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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for August, 2011

Quick Clicks – August 2011

Posted by Ellen on August 31, 2011

As ever, aLearning is happy to help you save some time by providing you with some direct links to valuable stuff by other people. If you haven’t seen these yet, they’re worth your time or they wouldn’t be here.

Have links to posts, articles, sites and other online stuff that helped you in your association learning management? If so, drop me a line with the link so we can all benefit from it ­čÖé


Jeff Hurt, over at Midcourse Corrections, discusses why learners’ brains need to “release pleasure chemicals” during your educational events (I’m not kidding — but the point he makes is serious and a good one). See his post, “Mission Possible: Engaging Event Attention.”


Here are a couple of related posts… both work taking a look at.

First, Steve Woodruff posted the “Twelve Most Important Questions About Your Identity,”┬á and although it’s geared to for-profit corporations, you can easily adapt his questions for a quick assessment of your organization’s overall vision or plans for its learning component… Either way, great brainstorming starters.

Steve’s post inspired Michele Martin over at the Bamboo Project to post her PD adaptation, which is great for individual introspection about one’s professional direction… and maybe worth sharing with your members so they can consider educational offerings they might not have thought of before… See her post, “12 More Professional Development Questions” here.


Michele Martin has so much great stuff, you should just subscribe to her feed and read her all the time. But, assuming you don’t have that kind of time, here’s another post worthy of special attention, “Future Skills 2020 and the Implications for Professional Development.”


Clive Shepherd at Onlignment has offered up a great four-part series of posts, “A practical guide to creating learning videos.” Worth your time if you’re considering including video in your elearning curriculum:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.


Craig Weiss at the E-Learning 24/7 Blog has done it again — here’s a must read for those of you looking for an LMS.


Don’t know if this works, or how well it does what it says it does… but if you design training, educational events, or generally do instructional design for your association, you might want to check out DesignJot, “the first app developed to help…build better training.” I wouldn’t include it here without reviewing it myself except that I trust the folks at Allen Communication, who have an outstanding elearning reputation. See more info on DesignJot here.


Finally, if you’re thinking “gamification” (!) — using games within your educational sessions (especially online learning) to enhance engagement and retention, take a look at Karl Kapp’s “Match Content to be Learning with Right Game Type.”

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, LMS | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

What Would Your Members Say?

Posted by Ellen on August 30, 2011

When you spend a lot of time in an RV on the road, visiting different places, staying in various campgrounds, parks, and RV resorts, you realize what your expectations can be, based on the name of a place.

A campground, for example, traditionally includes places for tents, which means a bathroom facility that also includes showers (unless the campground is considered “rustic,” in which case, you can expect no such facilities to be on the grounds). At the other end of the scale, a resort is usually a meticulously landscaped property that often includes a pool, spa, and other amenities — horseback riding, or a clubhouse with activities and game room. We’ve stayed at resorts that only allowed certain types of RVs (yes, it’s permitted by law), and cost more than a room at a bed and breakfast.

This is important background for the point I’m going to make. Stay with me here.

We’ve stayed at a couple of places that were advertised as “resorts” and ended up being — on the high end — family campgrounds with a dilapidated miniature golf course and a campfire ring as the “resort amenities.” At another “resort,” the pool turned out to be above-ground, the horesback riding option cost more than a night’s stay, the “lodge” was being used as a private residence…

We don’t mind rustic as long as the facilities are usable and the power is reliable (faulty power feeds can destroy the electrical circuitry in an RV… an expensive repair), so we considered the experience an adventure and spent our spare time watching frustrated RVers pull in only to leave again. Yesterday we watched a man who’d come with two kids photograph the broken swingset, unsafe picnic tables, and “Out of Order” sign on the ladies bathhouse door. No doubt he’d thought the kids would be entertained with the hiking (we’ve yet to find the trail), volleyball (or a net), cookouts (don’t see a grill anywhere)… Today they’re gone.

So the first message in all of this is:

  • Advertise accurately. Don’t advertise something you’ve stopped doing or plan to do. Promote only the things your members can expect from you on a regular basis.
  • Think about your name. What expectations are you setting for potential members? If call yourself a “resort,” people will expect certain things from you and they’ll leave, dissatisfied, if you don’t. What do your new members expect from you? Are you delivering on your promises?
  • Don’t make excuses. When somebody says, “You call this a resort?!?” don’t say, “Well… eventually we’ll have cookouts… and hiking… and a spa… and an in-ground pool… it takes awhile to get there.” Nobody wants to hear their timing is bad and they’re missing the good stuff. Don’t say, “We just took over and the place was such a wreck it’s going to take awhile to get it into shape.” Nobody wants your whining. They just want what you promised them and they’re understandably upset when you can’t deliver it.
  • Accentuate the positive, as an old lyric goes. If the place is rustic and out of the way, say so. People who like “rustic” will stay and say nice things about the place, instead of leaving frustrated, angry, and feeling they’ve been had.

