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The Unexpected Problem with Your Association’s Online Learning Program (and How to Fix It)

Written by Molly Talbert | on October 11, 2017 at 8:30 AM

The unexpected problem with your association's online learning program 

Did you know, according to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of American adults consider themselves lifelong learners?

Education is a huge benefit associations can provide for their members, and online education is a great way of providing it. And today, with learning management system (LMS) options that seamlessly integrate with your online community, it’s possible to create a centralized member experience that includes education and certifications of all types.There’s just one problem—according to the same research done by the Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults hesitate to embrace digital learning. Clearly there’s a need and desire for learning, but some friction connecting learning with the digital world. And that friction is caused by the ‘digital readiness gap.’

What Is the Digital Readiness Gap?

Digital readiness describes how willing people are to use digital solutions or tools. That willingness comes down to two factors: trust and skills. So, how much people trust a digital tool or solution (such as e-learning) and how adept they are at using it.

E-learning is not the first industry by far to come up against a digital readiness gap—and get past it. Think of online dating or even online shopping—people used to be hesitant to put their credit card number online to buy things, much less look for their soulmate online. Now we don’t think twice about buying anything from airplane tickets to toilet paper online and most people couldn’t care less if you met your spouse on Tinder or Match.com.

Not only are associations poised well to offer elearning to their members, they’re also well positioned to usher those members into the age of e-learning and bridge the digital readiness gap some members may be facing.

How to Bridge the Digital Readiness Gap

Chances are, if your association already has a well used online community, your member’s digital readiness gap isn’t enormous. Maybe you won’t even have trouble enticing your members to take advantage of your elearning options. But if you do find resistance, there are steps you can take to bring members onboard to the digital learning era.

Build Trust

Members need to trust—that the learning experience is valid, will have valuable information, that their information is safe, that it’s worth their time—if they’re going to try it out. Here are some ways to build trust amongst your members:

  • Integrate your LMS with your online community: Your members are already used to using your online community and trust it as a platform. By integrating your online community and your LMS through single-sign-on, you can create a seamless member experience. And making it seamless is an important part of maintaining their trust. Nobody likes to click on a link and be brought to an unfamiliar website where they have to create a login. Keep it simple and contained.
  • Badges and gamification: A healthy amount of social pressure is a good way to encourage members to dip their toes into elearning. By giving members who have completed certain courses or certifications badges, members can see who else uses your LMS resources.

The community itself will help validate the experience as members share and engage with one another in an environment they trust and feel secure. Hearing from other colleagues about their own e-learning experience will grow interest and confidence in e-learning as a smart choice.

Build Skills

Although most of your members can probably dive right into your well crafted elearning experience, don’t forget about less adept members. Make sure you create a few resources to show those members what an elearning course looks like and what they can expect if they sign up. Member testimonials from those who have already benefited will help build interest and belief that taking the plunge into e-learning is accessible and valuable.

You may want to consider creating  simple documents to entice new users, such as one-page brochures, discussion groups to encourage questions, or even a short webinar to introduce the concept and giving members a tour. You never know what will give a member that extra push toward the e-learning experience.

Let Your Association Lead the Way

Just because your members might experience a digital readiness gap that prevents them from diving right into your elearning options, don’t give up right away. Your online community was a great first step in shortening that gap. Since it’s already a place of learning and camaraderie, it’s a natural training ground to grow excitement about online learning amongst your association members.

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Engagement, Associations, Online Community

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