How do you make the case for quality eLearning?
Why does it matter?
In the training series, Unified Learning Design Studio (ULD), Dr. Amanda Batson explains why quality eLearning for an association matters and dedicates one lesson to how to make the business case for those in charge. The episode is titled Making the Business Case and below is a synopsis. The full series can be viewed for free in the Unified Learning Academy, a training resource for eLearning professionals.
One might think revenue and profit would be the number one reason to incorporate eLearning into the training programs of an association. While that is a good and valid reason, the main reason should be the success that the training brings to members and/or customers. A training program must have meaning for the learner, and it should help the learner move, grow, and meet professional goals.
For an association to make a clear business case for an eLearning program, Dr. Batson says success requires collaboration between the financial, marketing, and technology teams, and most important is that an education team should lead the discussion. The purpose of the business case is to communicate the need to the deciding audience. Your audience may be the Board of Directors, the executive director, sponsors and other key stakeholders.
Creating An Effective One-Page Business Case for an association eLearning Program
The business case can be effectively condensed to one page if the content answers six key questions.
- Why is eLearning important to our organization? (vision)
- What problem or challenge does eLearning address? (need)
- How does eLearning address this problem or challenge? (advantages and strategic fit)
- What business model is recommended?
- What are the resource implications? Financial? Human Resources? Include broad estimates of time and cost, and ROI.
There are several eLearning business models, and the team must identify which model works best for their business goals and member needs.
Six Types of eLearning Business Models
- Fee-Based Model: In this model, the payor pays for the course. This is often open to a very broad audience, and the goal is to receive fees. However, identifying the best pricing structures for fee-based eLearning models can be very challenging to be successful.
- Member Benefit: A member pays dues for eLearning and services. The eLearning is actually a benefit, and members often have continuous, no-fee access to the material. Conversely, nonmembers usually have access for a limited time only. In this model, a member benefit can also be a reduced rate for the programs and services. When using this model, be sure the benefits fit in with the program as a whole.
- Sponsorship: This is the same as when you hear, “Brought to you by…” Sponsors pay money to have their name splashed all over an event. In this model, it’s important to keep three key players happy: learners, education providers, and of course, the sponsor. Dr. Batson reminds us that clients can have individual memberships and also have corporate partner programs.It’s important to keep the eLearning focus on the learner, with related benefits to the educational provider and sponsor. Dr. Batson stresses the importance of having clearly written and articulated documents of the relationship in a sponsorship program to ensure that what is promised is delivered on both sides of the agreement.
- Freemium: The freemium model is somewhat self-explanatory. This service is complimentary with no charge and open to a broad audience. It offers great value in the marketing plan, and it can be tied to CAE credits. It is used primarily to introduce a topic, showcase the new product, highlight an instructor, or allow the educational provider or organization to build a robust eLearning library.A sponsorship model and a freemium model can be used together, but Dr. Batson again stresses the necessity of being very specific about what is expected and the details for everyone involved.
- Donations: Your organization might have a member, patron, or someone passionate about your association’s mission who is willing to donate a chunk of money to start a new branch of eLearning for your organization. If you can make this happen, great! Go for it.A wildly popular method of receiving donations today is from Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a way of raising money by getting a large number of people to each donate a small amount of money. It is usually accomplished through the Internet, and one article states that there are currently around 2000 crowdfunding platforms available. In eLearning, when a donor makes a donation, the donation earns them registration for the course or a reduced fee for access to the course.
When using a crowdfunding (crowdsourcing) platform, do your homework and be very mindful of the details of the contract. There are fees and regulations that greatly vary depending on region, state, type of association, and more. For more information, it’s a good idea to read “Crowdfunding for Nonprofits“, which can be found with more information at Councilofnonprofits.org. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that has very good reviews.
- Revenue-Sharing: In this model, the education provider and the distributor split sales revenue. When considering this model, you want a partner who is a distributor and has a clearly defined pathway for revenue-sharing. Dr. Batson reminds us that iCohere does have a very clear and articulated program. She added that the iCohere e-book “Independent Practitioners Guide to Launching an eLearning Program” is a great resource when considering using the revenue-sharing model.
As you evaluate which business model will work for your association, remember to focus on how you can develop a strong curriculum, and standards-based delivery of content that has lasting value, regardless of corporate underwriting or sponsor. And consider the requirements involved in academia approval for continuing education, and related costs.
All six of these models will work, the challenge is identifying the model that will meet your business goals and member needs.
For leaders building the case for an eLearning program, it’s also important to have a business and marketing plan. This is a must! If you don’t know the components of a business plan, check online for resources. Dr. Batson likes the Harvard model.
For more training on developing cost-effective, high-quality eLearning programs consider taking the Unified Learning Design Studio training series. The series is free and available in the iCohere Academy.
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