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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘asynchronous learning’

Get ICEd!

Posted by Ellen on July 13, 2011

It’s a wonderful thing when you stumble across an article that says exactly what you’ve been trying to find the words to express…. That’s what happened when I started reading Rick Wilson’s article, “Learning Content is Not Your Job Any More: The Effect of Convergence” from  e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-magazine (June 21, 2011 issue).

I’ll try to summarize without duplicating the article, which is worth the time to thoroughly pour over. He starts with two new rules about learning leaders’ responsibilities:

“Rule One: You are no longer in the business of learning content development and delivery.”

“Rule Two: You are in the business of bringing dexterity to your content.”
This is because of the “convergence” of learning content within an organization: educational events and training aren’t separate from other organizational content, not anymore. Learning isn’t a series of courses, not even within a curriculum. Instead, we’re amidst a convergence of all institutional knowledge.

So instead of spending our time and energy creating new courses and sessions and learning events, we need to devote ourselves to “intelligent content engineering” (a phrase he credits Joe Gollner with) and is, essentially (to paraphrase Wilson), rendering your organization’s content manageable, enhancing its searchability, and producing it “in formats that collectively create remarkable new value for the content.”

How awesome is that?

It’s what’s been called “knowledge management,” but from a learning point of view.

I know I say “This is critical” a lot in this blog, and I always mean it. That’s true for this concept as well.

Here’s why “intelligent content engineering” (let’s call it ICE for short — cool acronym, huh!?) is critical and why it’s such a great fit and opportunity for associations and non-profits…

Wilson goes on to cite these important statistics from Robert Eichinger and Michael Lomgardo from The Center for Creative Leadership:

  • 10% of learning can be attributed to formal instruction
  • 20% “occurs through other people informally, or formally through coaching and mentoring”
  • 70% is the result of “real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem-solving”

Some might argue the actual percentages, asserting that the last category is more like 80%, with only 10% coming from coaching and mentoring, but the numbers aren’t as important as the general balance of them (or imbalance, maybe).

Associations and professional societies do a great job of hooking our members up to accomplish the first two, so they can exchange what they’ve learned through the third.

So it’s not that we haven’t created an atmosphere for all three environments to be exploited.

It’s that we could be — should be — doing it better. And we could, with ICE. Two concepts about ICE in particular are essential: search (discovery) and distribution (delivery), “while also promoting contextualizing content,” writes Wilson.

Sounds deep. But we’re already doing a lot of that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and here’s a brain dump:

  • We have lots and lots of tacit knowledge in our organizations. our members are experts on topics specific to the industries and professions we serve. (Member benefit: industry-specific resources)
  • We already connect members to each other so they can share best practices, help with problem-solving, advocacy, and in other ways where lots of heads are better than one. (Member benefit: networking)
  • We already provide our members with excellent (if we do say so ourselves) training to help them become even better at what they do. We do this with our face-to-face sessions and online. (Member benefit: professional development and certification)

But we’re missing something. And that something is an engine that makes it all much faster and easier. It’s more than a discussion list with links… more than a Web-accessible library of white papers, articles and research reports… more than an internal social networking space… more than an online marketplace where members can get books, online courses and tutorials, and other materials.

It’s something bigger than all that, something that ties them all together.

Wilson says the processes we use will have to change; we won’t just be designing and offering FTF and online educational sessions. “Processes remain important,” he writes, “but processing is now about content ingestion, aggregation, cataloging, indexing, orchestration, curation, transformation, and transmission.”

He goes on to say, “Success will require an ability to facilitate an organizational-specific model with variable options for content access and use, including end-user abilities for authoring, publishing, and distributing content. You are going to need provision for managing the content generation from virtual communities, social networks, and exchanges outside organizational control (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, industry blogs, and ad hoc media sources.”

In effect, he concludes, we won’t be developers of educational sessions anymore. We’ll be content curators — adding another voice to others who have predicted this same future for us.

I’ll add a few more aspects to this entire conglomerate that is ICE: the system (whatever it will be that will make searching and accessing all of these resources possible) will have to provide for learners to download, link to, and otherwise “extract” the pieces and parts that are of the greatest value to them. Why?