Which leads me to the next part of this analogy. Out of curiosity, my husband looked up this particular “resort” on the Web to see what others had to say about it, and post our experiences. We weren’t surprised to read a list of complaints by those who’d come expecting one type of experience but left upset. We posted a cautionary but accurate review: yes, the property has its issues, but we like that it’s quiet and off the beaten path; those looking for a “resort” experience ought to look someplace else.

The RV world has many forums and bloggers. RVers are an honest lot, and they like to share their stories. When RVers meet, they swap suggestions about attractions, restaurants, and places to stay. Word of mouth — especially via the Internet — is loud and long.

So — here’s the real question: if there were an online forum for reviewing associations, societies, institutes, councils, and other non-profits, what would former and current members be posting about you?!?

  • Does your membership brochure match what they’ll actually get? Or are you setting expectations you can’t meet?
  • Are your dues and fees fair? Or are you leaving members wishing they’d saved their money for something else?
  • If they could post a comment on a forum about the associations they’ve been members of, what would they say about yours? Would they recommend others join? Or would they warn other people against joining? Why?

All of this could be true about any aspect of your organization: what would they say about volunteering? Membership benefits? Educational experiences?

  • “I spent three hours a day of my own time on Project X for this association and then they completely ignored our group’s findings and recommendations… that’s the last time I do that!!”
  • “For $200 a year I get a magazine. Everything else is geared to attending face-to-face sessions I can’t afford to attend. This is my last year as a member. I can get a magazine for a lot less money.”
  • “They have some of the best educational sessions I’ve ever attended. If you haven’t been to one, go! They’re a little pricey, but you’ll get a lot out of them.”

There might not be an “associations forum” where people post their reviews of their membership experiences the way they do RV campgrounds, parks, and resorts, but they are sharing their experiences.

What are they saying? And what can you do about it?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Conferences, eLearning Marketing, Learning in General, Measuring Results | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Handy Learning

Posted by Ellen on August 26, 2011

Last fall Tagoras published an update of its “Learning 2.0 for Associations” report and I posted briefly on it. Great research is worth more than one look, and this report is no exception. (If you haven’t taken a first look at it yet, stop here and go do that before you do anything else!)

I couldn’t help making some notes as I perused all of the great examples and the recommendations for various uses of Learning 2.0 options covered in the report. So, with a grateful nod to Jeff Cobb and Tagoras, here are a few more ideas related to Learning 2.0 for associations.

Although the nature of Learning 2.0 tools is that they enable us to deliver bits of content faster than ever, “fast” doesn’t guarantee learning will occur. For example, recording a short video with your smart phone, uploading it to YouTube, then Tweeting the link might be adequate for capturing quick visual nuggets, but it’s important to remember that effective learning requires context and — sometimes — additional scaffolding.

So here’s the deal: there are good matches for Learning 2.0 delivery modes to certain content, and then there are great matches.

Audio Podcasting

The uses of audio podcasting the Tagoras report covers are excellent, and the examples super. Podcasting has been very effective for those wishing to learn non-native languages. And while I haven’t looked for it (so it might exist), a series on bird calls would be of great interest to the birdwatcher in me. These subject areas are a great fit to podcasting because they’re audio-driven. You don’t need visuals to learn to recognize the song of the meadowlark or to learn what “?Donde est la banos?” means in English.

Content that doesn’t require visuals for learners to absorb and recall can work for audio podcasting. Content in which your members are keenly interested works especially well. For example, if you offer a certification program, you could do a series of quiz questions that serve as a “check what you learned” touchstone.

See the e-Learning Guild’s *Learning Solutions* article, “Five Tips for a Better Audio Podcast” by Mary Arnold (June 21, 2011) for some excellent tips.


Video podcasting can be a more effective training tool than when used to simply capture a speaker with a digital camera then uploading the video file. An even better fit for v-casting is to demonstrate processes — showing step-by-step instructions and descriptions. For example, how should an item be scanned in a self-checkout line in the grocery? How do you make a three-egg, ham and cheese omelet?

V-casting is particularly effective for showing and telling what something should look like. An even better use of video is to show what something does. How does it operate?

