aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Oh, No!! It’s Back!!

Posted by Ellen on April 28, 2011

What’s back? The soaring cost of oil… which means increased travel costs… which could also mean fewer members having the funds to get to your face-to-face (FTF) learning events.

I’m trying not to say “I told you so… I warned you to get your elearning act in gear… I cautioned you about ignoring the lessons we were supposed to learn back in 2008….”

Okay, maybe your association wasn’t affected then and isn’t seeing an effect now.

But you probably will at some point, even if airline prices don’t go through the roof; even if direct, hassle-free flights get easier to find; even if hotels are willing to give you more than ever to attract your association’s events.

Here’s why.

A recent study by Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines reveals the following:

  • 69% of training hours are being conducted outside of FTF sessions
  • eLearning, blended or virtual methods account for 54% of all training hours; 50% in the government sector.

Here’s the take-away quote from the summary article: “Instructor-led classroom based learning is on the decline in both the enterprise and government sectors…Instructor-led classroom-based learning is falling in popularity among all corporations.”

Why should this matter to you?

  1. Your members are employed somewhere, by someone; these employers are probably corporations or the government.
  2. If those employers are using elearning more and more while cutting back on FTF training, they’ll wonder why their employees have to “go someplace” for their professional development, rather than access those educational sessions online.

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: we need to repurpose our educational offerings.

I won’t just say it. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pursue eLEARNING. Show your members you’re offering cutting edge online sessions. Speak the same learning language. You’ll increase your credibility and earn their continued business (and that’s what it is, really, getting right down to it).
  • Revamp the annual conference. REDUCE the number of on-site educational sessions. Link them to online pre-events and post-events, whether those be asynchronous sessions, Webinars, or other modalities.
  • With fewer educational sessions, you can better manage HOW they’re conducted. Get session leaders to show you how they’ll get the learners to DO something. Ask them, “What skill will they have when they leave the session that they didn’t have when they arrived? How will they PRACTICE that skill during the session?”
  • Incorporate activities, including GAMES. According to the study, “Interest in serious games shows a 111% increase.” Get past the assumption that your members somehow won’t respond to games. Instead of “game” think “competition.” Who doesn’t have a favorite professional team, or play a “friendly” game of golf or poker? At the heart of these activities is competition. Re-think your idea of “games” and get with it!
  • Feed the need to SOLVE PROBLEMS. Yeah, we all know a lot of conference attendees show up to “network.” Ask them why and you’ll discover there are probably two primary reasons: to find a job or solve a problems. With some of the new time you’ve carved out in your conference schedule, provide open-format sessions for solving problems, meeting challenges, and sharing great ideas. What better payback for the time and money spent attending than for someone to be able to go back to their corporate or government boss and say, “We spent $1000 for me to go to this conference, but now I have a solution to our $15,000 problem!”??
  • Plan to SPEND more money. With fewer sessions, you will need fewer rooms, maybe even less F&B. Use the saved money for increasing line items for A/V so you can provide Web access, rented laptops for actvities, and whatever else is needed so your learners can practice new skills rather than sit and listen to speakers.
  • Start EARLIER. To plan how you’ll allocate funds across the sessions, provide the needed guidance to content leaders, and incorporate pre-event actvities, you’ll need extra time. How many times have you said, “We would have done X, if only we’d had more time to prepare”?!?

Stop making excuses — make changes instead.

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