  • Our members will want to design their own personal learning environment (PLE), and we have to make it easy for them to do that. I’ve said it before — if we can provide them with the *ultimate* environment for creating their professional PLE — we’ll have provided a benefit that puts us ahead of our competition. If we are the conduit — if we become their primary feed, for example — for their Twitterfeed, blogroll, and general Web resources filtered by search/category, then we have made it easy for them to access the latest info and data in the fastest possible way.
  • The increasing creation of personal learning networks (PLNs) means more and more of our members will be sharing resources with more and more contacts. As members link up outside our organization (yes, it happens; get your head out of the sand already!), they’ll come across more and more resources that would benefit all of our members to be able to access. Why not be the conduit for that?!?
  • Most importantly, the system must provide a well-publicized opportunity for members to share *their own* expertise. What blogs to they write? What articles have they published? What advice do they have to offer? What problems have they solved? Including the knowledge intrinsic in your association is what will truly set your ICE system apart from even a very good Google search. Encouraging — urging — members to directly contribute content can pull in remote and otherwise inactive members on the one end and provide a platform for those who wish to increase their professional profile on the other. Regardless of your members’ reasons for contributing, everyone benefits.
  • Your ICE system must be more than a news reader. More than a blogroll. More than a wiki. More than a social network. This is a dashboard portal that delivers immediate access to key resources and quality results from any search. It’s a system that allows members to rate entries and comment on them. It’s a system that allows members to add links and participate in updating and managing it. It’s a churning, ever-growing system.

Future members of our associations aren’t officially called the Google generation, but they should be. They’re growing up accustomed to being able to find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and connect to people worldwide with a few clicks. “Time is the new currency,” someone said.

If we don’t create an ICE system for our members, somebody else will. Then you’ll really have something to worry about when it comes to member renewals, don’t you think?

Do such systems exist? Yes. Wilson’s article describes one in place at a large corporation  — but with annual maintenance costs of over $1 million, it’s prohibitively expensive for most associations.

Even so, we should advocate for the development of such systems at lower cost and structured for our needs.

Who’s with me on this?!?


Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, Online Learning in General, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

From FTF to Online

Posted by Ellen on July 6, 2011

The past couple of posts have tackled the myth that waiting lists are a good thing [see “Wait Till Next Year”] and that multiple offerings of the same program are the best option [see “Waiting Lists are Overrated”], and I promised to walk through a process for adapting face-to-face (FTF) sessions for online delivery…

…because, as I said in the previous post, “Offering a series of Webinars that imitate what happens in the FTF sessions won’t cut it.” Won’t even cut a tiny little slice of it.

Which isn’t the same thing as saying that Webinars can’t be a part of your mix of delivery modes. I’m just saying that you can’t simply schedule a series of Webinars that follow the same general format as your FTF session and assume you’ll have the same success. They’re different teaching and learning modes, and need to be planned for accordingly. That’s what I’m saying.

First, you need to understand how the various options deliver training online. aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning thoroughly covers this, so we’ll use a case study to highlight some key points.

Let’s say you offer a multi-day FTF program on Financial Planning in Our Industry. A look at the agenda shows segments on the following topics:

  • Software spreadsheet basics
  • Basic accounting
  • Industry-specific accounting
  • Industry-specific price-setting
  • Industry-specific regulatory/reporting requirements
  • Case study

Although what follows isn’t the only way to tackle repurposing this content for online delivery, here’s a start:

The spreadsheet basics segment could be delivered via asynchronous, online tutorial — either purchased off-the-shelf (OTS) or created specifically to address the learning points required for the program either in-house or outsourced. As a prerequisite so learners will be prepared to use the spreadsheet program in the program activities, the tutorial could include a pre-test option so those who are already familiar with the software could efficiently test out of the session while those who don’t do well on the pre-test will be routed through the tutorial.

Basic accounting could also be offered as an asynchronous, online course and probably purchased as an OTS course as well. Ideally, because some learners might have an accounting background (if not in the association’s industry) the accounting prerequisite should include a test-out option as well.

The industry-specific segments will probably need to be custom-developed.

To transfer the principles of general accounting to the specifics of the industry, an asynchronous course should incorporate interactive spreadsheets and activities. These could be supplemented with an online-accessible mentor to answer any questions. If the mentor’s e-mailed (or text message) responses aren’t adequate, the learner and mentor should be able to set up a call for a more detailed conversation.

