aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘Webinars’

How Time Flies…

Posted by Ellen on January 27, 2012

…when you’re having fun, right?!?

And we have been having fun here at the aLearning Blog! Suddenly, it seems, we’re publishing our 250th post and celebrating five years.

Yep, five years. And so much has changed!

When aLearning published its first post back on January 27, 2007:

  • no LMS systems (that we know of at the time) were designed especially to meet the needs of associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) research endeavors about online learning focused on associations and nonprofits
  • few (if any) organizations bothered to survey association learning leaders to find out what we’re doing in the field and how things were going
  • the number of association-specific blogs could be counted on the fingers of one person’s hands
  • social learning and virtual learning environments were mysterious, hocus-pocus, scary entities

A lot has changed over just five changes of the seasons, hasn’t it?!?

Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts

To celebrate this milestone, we’ve compiled an ebook of our Top 100 aLearning Blog Posts. Just skimming through these selections made us realize how quickly the elearning sands shift, affecting the landscape, even moving the horizon.

At over 200 pages, this compilation brings together in one place the best — and most controversial — writing from the aLearning Blog. We’ve included most comments (the fine print is that we’ve deleted pingpacks, backtracks, and outright sales pitches) and are proud of the attention the aLearning Blog has garnered over the years by elearning and education experts.

To Get Your Copy

We’ve made this e-publication very affordable at just $5. To order, go to and click the “Buy Now” PayPal button. You should be able to read this PDF from any device with a PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader).

Special Offer

If you’ve purchased aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning, we’ll send you a copy of the Top 100 Posts for free. Just send Ellen an e-mail at and attach an electronic copy of your Lulu receipt, and we’ll send you the Top 100 Posts by return e-mail. We appreciate your support and are happy to say “thank you” in this small way.

Thank You!

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Conferences, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Learning in General, LMS, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General, Social Learning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2011 aLearning Association Survey Results Summary — Part 2

Posted by Ellen on October 12, 2011

Last post we looked at the general profiles of respondents to the recent aLearning Association survey and some of the outliers we noticed in the data. We also summarized the educational staffing and general budget information.

In this post we’ll take a look at how respondents are spending their money. As has been the case throughout, you’ll notice what we did: use of online and social learning is uneven. Some organizations are neck-deep while others are not involved at all. The survey didn’t explore reasons, but differences in how education supports each organization’s strategy probably account for most of the cases.

Remember, we asked that the size of the organization be identified by the number of individuals served in the membership, even if the organization is a trade association with institutional members.

The pattern is easy to spot (click the table to see it larger):

The larger the organization, the more likely it is to be involved in synchronous and asynchronous learning. Remember that these include Webinars and Webinar recordings (though we asked respondents to differentiate by a sub-question, many didn’t make this distinction — so it’s entirely possible that the only way synchronous elearning is being delivered is via Webinar and that most asynchronous elearning consists of recorded Webinars.

Of course what’s most interesting is the uneven implementation of blended options. First it should be noted that although none of our respondents in the 501-1000 category uses blended learning, we can’t conclude that no organization of this size uses it, or that half of our respondents in the 1001-3000 category report using blended learning that half of all organizations of this size use it. (As much as we hoped to have adequate responses for true benchmarking, we didn’t…. To everyone’s disappointment, I’m sure.)

The uneven implementation of blended learning has (we believe) everything to do with the various types of “blend” that are going on. Here are various ways some of the respondents described their use of blended instructional modes:

  • Online forum discussions before & after face-to-face events
  • Webinars with structured face-to-face activities
  • Face-to-face programs with follow-up Webinars
  • Recordings from face-to-face programs made available online
  • Live sessions from the annual conference streamed online
  • Incorporating Webinars, online workspace and conference calls into a year-long training program

So what does all of that say about using social learning across associations? Our next post covers what the survey revealed about that.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Justifying aLearning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Quick Clicks

Posted by Ellen on October 10, 2011

A big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to the recent aLearning Association Survey… while we compile the results into readable posts for you (watch for new posts with the results)… here are some quick resources for you.

eLearning Glossary

ASP? CMS? CMI? ILS? Looking for a great glossary of common elearning acronyms and terms? Look no further than the e-Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions’ magazine glossary, found here.