Visual processes that need full-motion rather than still photos to demonstrate clearly how to proceed are great matches for v-casting. For example, someone learning how to connect the sewer hose and its connector pieces for a recreational vehicle (RV) would benefit better from a short video with verbal instructions than an audio podcast or a manual (though the latter would make a great supporting job aid).

Making such a video should be done with care and forethought: plan the angles for filming so viewer will be able to see clearly what they need to watch. For verbal instructions, a basic script will help you remember all essential steps. It doesn’t have to be formal, but some planning will help you end up with a video that’s useful and effective.

Photos and Slide-Sharing

Sharing photos online is incredibly popular, but photos alone do not make a learning event. The power of Web-accessible photo galleries is how easy they can support an online learning event. For example, if an association of landscaping professionals wants to share examples of well-groomed lawns, a gallery on Flickr can support an online event that discusses how those lawns were cared for. People love “before” and “after” images, and providing them in a way that they can be viewed as often and as long as someone needs to see them is a great instructional enhancement.

If you haven’t read the Tagoras report on how slide-sharing sites are best used for PowerPoint, you’re missing out on a key reason why some presentations, simply posted online, just don’t work.


The report’s summary of blogging’s benefits for expanding and sharing knowledge is super. Blogging can be text- or image-driven, include embedded PowerPoint, video or audio files, and generally be a platform for summarizing events, offering opinions, and otherwise sharing information, knowledge, insight, questions… whatever!

But here’s what’s most valuable about blogging for learning: the opportunity to engage with others outside your regular sphere. You read a blog post that refers to another, so you follow that link and suddenly you’ve discovered another point of view. You post a comment and that blogger responds, and now you’re thinking more deeply than ever about this particular topic. You’re inspired to write your own post about it, and refer back to the other posts that led you down this path. Now your blog readers have opinions, and the original bloggers who got you thinking about it leave comments, too. With nearly every comment you’re processing and analyzing your perspective on the topic. Someone commenting refers you to a white paper or research report, and you follow that link and it leads you to even more insight.

Venturing into the blogosphere dialogue is like walking into a cocktail party where clusters of people are chatting about all kinds of things… Most people drift from one cluster to another, listening then moving on. Or listening, adding their own point of view, getting caught up in the conversation awhile before moving on. Some people, passionate about a topic, stay in the same cluster all evening.

There’s something else that blogging can do, too. A blog can serve as a platform for aggregating links: for example, summary posts with links tied to particular topics can give your members quick access to valuable resources. A blog can summarize the points of view on a controversial topic that affects your membership and provides a place for members to comment.

We’ve all seen examples of organizations posting blogs — often with interesting topics — but the “conversation” is one-way. The organization’s leaders sit back and say, “Why isn’t anyone commenting?” Well, maybe there isn’t anything for your members to say.

Think of the blog not only as a way to provide information, but to engage in a conversation — a conversation more in-depth than you can have via Twitter — and you’ll begin to reap true benefits from blogging.

The Tagoras report also covers wikis, social bookmarking, social networking, virtual events and virtual worlds, and, as I’ve said, expands much more on the areas mentioned here.

If you haven’t read the Tagoras report, it’s not too late to generate your own ideas about how Learning 2.0 options can work for your association!


Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Add Your Voice

Posted by Ellen on August 23, 2011

It’s been awhile since aLearning took your pulse — the pulse of the association learning world, that is. Since we offered our first brief survey back in 2007 (see?!? It has been awhile!), several organizations have probed our non-profit universe, resulting in a wealth of great research.

And here at aLearning, we’d like to find out a few things from you, too.

If you are a staff member at a not-for-profit association, society, institute, council, etc., please take a few minutes to fill out this quick, 10-question survey.┬á Results will only be reported in aggregate or quoted anonymously (for example: “One respondent noted that…”). (I’ll be surprised if I’ll even be able to see who responded!)

The survey is open until September 10. Results will be reported here or feel free to contact me directly if you’d like the responses sent to you.

Spread the word. The more associations that participate, the easier it will be to see trends and benchmarks.

Click here to take the aLearning survey.

Don’t wait until the last minute!

Posted in aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Content Curation

Posted by Ellen on August 19, 2011

All debates about using the terms “curation” and “curator” aside, figuring out ways of “finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue”* is something that all associations should be doing.


Because we’re already doing most of it, and it’s a big (maybe even gigantic) reason our members pay dues to belong to our selective group.

They might not say it in so many words, but when they come to your organization — its educational sessions, conference, networking site, publications, benchmarking reports, research studies, etc. etc. — for help in developing their professional acumen, they’re actually relying on your ability to “find, group, organize, and share the best and most relevant content on a specific issue” so they can readily access it.