Price-setting is a skill, so it requires opportunities for learners to see the skill performed and then practice it themselves. It’s likely there are many ways for prices to be determined (regardless of the industry), so providing a general overview of the price-setting options is imperative. This could be provided in a short tutorial that provides simple opportunities for learners to see examples of the various price-setting options, practice each, and make some general applications to their own situations. Questions learners have could be submitted for the basis of a followup Webinar. Because the questions would be specific to the learners, the content would be timely and relevant. And because learners will have covered the basics in the asynchronous tutorial, the focus of the synchronous Webinar would be on price-setting trouble-shooting, unusual pricing options too complicated for the tutorial, and — of course — answering learners’ questions.

Addressing regulatory/reporting requirements requires someone to call on their understanding of those requirements — so this is a fact-driven segment (rather than skill-driven) that could be started with required readings (rather than a tutorial) and followed up with an asynchronous discussion using an expert moderator. By posing particular “what if” scenario questions, the moderator would generate discussions about how the regulations/reporting procedures would be followed.

And the case study? Might not even be necessary if the focus throughout the other segments is on what learners can transfer back to their own situations. A case study is often used in a group as a sort of simulation to demonstrate transference from theory to reality — but if the course itself is doing that, is the benefit of the case study still worth its inclusion? In many cases, it probably isn’t.

So there you have it.

Were you keeping score? Did you see how much can be covered on the learner’s schedule, rather than on your schedule? Here’s what I see from the learner’s point of view:

  • One possible phone call (if I have questions about applying general accounting principles to my field)
  • One Webinar on price-setting

Everything else is covered on my time (and one could argue that the phone call was set up with my schedule in mind, too).

And the budget? That’s another post. But I will say this:

  • …if you end up investing $54,000 (our estimated expenses for two FTF sessions on the same topic for 80 members — see the previous blog post, “Waiting Lists Are Overrated,” for the full discussion)
  • …and you could charge $650 for the “course”
  • …and all 120 people for your next three sessions of the popular FTF program signed up for the online version
  • …you’d net $24,000 in revenues.

Yes, that’s after expenses. Here’s the math:

$54,000/120 learners = $450 per learner

$650-$450 = $200 revenue per learner

$200 x 120 learners = $24,000

And my bet is that you’d have more than 120 members register for the online offering.

Which means you’d increase your revenues $200/registration. Not bad!*

So you’ve accomplished many things: you’ve eliminated your waiting list — learners who need a specific program will get it, when they want it, when they need it. You’ve eclipsed any temptation they might have had to slip over to your competitor to get their learning needs met.

Most of all? You’ve continued to deliver meaningful, effective education and training to your members and do so at an affordable price.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that more important than keeping some “waiting list” so you (or your boss) can feel popular and desirable?!?

Of course it is.

*Okay…. there’s no ignoring the fact that you’d probably need an LMS for this to work, and that would cut into your expected revenues — maybe even put you in the red that first year or two, but over time you’ll earn that investment back. The fact remains that you will have instituted a system of delivering a popular program in a way that retains its value while eliminating that dreaded waiting list.

It’s all good!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, LMS, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Tutorials Instead of Documents?

Posted by Ellen on May 1, 2011

One of the standard objections to simply done tutorials (like those you’ll find under the aLearning Fundamentals link on the left) is that they’re essentially page-turners. With minimal interaction, why not just post a document that covers the same content?

I’ll be the first to admit that including more interactions is a great thing, as long as they contribute to the learning outcome. A much more involved scenario with branching would have been ideal for the “Choosing a Learning Management System (LMS)” tutorial we did, but in this case the number of possible variations was daunting. Instead, we focused on the few key decisions that will at least narrow the LMS field and get you started. That’s a course objective that worked well for the length and complexity we wanted from the tutorial.

So why not just convert the decision-making points into a decision-tree graphic and post it?

Let’s be honest here. How interesting would that be?!?

Since the Web became a resource pool, all manner of documents have been tossed into it: white papers, charts, articles, blogs, etc. etc.

How many text-based resources have you downloaded or saved links to with the intention of reading them when you have time? Be honest.

Why haven’t you read them? No, really… why haven’t you read them?

Chances are you’re inundated with stuff to read already: e-mail, tweets, blogs, newsfeeds….

Now transfer that experience to your members.

You’ve got new board members coming into the loop, and they need some insight into Robert’s Rules of Order. You send everyone a copy of the revised Rules (an easier to read, modern version) — but how often do your volunteer leaders read that book?!?

If you’re being honest, you would admit that not many do. And those who do, scan it on the flight just before that critical meeting.

