When I was a kid, I always thought that once I had graduated from high school or college, my days of taking classes would be over. What I didn't realize then was that education never really ends. My teachers tried to impress the importance of always learning upon my classmates and me, but it didn’t sink in before I entered the workforce.
Now, I’ve found that everywhere I look in the professional world, individuals continue to learn until they retire, and sometimes even after that. Continuing education is key to professional development, and some professions even mandate it, like the healthcare and teaching industries.
But adults, especially working adults, don’t have the free time children do to attend classes every day and tackle homework. Professionals have other things going on—they work all week, and when they get home from work, they’re busy with their personal lives. That’s why this audience requires a unique approach to continuing education.
Technology advancements allow working professionals to take classes, earn credits, or achieve certifications through software called a Learning Management System (LMS).
Through these systems, professionals can take classes, attend webinars, sit for exams, and more.
In order to help organizations make the most of their continuing education technologies, we’ve collected our favorite strategies. Try any of these five tactics:
- Automate your marketing tactics for continuing education
- Foster a sense of community
- Integrate your software solutions
- Offer certifications, accreditations, and other valuable resources
- Create engaging and interesting courses for your students.
1. Automate your marketing tactics for continuing education
One of the most important aspects of making sure that your continuing education offerings are being used to the fullest extent is reminding your association members that they exist. Your members have a lot going on in their lives, so their continuing education might not be at the top of their priorities.
To remind them about the opportunities that continuing education and your LMS afford, create a tactical marketing strategy that reaches out to them in an engaging way and brings their education to the front of their mind when it’s most relevant.
Let’s think about some of the the most common times when professionals need access to continuing education:
- When their certifications are about to expire
- When they’re angling for a promotion or bonus
- When best practices in their industry have changed
While you can’t know about every single career shift in your members’ lives, you can anticipate when these shifts might happen, and remind them that they have access to continuing education resources for support.
Automate your marketing strategy so that your members are targeted with relevant information when they’re most likely to be interested in it.
Here are some ideas for increasing interest in your continuing education offerings:
- Schedule email blasts offering discounts on courses to members during the holiday season and the first few months of the year. The new year is a major time for promotions and job shifts, aligning with many folks’ New Year resolutions to learn more or improve their skills.
- Schedule quarterly reminders about learning opportunities. The turn of the fiscal quarter is also a popular time for promotions. Plus, the end of these quarters often marks deadlines for recertifications.
- Automate your marketing emails to distribute reminders and even discounts to members after important dates, like anniversaries of employment or membership, their birthdays, or other holidays.
When your members are fully aware of your association’s LMS and how it can help them learn more or further their careers, they’re more likely to take advantage of it.
2. Foster a sense of community
Community-building is often a cornerstone of any successful organization’s overall strategy. This can be through building a healthy and inclusive employee culture, creating interest groups among like-minded members, or even just creating a brand that people feel warmly towards.
Your continuing education technology can contribute to your organization’s community-building efforts by offering your members a way to learn and grow together. However, this requires that your LMS has a set of features that encourages this process.
The important features to look for in an LMS that builds a sense of community among your learners include:
- Social learning options. This feature gives your members a place where they can ask for help, offer advice, input, or other insight, and learn from each other. This can look different for every course, but common offerings include forums, discussion boards, and tools to facilitate peer-to-peer feedback on assignments.
- Peer benchmarking. Add a little healthy competition to your courses by allowing your learners to compare their performances against those of their peers.
- Embed your LMS within your association management system and your online community, if you have one, so that your members are able to access their courses where they’re already used to interacting online.
- Combinations of brick and mortar and online learning. While many of your learners will prefer to complete their courses entirely online, some will prefer to combine online learning with the opportunity to speak to experts in the industry and interact with their fellow learners face-to-face.
However, software features aren’t the only important tools for fostering community within the learners’ group in your organization. It’ll be up to your organization’s staff to moderate the forums, encourage open and friendly conversation, and guide the community towards a strong culture of inclusion and debate.