Aren’t they?!?

Of course they are.

But let’s take this amorphous idea of “content curation” and make it concrete and actionable. Ideas are great, after all, but useless unless we do something with them.

We have Rohit Bhargava, at the Influential Marketing Blog, to thank for the definition of content curation that we’re using here. Now we can thank him again for his “Five Models of Content Curation.”

He calls them “potential” models because he suggests there might be others (or these, altered in some way), but they’re a great place to start. Here are the five models (see his post for more detail around each of them):

  1. Aggregation — “curating the most relevant information about a particular topic into a single location”
  2. Distillation — “curating information into a more simplistic format where only the most important or relevant ideas are shared”
  3. Elevation — “curation with a mission of identifying a larger trend or insight from smaller daily musings posted online”
  4. Mashup — “unique curated juxtapositions where merging existing content is used to create a new point of view”
  5. Chronology — “curation that brings together historical information organized based on time to show an evolving understanding of a particular topic”

“But Ellen,” you say, “We’re already doing most — if not all — of these things. What’s the big deal?”

Of course you are already doing these things.

But are you doing them conscientiously? Methodically?! Systematically?!?!?

Do you have a clear process?

Do you have someone who owns the task?  A content curator?

Didn’t think so.

But you should.

Here’s how Jeff Cobb describes the role in his post “Who are your content curators?” at his Mission To Learn blog :


“A good curator must be skilled at:

  • ┬álocating and evaluating valuable content
  • organizing and connecting content so that it is as accessible as possible
  • creating and re-purposing content when it adds to the underlying value
  • capitalizing on the Social Web to build connections and context
  • building trusted relationships with learners and other curators
  • design learning experiences (in a much broader sense than traditional approaches)”


How do you find someone like that? Hmm… maybe you already have a staffer or highly active member who’s a good match for the role.

Or maybe you can utilize the talents of a few people.

In “Get Serious about Social Learning by Focusing on What Matters,” an article in the e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine, Eric Davidove includes a fabulous chart of various roles within a community network (see the full article for complete descriptions):

  • Consumer — “looks for and uses content, information, and social connections”
  • Creator — “creates, shares, improves, and discusses content and information”
  • Connector — “helps others to find the content, information, and people they seek or need”
  • Carrier — “helps creators to transmit and promote their content and information to others”
  • Caretaker — “person who manages the learning community”

What I’m suggesting is that your Creators are likely those who are actively distilling, elevating, mashing, and chronologizing (is that a word?!?).

Your Connectors are likely those who can assist with aggregating — especially in identifying subject matter experts for various topics and subject areas.

Your Carriers promote the initiative while the Caretakers manage it, all for the benefit of the Consumers.


Okay, this might not be the perfect solution, but it’s a start, and you have to admit that there’s nothing here that you have to purchase or get approval for… (of course, you could implement it subversively!)

Your resources are within your organization: the content, the information, the people.

One Way to Get It Done

As you know, I’m not one for “what you need to do.” Instead I like to give “how to do it” lists, even if they’re imperfect. Adapt as you wish or need, but here’s a recommended action plan:

  1. Brainstorm: If you could categorize the information and content your members most want, what would those categories be? Write each category on a sticky note. Put the sticky notes on the wall from right to left in no particular order.
  2. Brainstorm: Who’s knowledgeable about each category? Who are your Creators and Connectors in each? Write each name on a different-colored sticky note and put those sticky notes under the category they could help with.
  3. Brainstorm: Who are your Carriers? Write their names on sticky notes of a third color and put those on the wall to the right or left of your categories.
  4. Brainstorm: Who are your Caretakers? Who might be willing to take on the role of maintaining the cache of information and content? Who would be willing to sort out valid info from “infomercials”? Write their names on a fourth color of sticky notes and put these on the wall outside all of the other groups.
  5. Brainstorm: What will you need to bring this content together and online? Make a list. Prioritize it. Investigate the possibilities.
  6. Go!

Yes, the last Brainstorm activity is where the rubber meets the road, technology-wise. More on how to make your curated content accessible in a future post….

Not that you don’t have plenty to do between now and then!

Note: If your association or non-profit is already curating content and delivering it to your members, we’d love to hear from you. What are you doing? Why did you decide to do what you’re doing? How did you develop it? What suggestions do you have for those venturing into organized content curation? Don’t be shy! If you prefer not to post a comment, feel free to send me an e-mail at We appreciate your insight on this topic!

* Content curation as defined by Rohit Bhargava in a 2009 blog post titled, “Manifesto for the Content Curator”

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Online Learning in General, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »