aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Flip the Financial Model

Posted by Ellen on September 6, 2009

Dan Pontefract, in his Trainingwreck blog, has a great idea related to his Learnerprise 2.0 model: “Rather than investing 2/3 or more of a corporate learning budget to formal ILT and eLearning, why not flip the model and invest 2/3 on informal and social learning components and initiatives.”

If you buy into these beliefs (and you should):

  •  most learning is informal, rather than attained via ILT (instructor-led training) and formal e-learning courseware
  • social media (SM) and social networking (SN) are tools that help open the pathways for efficient informal learning
  • informal learning has been at the heart of most associations since the day they were founded — “networking” isn’t just about connecting members for business reasons, but what they learn from each other, consciously or not


You should look hard at your overall educational budget, making sure that you have more invested in informal learning opportunities than formal ones — perhaps at the 2/3 level Pontefract suggests.

Josh Bersin, discussing the results of the Bersin & Associates report, High-Impact Learning Practices: An Operating Guide for the Modern Corporate Learning Function, says, “The shift from traditional training to informal learning requires organizations to retool and develop new skills, add new technologies, and reorganize resources. Our research shows that learning organizations with expertise and skills in areas such as knowledge management, information architecture, community management, and performance consulting outperform those still focused on traditional training solutions.”

So here’s the good news: associations have traditionally been way ahead of corporations because networking, sharing of knowledge, and connecting have been so central to our missions.

Even so, it’s a good idea to ask:

  • What role does informal learning play in your association’s education strategy? How are you handling informal learning at face-to-face events? Online offerings? Social media/networking?
  • What should you be doing differently? What does this mean for the structure of your annual conference?
  • How will doing things differently affect your budget? How your volunteers contribute? Your sponsorship opportunities?

Should you be flipping your budget to divert more funding to informal learning than traditional events?

Are you already doing that?

What do you think?

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