Tutorial Tools

And here’s another great article from Learning Solutions. If you’re considering a tool for creating your own tutorials and asynchronous, online courses, don’t assume Articulate Presenter or Adobe Presenter are your best choices. See “Making Sense of PowerPoint Pandemonium” by Mark Simon in the September 14 issue for a great summary of these tools, plus iSpring’s Presenter (aLearning’s choice) and Lectora’s Snap.

Should You Charge for a Webinar?

If you haven’t read Jeff Cobb’s great post, “Webinar Strategy — The Inform/Perform Distinction,” you’re missing some great advice on how to decide whether to charge for a Webinar or not. What’s even better, his recommendation for those you should offer free should cost you less (if anything) to provide than it will cost you to offer those you would charge a fee for. When the financial numbers make sense, the instructional design makes sense, and the strategy makes sense, then you know the idea is sound.

Thinking of Producing Your Own Webinars? Here’s Help

See Susan Kistler’s summary of some “Low-Cost Webinar Production Tools” at the AssociationTech blog — note that she isn’t comparing different Webinar platforms but describes GoToWebinar by Citrix and the tools one organization uses for editing, archiving, and hosting. I’ve not used GoToWebinar, but if it requires post-production audio editing, you’ll want to try it out before you commit to it so you can reduce the amount of extra work involved in making the session available in recorded format.

More on Learning from Webinar Recordings

What are the advantages to recorded/archived Webinars? Take a look at this post from Donald Clark. His point is related to higher ed lectures, but the same likely holds true for our purposes as well.

Encouragement for Starting Your Social Learning Initiative

Looking for inspiration about how easy it is to get started with social learning? See “Implementing Social Learning: Start Small, Start Now” by Bill Cushard.

Want more specifics on how implementing social learning can be accomplished? See Cushard’s post, “Practical Ways to Design Social Media into Your Training Programs” at his Mindflash blog.

Ohhh… and there’s so much more, but that’s all I have had time to review for now… !


Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Marketing, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Free Webinar on Selecting an LMS

Posted by Ellen on September 5, 2011

Looking for all the help you can get while you hunt down the best learning management system for your association? Though targeted to “medium and small businesses,” any free help is worth checking out.

So if you’re available for this Brandon Hall Webinar, it could be worth your time:

Wednesday, September 7, from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Daylight time.
To register, follow this link:

Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Resources, LMS, Webinars | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Waiting Lists are Overrated

Posted by Ellen on June 30, 2011

Last post I said making members wait for a year to get into a much-desired educational session doesn’t make sense and risks chasing them into the arms of the competition. But some organizations cling to the notion that waiting lists are a good thing.

“Look at all the interest we have in this program,” the executive director coos. “That’s guaranteed revenue for the next year or two for this one! Why can’t we have a waiting list for everything we do?”

Ikes! It’s NOT guaranteed revenue. The more someone is forced to wait for something — especially if they need it now — the more likely they’ll look to other sources to fill that need.

Besides, unless that precious program generates a bunch of money, its waiting list is probably doing the organization a disservice as well.

Think about it.

Here’s an Example

Let’s say you have a three-day face-to-face program that includes a primary content leader (much respected and a very effective facilitator who’s in great demand) and several supporting experts — panelists, guests, and session leaders. This program has been going on in your organization for many years, although some of the segments have changed with the times.

It gets rave reviews. It’s become a “must” for newbies in your industry. So even though you only offer the program once each year, and you’ve steadily increased the maximum number of participants from 20 to 40 to accommodate the demand, you’re still running a waiting list of 80.

