Continuing Education: 6 Steps to Make it More Member-friendly
As an association leader, you know the importance of continuing education. It keeps your members up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in their field and allows your association to provide them with the best possible learning experience.
But what can you do to ensure that your members get the most from your association’s continuing education program?
It can be challenging to know what type of continuing education courses to produce—after all, your members each have their own needs and interests. Your content needs to be relevant and interesting, and there are a number of delivery methods. How do you determine the right combination of options? It takes time, effort and strategy to create an exceptional continuing education program.
We’ve outlined a list of tips to help you ensure your members get the most from your association’s continuing education program.
Produce Quality and Timely Continuing Education Courses
When it comes to producing continuing education, quality is more important than quantity.
As today’s business landscape continues to evolve, it has become increasingly important for professionals to reskill and upskill in order to stay competitive. In response, many associations are taking the lead in supporting their members through timely continuing education courses.
There are a number of benefits associated with offering an enhanced learning experience, including improved learner engagement. By providing a high-quality learning experience that is accessible, engaging, and relevant to learners’ needs, associations are able to better support their members in their professional development. Additionally, such efforts can also help organizations increase member retention and loyalty, as well as attract new members.
Group Your Members and Match Your Continuing Education to Their Needs
One of the best ways to ensure that your members get the most from your association’s continuing education program is to match your courses with their needs. Segmenting your membership base will help you better understand their requirements so that you can create courses that are tailored to each group’s interests.
There are many different ways to segment your members, but some common methods include sorting them by industry, job title, experience level, geographic location or company size. You can also use surveys and data from your member management system to get a better understanding of the needs of your members. This information can be used to develop targeted continuing education programs.
Once you’ve identified how to segment your members, you can start creating courses specific to them.
For example, if you have a growing cohort of members who are recent graduates or early-career professionals, you might want to offer courses on how to avoid the pitfalls of their new professions. These courses can, of course, be of value to your other members as well, but by tailoring your content to the needs of this segment, you are more likely to capture their attention and create value. When it comes to continuing education, it’s all about finding and filling niches!
Next, you want to think about how each group will see your message.
Perhaps some groups are more active in the social media sphere—using platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Some segments may be more likely to go directly to your association’s website for information. Others still may prefer newsletter or email campaigns. Be sure to pay attention to your member base and tailor your materials to each group.
Offer a Variety of Learning Methods
It’s important to offer multiple learning methods so that members can choose the option that best suits them. This way, they can learn in the way that’s most convenient and effective for them.
Some members may prefer to learn in a traditional continuing education setting, while others may prefer to learn online. Some may prefer to learn through hands-on experience, while others still may prefer to learn through listening to lectures.
When offering courses online, ensure that your learning management system is able to host both on-demand and live-streamed courses. Having a single platform where your members can access their continuing education courses is vital to the success of your program.
You may be interested in: Learning Management Systems for Associations: An Overview
Promote your Continuing Education to Members Consistently and Effectively
Members are the lifeblood of any organization, and it’s important to keep them engaged and informed. One of the best ways to ensure your members are aware of the continuing education opportunities that are available to them is through consistent promotion.
Promotion is a vital aspect of any successful continuing education program. It can be difficult to make sure your message is reaching your members, and it’s important to note that not everyone will respond to your advertising campaign the first time they see it. In fact, most people need to see an ad multiple times before they’re moved to take action.
Make a Schedule—and Stick to it!
When it comes to promotions, it’s good to stay consistent. Your members should know what to expect and when to expect it. Build a solid map of when you want each piece of marketing material to be published.
You can use media scheduling apps like Hootsuite to queue posts in advance; making it easy to run a co-ordinated campaign.
You can also play around with times of the day and of the week–see what gives you the most engagement and learn to stick with that time. Hootsuite can even recommend when to post based on your previous data, so make sure to experiment when it comes to posting. The more information you feed it, the better its predictions will be. Our suggestion? Try posting between 12–2 pm on weekdays! People tend to check their feeds at lunch.
When creating promotional material, you want to include calls to action (CTAs). These can appear as directives to check out your LMS, to look at a course, to join a conversation–anything! Make sure your language is upbeat and welcoming, but don’t be afraid to add some concrete information (numbers and statistics, anyone?) to appeal to your users’ logic, too. You want your message to be inviting, informative and actionable.
Evaluate and Adjust as Needed
Once you’ve got your promotional strategy in place, it’s important to monitor and assess its effectiveness. Are your members engaging with your content? Are they signing up for courses?
Take into account the various analytics your learning management system and other platforms provide (e.g. completion rates, popularity of courses, etc); you can use these to determine where your strong and weak points are.
You should also keep an open dialogue with your members. Check in with them and see how they’re finding the courses, what they like, and what they don’t like. Their feedback is invaluable and will help you create a continuing education program that meets their needs (and then some!). Take an Agile approach–aim for constant improvement.
You may be interested in: Can an Agile Mindset Benefit Association Leaders?
When it comes to continuing education, you want your members to make the most of what’s available to them. It can be tricky to make your membership base aware of everything you offer, but with the right promotions, messages, and platforms, you’ll be able to show your quality continuing education off to a wider audience. Remember: when members make the most of your content, everybody wins!