in the Cloud rather than on some server in a back room someplace. Start modestly, graduate up if needed, and be sure the vendor you choose has a great reputation for uptime and excellent back-up systems.

Could your elearning benefit from living in the Cloud?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Financing eLearning, LMS, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

2011 aLearning Association Survey Results Summary — Part 4

Posted by Ellen on October 14, 2011

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.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2011 aLearning Association Survey Results Summary — Part 2

Posted by Ellen on October 12, 2011

Last post we looked at the general profiles of respondents to the recent aLearning Association survey and some of the outliers we noticed in the data. We also summarized the educational staffing and general budget information.

In this post we’ll take a look at how respondents are spending their money. As has been the case throughout, you’ll notice what we did: use of online and social learning is uneven. Some organizations are neck-deep while others are not involved at all. The survey didn’t explore reasons, but differences in how education supports each organization’s strategy probably account for most of the cases.

Remember, we asked that the size of the organization be identified by the number of individuals served in the membership, even if the organization is a trade association with institutional members.

The pattern is easy to spot (click the table to see it larger):

The larger the organization, the more likely it is to be involved in synchronous and asynchronous learning. Remember that these include Webinars and Webinar recordings (though we asked respondents to differentiate by a sub-question, many didn’t make this distinction — so it’s entirely possible that the only way synchronous elearning is being delivered is via Webinar and that most asynchronous elearning consists of recorded Webinars.

Of course what’s most interesting is the uneven implementation of blended options. First it should be noted that although none of our respondents in the 501-1000 category uses blended learning, we can’t conclude that no organization of this size uses it, or that half of our respondents in the 1001-3000 category report using blended learning that half of all organizations of this size use it. (As much as we hoped to have adequate responses for true benchmarking, we didn’t…. To everyone’s disappointment, I’m sure.)

The uneven implementation of blended learning has (we believe) everything to do with the various types of “blend” that are going on. Here are various ways some of the respondents described their use of blended instructional modes:

  • Online forum discussions before & after face-to-face events
  • Webinars with structured face-to-face activities
  • Face-to-face programs with follow-up Webinars
  • Recordings from face-to-face programs made available online
  • Live sessions from the annual conference streamed online
  • Incorporating Webinars, online workspace and conference calls into a year-long training program

So what does all of that say about using social learning across associations? Our next post covers what the survey revealed about that.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Justifying aLearning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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