That means anyone signing up TODAY won’t be able to get into the session for at about two years. (40 get in during 2012; 40 get in during 2013; assuming a couple of cancellations, someone signing up today could actually get into the session in 2013).

So what if you offered that program twice a year? You’d gain some efficiency in scale — you could use the same marketing materials, perhaps get some discounts for AV and F&B, particularly if you use the same venue.

Looking at the Numbers

But what do the financials really look like? Sharpen your pencil or fire up your calculator. Here’s the way the numbers unfold.

Let’s say your program costs $30,000 if you do it once each year. That means for 40 participants you need to charge $750 to break even. So you charge $799 to buffer things a bit and hopefully make a bit of revenue. (You tried $825 once but somehow getting into the “8” figure turned people off — you lost your waiting list and got nervous, so you’re now content to make $49/pp).

$49/pp = a whopping $1960 in bottom line revenue. Assuming nothing goes wrong and your estimated costs don’t balloon.

If you offer a second session, your savings might amount to about 20% — $6000. So between the two programs, you’ll have $54,000 in total expenses ($30,000 + $24,000). With 80 participants, you only need $675/pp to break even. So if you still charge $799, you’re now putting $9920 in the bank ($124 x 80).

Not a bad piece of change! Of course, this assumes you’ll have a 20% economy of scale benefit…

So why not just offer the program twice a year? Why not three times a year — move through that waiting list even faster? After all, you’ll get even greater economy of scale, increasing your revenue even more, right?!?

Sounds like a no-brainer. But there are very real reasons why we only offer such a program once each year, regardless of the downfalls of a waiting list:

  • There’s only so much room on the calendar. Especially if our members work in industries that are cyclical, we often have certain times of the year when they just aren’t available to attend face-to-face sessions.


  • Our expert facilitators and content leaders only have so much time to devote to our programs. They might not be available at other times, and changing the session leaders and contributors will change the dynamic of the program — which could affect its quality, perhaps falling short of members’ expectations (the purpose of offering the session more than once gets defeated if people resist those new offerings).


  • The time it takes to organize additional offerings increases staff workload. Time isn’t just money, time is energy. Our staffers are overtasked as it is — adding additional sessions will add more to their workload. Yes, there are economies of scale with their labor, but it’s nevertheless critical that we consider what the impact on their overall responsibilities will be to add these offerings.

All of this isn’t to say that we need to just live with the reality of waiting lists.

Oh, contraire!

It is to say that we need to consider whether it’s time to offer an online equivalent of the popular face-to-face (FTF) program. Why online?

  • You’ll not only be able to meet the immediate needs and desires of those on the waiting list, but an unknown number of other members who’ve either dropped off the list because they got tired of waiting or never signed up because the timing of the sessions didn’t fit their schedule (remember what we said about that in the previous post?!).


  • You’ll leverage the best aspects of the FTF program by finding the balance of providing asynchronous and synchronous online sessions.


  • You’ll create a program once that will require much less expense and maintenance over time — true economies of scale!


  • You’ll provide your FTF content leaders with an opportunity to further showcase their expertise — something they’re not likely to shy away from.


  • You’ll eliminate the “wait till next year or the year after or the year after that” frustration your members are currently experiencing. Young professionals, more than ever, live in an “immediate” mindset: they’ve grown up in a world of fast food, high speed internet, international TV via satellite, and 24/7 access to all of it. If they aren’t already asking why they have to wait a year, they soon will be.

Even if you’re already onboard with the idea of leveraging the Web to deliver online versions of your most popular educational programs, you need to do it correctly.

Offering a series of Webinars that imitate what happens in the FTF sessions won’t cut it. You must design an online experience that incorporates the best of the FTF program and deliver that content in a combination of formats that will do so effectively.

To do otherwise is foolish and fraught with financial peril.

So how do you do this?!? Tune in next time for some pointers…

Posted in aLearning Strategies, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »


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