Even once your learners have completed their courses, it’s crucial to your office or association culture to ensure that they can continue to reach out and network beyond the online classroom.
Make sure that you maintain an online portal through software like a private online community where members can continue their conversations with each other long after the course is over.
3. Integrate your other software solutions
Supporting your learners in their pursuit of education is crucial to the success of your continuing education software. But you also have to make sure that they’re actually able to access your LMS.
When choosing a continuing education software provider for your members, don’t forget to make sure that this software solution will fit smoothly into your existing technology strategy.
If your LMS doesn’t play nicely with your association or membership management software, your online community, your payroll and HR software, or your CRM, it will be much more difficult to smoothly steer individuals towards your LMS.
What are the benefits of a fully integrated software stack?
- Easier, more accurate tracking of member/employee engagement
- Better understanding of member/employee interests and preferences
- More convenient access for members through member management software/website integration
- Better data analysis of LMS usage
When your data flows easily from one software component to another, you can better analyze the popularity of your LMS and determine the aspects of your strategy that are weak. Where in the purchasing or sign-up process of courses do potential learners drop out? Which courses have the lowest levels of sign-up or completion?
Understanding these metrics will help your organization make better data-driven decisions and strengthen your chances of success in the future.
4. Offer certifications, accreditations, and other valuable resources
Your members don’t only seek education for the sake of furthering their careers or bettering themselves. They also rely on continuing education to remain certified in their fields.
Take the healthcare industry, for example. Everyone that does hands-on work with patients, from surgeons to nurses to X-ray technicians, need to remain certified in order to keep their jobs. The timeline and coursework both vary depending on the state medical board issuing licenses, but the principle is the same: healthcare professionals must prove that they are remaining up to date on the latest scientific discoveries and best practices.
Your LMS should offer these professionals the ability to take courses and maintain an up-to-date transcript of all their courses, scores, and CE credits.
Don’t forget that professionals also frequently learn from conferences, networking meet-ups, and in-person educational experiences. If any of these opportunities offer credits, make sure that your members are able to manually enter these credits into your system so that they count towards their accreditation.
The most important features that your LMS should have to support your members in this capacity are:
- External credit claiming, so their careers can benefit from experiential learning
- Credit tracking and transcripts, so that your professionals are always aware of their status and accreditation
- Portfolio professional learning, so that your members can track their credits and courses from previous jobs or opportunities
These resources will help your members move forward and upwards in their careers. Don’t forget, depending on the industry in which you operate, to choose an LMS that offers courses that are compliant with your certification requirements.
5. Create engaging and interesting courses for your students
The final strategy for getting the most out of your software might seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be: you have to create courses that, while educational, are still fun and engaging. If your members feel like ripping out their hair in frustration while trying to complete a course, something is wrong.
The best way to create interesting courses for your learners, no matter the topic, is by combining smart software solutions with fun learning methods (and understanding what “fun” means to your target learner).
When you choose an LMS provider, look for software that provides a variety of learning strategies such as:
- Game-building capacities
- Webinar hosting
- Peer benchmarking
- Place-based live training
- Social learning opportunities
Instead of asking your learners to learn through rote memorization, give them opportunities to learn the material in a variety of fun and diverting ways. By switching up how you convey crucial information, your learners are more likely to engage with and learn the material.
Your LMS software should also allow you to easily create and duplicate courses, so you can spend less time figuring out the nuts and bolts of the software and more time designing and delivering quality content.
When your courses inspire members to continue learning, you’ll improve your member retention and learner engagement rates year over year.
For more help with choosing the right LMS provider for your association, check out this guide to the top LMS providers from Re:Charity.
With online, interactive continuing education technology, you can support your association members as they pursue their learning and career goals. Use our 5 easy engagement strategies to make their experience the best it can be.
If you're looking for more on education, look no further than Higher Logic's Education and Learning Success Kit. It's a compilation of all our favorite resources on strengthening your educational programs.