Moving to Virtual Blog

How To Get Association Members To Accept and Embrace Online Learning

July 15, 2016 | Posted in Concepts of Unified Learning, eLearning Best Practices by icohere

If your association members are resisting online learning, you’re not alone.  When the iCohere team asked association professionals in the iCohere Academy what their greatest challenge was for launching an online learning program, member resistance ranked very high. Here are a few key reasons why members are resisting.

  • New Technology, Concerns about Competency
  • Loss of Human Interaction, Networking
  • Higher Cost of Membership
  • More Work
  • eLearning is New to the Industry/Field

So how do we shift our members from resistance to acceptance of online learning programs? Let’s look at seven important steps.

#1. Include Association Members In The Program Development

One of the most important steps to gaining member support for online learning is to include them in the decision making process. Include their input as far back as drafting the RFP and ongoing for as long as they are members. The more we educate our members about the value of the programs and involve them in the process, the more they will see the true and long-term benefits of these high quality programs.

First, members are more likely to accept change when they know their concerns have been heard and they have been given the opportunity to contribute. Second, association members bring an end-user perspective to developing the online programs. They are the people we are creating the programs for and their input is critical to designing programs to meet their needs. And finally, association members are the most experienced in their field. They will serve as a primary source of content for the online learning programs.

#2. Tie Online Learning To The Bottom Line

Technology has made tremendous advancements over the last few decades and continues to advance at a more rapid pace every day.  One of the key ways to resolve member resistance to online programs is to thoroughly research the value and benefits and show how it affects the association’s bottom line.   There are a few ways we can do this.

Market Analysis:  First, we can conduct a market analysis that presents our association next to other similar associations. We can show the success of online programs as it relates to member recruitment and retention, revenue generation, and positioning the association as a leading information source in the field or industry.

Cost Comparison: Second, we can create a side-by-side cost comparison of holding live events versus virtual events. What is important here is to show the long term value of online learning. The benefits to members is ongoing and can be accessed indefinitely.

Reusable Assets: Finally, everything you use to educate your members, from workshop curriculum, to PowerPoint slides are assets of your organization.  There is an initial cost to creating the material but it can be used in a multitude of ways for long term benefit and revenue. All the materials you create can be interconnected, and repurposed.

#3 Recruit Respected Influencer(s) As The Project Spokesperson(s)

Member resistance can be managed by employing influential spokespeople to help share about the training and program implementation. Influence mapping involves identifying your stakeholders, and in this case they are our association members. Then, of these members, our next step is to identify who are the most influential stakeholders who also have the largest circles. These are the ideal candidates for spokespeople.

If we can gain support from the most influential stakeholders, we will have more opportunities for reaching our goals. By including their input, we also improve the quality of our online learning programs.

In addition, it’s important to remember that some of our spokespeople may be people who are influential in our industry, not necessarily an association member but someone who is important to association members. We may also look at our current business partners and identify leaders who our members respect, to serve as a project spokesperson.

#4 Key Messaging To Focus On Member ROI

Our messaging is important for recruiting members to serve on the program development and for informing association members about the program. The most impactful messaging will show how the program ideally fits into what we are already doing. And it will also show the personal return on investment that each member can receive.  The image below shows a simple graphic to do this. A visual graphic is a good way to show online learning as a natural and needed addition to our already outstanding program. Use this along with the market analysis to show the overall benefits.

Key Messaging for Member ROI

#5 Provide A Wide Variety Of Training Options To Roll Out The Program

Once we have our program in place and our advocates

are busy sharing about the program with association members, we need to develop training opportunities that fit into member schedules and use the channels they prefer. These are a few examples.

  • Webinars – Warm up members with webinars featuring high quality content.
  • Resource Center – Provide opportunities for self-paced learning through an online resource center.
  • Video Trainings – Create a series of video trainings that introduce bite-size training content.
  • Downloads – Create step-by-step user guides that are available for download.

On-Demand Courses for iCohere

#6 Support Members With An Online Community

An online community adds tremendous value to your online learning program. It keeps the members involved in the virtual environment year round and repeats our message that online learning is a high value benefit for membership. Most important, online communities provide members a place to generate and share knowledge, and a place to network with each other. We can use these communities to host events and provide unique learning opportunities to members.

Support Members With An Online Community

#7 Support The Online Community With A Resource Center

All the content we create to build our online learning program becomes reusable assets for the association. As part of our online community, we can take our assets and create a robust resource center.  As we continue to create more and more online programs, our resource center will continue to grow and can be used as a valuable member recruitment and retention tool.


For more help building your association’s case for online learning, join the iCohere Academy. Membership is free and includes a library of on-demand trainings and resources.




Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Notify of