This is a guest post by Amber Bovenmyer, Director of Sales & Marketing, at Web Courseworks.
As an association professional, you know that the members of your association are constantly learning, growing and changing. And your association has to be able to keep up with what those members need, or else they won’t remain engaged as members!
So what can your association offer your members to increase the value of their membership, as well as help them strengthen their careers and marketability?
Education is the key to success. If you aren’t already, your association can provide members with professional development opportunities via a learning management system (LMS).
An LMS is a software solution that allows an association to build and distribute courses and certification materials to its members so that they can remain up-to-date on industry best practices.
But not all LMS platforms are built the same. What are the most important features to look for when selecting a software vendor for your association?
- Built-in Course Authoring
- Social Learning
- Assessment Authoring and Analysis
- External Credit Claiming
- Adaptive Learning
- Credit Tracking and Transcript
- Business-driven Reporting
- Customizability and Integration
With these 8 features, you’ll be sure to build the most attractive and functional courses for your members and keep them engaged in your association! Let’s dive in.
1. Built-In Course Authoring
Your courses are only useful if members like to take them! So make sure that when you choose an association LMS, you choose one that allows your team to customize and build courses right within the platform.
This way, you know that your content is safely stored, and will be presented in an attractive and understandable manner.
What should course authoring allow your team to include?
- Videos and images for visual interest.
- Games for additional learning strategies.
- Interactive drag-and-drop experiences for variety.
When your LMS helps your team create the most functional course possible while still keeping user experience in mind, you’ll be sure to see increased attendance in your courses.
2. Social Learning
Students learn best when they’re able to interact with others and share ideas, questions and hypotheses. This is true from elementary school all the way through continuing education in a career setting!
Make sure that you choose a learning management system that encourages your staff and students to be vibrantly engaged in the learning community.
Some easy ways to incorporate social learning into your courses through LMS features are:
- Including a discussion forum after an assignment or assessment so students can share questions, answers or suggestions to the teacher or other students.
- Hosting a facilitated live chat with a subject matter expert where students can ask questions in real time.
- Assigning peer-to-peer tasks where students have to absorb and synthesize information and think critically of others’ work.
Choosing an LMS that supports your social learning strategy is crucial to your association’s success with learners!
3. Assessment Authoring and Analysis
No course is complete without quizzes or tests—how else would you be able to gauge your students’ learning comprehension and meet accreditation requirements? When choosing an LMS for your association, make sure to keep in mind both halves of the assessment process.
When you write a test, there are a thousand things to think about. You have to ensure that you have a combination of questions testing all of the units covered in the course, provide a variety of difficulty levels, and include multiple styles of questions.
Choose an LMS that allows your team to create tests simply and easily. Try and find an option that allows you to upload existing questions or write new ones directly in the program, build a question bank and tag questions with different qualifiers.
The second half of creating assessments is frequently forgotten but is just as important. You have to be able to analyze your questions, your students’ test results and more in order to build the most effective assessments going forward.
Some examples of analysis you should be able to conduct on exam results are:
- Psychometric analysis of quiz and test questions.
- Percentage of correct answers per question or section.
- Averages across assessments and courses.
This capability will help you create better assessments in the future and understand where you might need to linger longer in the course itself. Analysis leads to data-driven decisions, which leads to a stronger association in the long run.
4. External Credit Claiming
Of course, your association won’t be able to provide every single learning experience that a member needs or wants, but you can make sure that your association allows and encourages your members to take advantage of other opportunities while still remaining a member.
Members don’t only want to take online classes to continue their education. They also:
- Watch and participate in live webinars.
- Attend conferences other than your association’s.
- Attend other types of educational experiences.
And when they do, they want to receive credit for the knowledge they gained.
Therefore, it’s important that your LMS offers an option for members to track all of their education with your association by inputting credits earned elsewhere into your LMS. They can do this as a part of their member onboarding process and throughout their membership with you.
With this feature, your members simply put in the experience and the type of credit they want to claim (based on their industry or what they attended), and then your LMS can log it on your members’ transcript or record.
5. Adaptive Learning
Every member-student is different, so you want to make sure that you can offer an individualized learning experience to everyone!
With adaptive learning technology, you can ensure that members have the best experience possible while choosing and completing courses. With an adaptive LMS, you can market different classes to members based on:
- Industry or trade.
- Previous coursework completed.
- Indicated interests.
- Mentor or mentee status.
This way, your students are exposed to the most helpful or relevant topics for coursework, and learn more about all the great courses your LMS has to offer.
But adaptive learning isn’t only helpful before or after classes! With an adaptive learning program, your courses can automatically adapt themselves to a student’s need. For example, you can personalize assessments with different questions based on learner performance.
Keep course flexibility in mind when choosing a learning management system for your association.
6. Credit Tracking and Transcript
Associations should keep in mind that the primary reason that members use their learning software is to track credits and certificates as they further their careers and meet yearly accreditation requirements.
With this being said, you should prioritize finding an LMS with an easy-to-access and easy-to-use transcript for every student, so that students can use their transcripts to prove that they’ve completed the required certification for their industry.
This is especially important for associations in industries such as:
- The medical field (nurses, doctors, therapists, etc)
- Education (professors, teachers, teaching aides, etc.)
- Any industry considered a trade (electricians, plumbers, etc)
These individuals are all held accountable by their associations to maintain a certain level of education by taking classes online or at universities, so your association should use an LMS that can provide accreditation and certification in whatever format required by the members’ industry.
For examples, check out the list of features included on this guide to healthcare-specific associations from Web Courseworks. Different industries have different needs.
7. Business-driven Reporting
Providing courses for certifications, accreditations and other types of continuing education is a crucial source of non-dues revenue for associations. Your courses are an important way to bring value to your members.
This can be done by providing courses at a discount for members as compared to non-members, by advertising courses as part of a membership package and more. But once you sell your courses to your members, you have to be able to analyze your financial data to steer your association in the right direction for the future.
Some different metrics you should be able to track with your business analysis features are:
- Course completion data: How many people start/complete/pass each course?
- Course popularity: Which courses attract the most people? Which aren’t worth the cost of creation?
- Course ratings: What are your students saying about each course?
- Instructor ratings: Which members of your team are the best teachers? Which ones have a hard time working with students?
When you’re able to see and analyze your metrics, you can calculate your growth trajectory and make data-driven decisions to increase your association’s member engagement and create a stronger member community.
If you’re having a hard time determining key performance indicators, or don’t know what to do with your business data, it might be time to ask for outside help. Read this guide to tech strategy consulting from DNL OmniMedia to determine if it’s time for your association to branch out.
8. Customizability and Integration.
The last but not least factor that you need to consider when purchasing an LMS for your association is how it will integrate with your current technological strategy. How will your LMS fit in with everything else in your system?
Your LMS needs to be able to communicate easily with the following software platforms:
- Your association management software.
- Your payment processing software, if not included in your AMS.
- Your communication software.
No matter if you handle all member management through one platform or if you use a conglomeration of different solutions, your LMS has to integrate seamlessly with your existing software.
For example: an LMS best practice is to integrate it so seamlessly with your AMS that your members only have to log into your website to get access. This makes it easier for your members to take courses and easier for your member assistance team to handle fewer customer support requests.
You’ll also want a learning management software solution that can be customized to your association’s brand. Being able to use your logo and colors on your LMS is a valuable way to build authority and trust in your LMS and association.
A one-size-fits-all solution won’t work as well for your association as a customizable platform will, so consider its flexibility when making your decision.
Now that you know what your association needs in a learning management system, you’re prepared to make the right decision and purchase the best solution for your team.