Now imagine you can just send them a link to a series of online tutorials — free, easy to access — that are set up in a sort of comic-book format, touching on the primary things your officers and meeting leaders need to know.

Think I’m delusional that your members won’t prefer the online version (assuming they have easy online access)?

How many of you know kids who will read a comic book before they’ll read a narrative text?

Have you seen the number of graphic novels that major bookstores are now carrying?!?

Yes, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. You can find such tutorials here at aLearning 🙂 Just follow the aLearning Fundamentals link on the left and go to the General Topics area, where you’ll find links to tutorials on Robert’s Rules of Order covering (or click the direct link at the end of this post):

  • Meetings
  • Robert’s Rules for Officers
  • Motions
  • Coming Soon — Voting and Elections

I’ve been a nay-sayer of elearning page-turners and still am. But when we can repurpose needed content and present it in a way that’s more interesting than paragraph after paragraph of explanation, why not?

We can’t cover everything in a tutorial that’s included in a book, but that’s not the point, either. We should cover the most essential content, and — for the nice to know and more detailed specifics — refer learners to quality resources.

Which is why you should still provide a readable copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. But instead of using it as your primary teaching tool, use the book as a reference manual.

Here’s an example…

When I taught college freshman composition courses, I required all students to purchase a grammar book. But instead of memorizing out-of-context grammar rules, they learned how to navigate the grammar book: how to find the correct way to use punctuation, structure a sentence, etc.

I told them they were learning the Einstein way. It’s said that Einstein didn’t know his own phone number. When asked how such a genius couldn’t know something so basic he said he didn’t want to clutter his mind with information he could readily find elsewhere. Phone numbers? That’s what phone books are for.

Why hold all that grammar in your head when you can consult a grammar book?

Why read all the ins and outs of Robert’s Rules of Order when you can access a tutorial, then follow up with the book once you know what you’re looking for? Those (along with the handy-dandy job aid that tells you which motions take precedence, when they need a second, and if debate or voting or reconsideration is allowed) work in combination to provide effective need-to-know-NOW instruction.

Why make your members read books (even short ones!), long articles, white papers or other documents if you can bring them to life with a tutorial that covers the same ground in a more engaging way?

So while I’ll always advocate that we need to create environments for active learning, sometimes there’s a place for simple tutorials that make certain content more relevant and interesting.

Give it a test run. Share the links to aLearning Fundamentals’ Robert’s Rules of Order tutorials. Access is always free, and registration is never requested — so no information is ever collected.

Then ask yourself: wasn’t that more fun than reading the book?

Easy Access Links:

Robert’s Rules of Order Tutorials []

aLearning Tutorials []

Posted in aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ABC… It’s Easier Than 1, 2, 3!

Posted by Ellen on March 2, 2011

What’s easier? Acronyms! Acronyms for elearning, that is!

If you’re confused by LMSes, LCMSes, CMSes, and all the other letters that refer to systems — letters that get thrown around as though we all should know them…

Well, aLearning can help sort it out!

“eLearning Alphabet Soup,” the newest aLearning Fundamentals tutorial, has now been posted!

As with all tutorials, it’s free, and this one has a companion “Behind the Scenes” session so you can see how it was put together.

Just click the aLearning Fundamentals image on the left to go to the launch page where you can get started.

Remember — aLearning does not collect any of your information. There’s no registration, no hoops to jump through. Just click and learn.

Makes it easy to share these resources with your members, colleagues, clients — anyone you think would find value in them.

Topics to Come:

  • Choosing an LMS
  • Robert’s Rules of Order

Book mark the site or this blog so you can check back for these updates.

Now what are you waiting for?!?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, LMS, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

aLearning Tutorials — Now Improved!

Posted by Ellen on February 18, 2011

If you accessed the aLearning tutorials in the past but were frustrated by the awkward PowerPoint delivery mode, we’ve got great news!

All current tutorial titles have now been fully converted to Flash using iSpring Free or iSpring Presenter!

It’s easier than ever for you, your members, your staff — anyone! — to access and take these free tutorials 🙂

Watch for new titles coming soon, including one that uses the iSpring Presenter quiz function so you can see how it works.

We thank iSpring for making their product available for use in these tutorials and hope you’ll access them to see how you can make elearning available — at lost cost! — in your organization.

And — as always! — we welcome your suggestions for topics and any other comments you have.


Posted in aLearning Strategies, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »