With most professions, creating and strengthening professional relationships is important for career success. One of the most effective ways to build relationships is through joining an association. There are currently associations for nearly every profession and interest. In fact, the American Society for Association Executives reports 1.9 million associations in the U.S alone. Members have many choices and as numbers continue to grow, the benefits associations offer members will be key to long-term growth and sustainability.
How successful associations are capitalizing on technology.
In the past decade, many associations have turned to technology for long-term growth. Technology can be used to transform the association by trimming costs, managing growth, and most important, providing added-value for members. The concept is called Unified Learning.
Unified Learning is changing the way people collaborate, communicate and learn by blending learning with technology. It removes common barriers to learning because it is delivered using a centralized cohesive solution.
Most associations provide learning opportunities for their membership. Using the concept of Unified Learning, associations can now do this more effectively – better, faster, cheaper – for more people, more conveniently – so the audience and membership will grow and flourish. It doesn’t stop there – it’s also about presenting a unified learning experience to the members. And this must be an online learning experience.
Why is this? It is simple, really. An association’s membership is dispersed, and relying on the internet for information. It is the nature of associations that members are across the state, or country – sometimes the world. Bringing educational programs to them in a single, unified online system is the ideal scenario.
Unified Learning in Action.
Consider all aspects (all departments) of your association to discover how you educate your members, and the public, what tools you use for these activities, and how these “learning assets” can be leveraged to provide both dues and non-dues revenue. Conventions (both national and regional), webinars and live courses, professional certification and accreditation (along with continuing education), and opportunities for members to learn from one another. Each of the “learning opportunities” you create for your membership is a tremendous association asset.
Conventions start with a call for papers, then locating subject matter experts, marketing, organizing workshops – offering opportunities for members to connect with one another face to face, and so forth. And all this time and money creates value for your membership, and non-dues revenue for your association. This investment should build equity for your organization. And, if you apply some of the materials to other educational activities, you are going to do more with less, saving the entire association time and money.
Webinars are a staple in professional education, and provide extraordinary value for the membership. It is a perfect blend of convenience and face-to-face interaction. For a webinar series to be successful requires subject matter experts, slides and content, marketing, and planning. Often webinars are recorded and made available, on demand, for free or for a small fee. Chances are, there are some pretty good webinar archives in the association library that would make sensational online courses, or that can be expanded into workshops – using less resources than it would take to create a program from scratch.
Education, Certification, Accreditation
The cornerstone of many professional membership organizations is professional education and certification. Curriculum is developed, vetted by subject matter experts, and delivered either in person or online. Continuing education keeps the member certified, and coming back for more education. So what are the learning assets exactly? The curriculum you used to develop your certification program was probably written and reviewed by the same type of subject matter experts who speak at your annual meetings, and conduct webinars for your membership.
By now you should start to see the benefits of combining resources to produce learning activities. But, there is even more!
In the end analysis, it is really about member benefits, and providing value for a widely dispersed membership can be a challenge. But it cannot be ignored. Professionals learn from one another. It is a basic premise of adult learning theory. It makes sense to provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
To accomplish this in person, regional chapters might gather over lunches to learn from one another and local experts. In some cases, an online community of practice is established to provide collaboration and discussion for members with similar interests. Like an interactive library, these online communities contain rich resources, passed on from member to member, creating extraordinary value for the membership. And, of course, many of the resources found online come from past webinars, conventions, white papers and so forth. In an ideal association-membership scenario, all the assets of the organization should be available to your membership in an organized system for easy retrieval.
Everything the association uses to educate members, from workshop curriculum, to PowerPoint slides are valuable assets of the organization. All the mediums and sources used to transfer knowledge within the organization should be interconnected, and repurposed when possible. They should come together to create a learning machine that produces value.
Take an inventory of all the various learning assets in your organization. How many are not being offered to your members right now? Is there a way you can gain monetary value from some of these assets?
Evaluate your education delivery systems, their functionality and how much they are costing annually. If you are using different platforms for your learning programs, and not repurposing your assets, you are likely wasting money and forfeiting a unified learner experience.
This is where iCohere 11 steps in. iCohere is a unique, all-in-one “learning management system”. It is set up in a modular fashion allowing associations to mix and match features for every department, and create all types of learning experiences. One of the tenets of our business is that you should be able to use all of these modules in many different ways, for a variety of programs, for your members and your extended enterprise. One platform, unlimited learning opportunities. The unified learning system is the future of professional development.
Author: Valerie Whitcomb is a Senior Online Learning Consultant from iCohere.