Developing Online Learning Strategies in a Virtual World

Revamping your online learning strategy for the new virtual world? Here are a few steps to follow.

By Brian Smith, Communications Specialist   

Many association members are fierce believers in the idea of “forever learning. Well beyond post-secondary education, many in the association space maintain a student’s curiosity. But how do you feed that curiosity in our new virtual world? 

In Protech’s recent webinar with Blue Sky eLearn’s VP of Association Solutions Liam O’Malley, Liam touched on the complete transformation in online learning that he’s seen in just a few short months. To no surprise, the high demand for online learning software has sparked rapid innovation, leaving association managers with little time to adapt to their members’ needs.  

While many associations found virtual tools to cover the basic requirements of online learning in a time of crisis, there’s an opportunity for more growth. With that in mind, here are some actionable tips for your association’s professional development team to take your online learning strategy to new heights. 

Map the Online Learning Content Strategy 

Before you dive deep into technology criteria to elevate your online learning offerings, you’ll want to answer a seemingly simple, but very open-ended question: “Why are our members seeking online education?” 

After some brainstorming, try your hand at mapping an online journey that members will want to follow. Developing an online journey can be challenging, so here are two steps to get you started: 

Step 1: Develop a Content Strategy  

In this step, you’ll want to map out an editorial calendar of sorts. Find out what your members are looking to learn. Send surveys to members and staff, or peruse your online community for additional in-depth observations. That will be your best bet in discovering overall themes and topics.

Use what you’ve learned to develop content ideas that can be used in video and webinar production for online courses. 

Step 2: Emphasize Cross-department Coordination & Content Development  

Staff buy-in is crucial in content development. Without a strong set of thought leaders and subject matter experts, it will be challenging to create the innovative content that your members want. Remember, your organization is an industry expert. Members don’t come to you seeking the same old ideas they could find in a Google search. They’re looking for unique and creative solutions to common problems.

With staff buy-in, you’ll have plenty of resources highlight those unique solutions. 

Leverage Existing (and/or New) Technologies 

With a content strategy in place, you’ll need to determine whether your organization’s current tech tools will be able to meet your new needs. 

As Liam noted in the webinar, you’ll need to utilize and coordinate data from your LMS, AMS, finance solution, online community platform, mobile apps and social media to develop content for your educational programs. While your AMS operates in the background, members are also interacting with your CMS and receiving marketing emails, with webinar links that take them to an LMS solution 

So, how do you make sure all those platforms will work together seamlessly to put your new initiatives into place quickly and securely? Prioritize your current technology infrastructure and collaborate with your software partners to execute their best practices.

Closing Thoughts on Online Learning 

Sure, your association’s members may have finished school, but they will likely rely on your organization for continued professional development. And while many of the popular online learning tools have been around for some time, the rapid innovation that’s occurring in the industry means associations need to find new ways to adequately educate the next generation of learners. 

Associations that are progressive in their approaches to online learning will foster long-term relationships with members and develop new opportunities for non-dues revenue. 

Looking for other ways to support your members’ professional development? Download our free webinar, “Boost Membership & Non-dues Revenue in a Virtual World with Open Communities.”