Online learning and distance education is on the rise, providing easy-to-access and challenging development opportunities for users. And since associations have traditionally been a major part of post-secondary education—providing practical skills and job training—they’re seeing major benefits from online education.
Why? Because with online learning, associations can provide training to a larger number of members in more flexible formats, something that is helping online education become a popular member benefit. If your association is looking for ways to embrace online learning, here are three traditional learning experiences that you can now offer online to deliver more value to members.
Individual learning experiences are self-study courses. One student works on their own to consume educational material and pass assessments. A traditional individual learning experience may consist of a student reading a textbook and completing a worksheet on the material, for instance.
Use a learning management system (LMS) or other instructional courseware to develop individual eCourses. To build your courses around an individual experience, design each course or set of courses around videos, documents, and assessments that your members can complete without help from an instructor or their peers.
Your eCourses can stand alone, or they can be grouped together into related learning paths that teach your members a variety of skills. When members complete the entire learning path, award them a certificate so they can support their new skills at work or when applying for a new job.
Pro Tip: Since members are taking these eCourses without support from their peers, make it easy for them to correct mistakes and review material more than once. You can do this by allowing members to move through the course at their own speed, consuming advanced material or going back to earlier content when necessary. You can even let your members retake assessments until they get a passing score before moving forward.
Group learning is a collective experience. Instead of one person consuming material and drawing their own conclusions, students interact with their peers and teachers to get different perspectives and ideas. Traditional group learning formats include workshops and roundtable discussions.
The most common online group learning format is a live webinar. During a webinar, participants can ask questions either verbally or through chat boxes, interacting with the presenter and their peers. Many standalone learning management systems support live webinars, but to take group learning to the next level, choose an LMS that’s tightly integrated with an online community platform.
Online communities provide more tools for students to interact with one another, including private communities just for people taking eCourses. In these communities, members can ask and answer questions in discussion forums, have conversations about course material, and share ideas. Teachers and experts can also engage with learners to provide deeper insight into challenging concepts.
Blended learning experiences mix individual coursework with group learning. This approach is common in traditional classrooms, where students are led by teachers, but also complete some assignments individually. Students frequently take a break from individual assignments to interact with peers as well, breaking into groups for discussions or larger projects.
If you already have the tools to provide individual and group learning, then creating a blended learning experience is easy – just create eCourses that include elements from both. This may mean that you create a single eCourse that includes text documents for members to read on their own while also incorporating live webinars.
The easiest way to create a blended learning experience, however, is to build individual eCourses in your learning management system and automatically invite participants to an online community designed specifically for students. This tends to be the easiest solution for associations because, while staff can stimulate discussions, the community also allows participants to engage organically. They can ask their own questions, which are answered by peers, and discuss material without detailed oversight from your staff.
Pro Tip: Not all online learning needs to be centered around eCourses. Online mentoring programs that help members learn practical skills from experts are also effective blended learning tools. Such programs can be very popular because they allow mentors and mentees to connect regardless of location and focus on the most useful skills and information. Many mentees apply what they’ve learned immediately to perform better at work and advance their careers.
Whether in a traditional classroom or online, the fact remains that different people learn in different ways. Some of your members will prefer to go through courses on their own, with no distractions, while others will want to talk through concepts with their peers. Not every member will love every experience.
To provide the most effective online education and training program possible, you need to address the needs to all your members, regardless of how they like to learn.
To do this, provide all three online learning experiences by mixing and matching different types of content (think text, videos, webinars, and group discussions.) The best learning management systems will make this easy by supporting a variety of content types and integrating with your AMS and online community. With every tool tightly connected, you can provide effective online education that fits each individual member’s needs.