aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Benchmarking, Industry Standards, and Your ROI

Posted by Ellen on August 10, 2008

We’ve all seen the formulas for calculating your return on investment (ROI) and have read countless comments about the difficulty of measuring the results from learning investments.

I’d suggest you consider taking another approach. It won’t substitute for validating results through metrics whenever you can, but it sure helps as a supplement. Best of all, it gives you a way to translate what you’re doing into understandable terms.

Benchmark. Benchmark against similar associations when you can:

 “Across ten other associations with a similar membership profile, just three others offer online learning and they are all offering Webinars. None are currently offering stand-alone, asynchronous options. Our association would be the first in our profile to offer such a course.”

Another tactic I’ve successfully used is to compare our results against industry standards. What are the industry standards for the cost of online learning? What did ours cost? What’s the average spending per learner in the industry? What did we spend per learner, compared to that?

Elearning! magazine’s April/May 2008 issue (yes, I’m still catching up on all that reading) includes some useful info from Bersin & Associates’ 2008 Corporate Learning Factbook. Yes, the non-profit world is different in many ways from the corporate world, but until we get more consistent and complete data from our peers, this is the best we can do, and it’s better than nothing.

For example, the report notes that self-study elearning accounts for 20% of student hours in the corporate world, up from 15% last year. Your asynchronous elearning might be lower than 20%, but did it rise 5% in the last year or so? If so, then you’re increasing your reliance on this training delivery mode at the same rate as corporate America.

Numbers are numbers. But the old adage is true: numbers can be made to say many things. Make them tell you something meaningful to help you strategize, measure, and justify.

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