Organizations that conduct training programs,
certification or accreditation for attendees can greatly expand
their reach and revenue by putting their classes online. While at
first this might seem a daunting task, it can be quite simple. In
fact, a number of companies specialize in this arena.
Over the past few years, Internet-based learning has become a
natural extension of face-to-face meetings. The rapidly falling
costs of Internet services and the proliferation of higher-speed
connections make it possible for associations to deliver content,
education and testing worldwide.
Several companies offer complete online course services
covering everything from the initial production to systems that
track online attendees, manage tests and evaluation, and even print
Following is a sampling of firms specializing in online
solutions. (In most cases, pricing varies widely, based on specific
BlackBoard (www.blackboard.com). Based in Phoenix, this firm’s
AcademicSuite offers modules such as the BlackBoard Learning
System, with which organizations can develop learning content and
direct students to various courses and tests.
Learn.com (www.learn.com). This Sunrise, Fla.-based firm’s
LearnCenter is targeted to business and corporate training. The
company’s eAgents module utilizes the Agent technology built into
Microsoft operating systems to create “talking heads,” or on-screen
narrators who help maintain participants’ attention.
CertiLearn (www.certilearn.com). Based in McLean, Va. CertiLearn
uses technology from software development firm IntraLearn (www.intralearn.com)
and repackages it for the association and education market. It
wraps a number of modules around the core learning application and
is used by many associations, including the Washington, D.C.-based
American Society of Association Executives.
CourseWebs (www.course webs.com). This Louisville,
Ky.-based firm has a Learning Management System offered as a hosted
solution for a $129 setup fee and $99 per month for unlimited
Factors to Weigh
A few items to keep in mind when considering taking your
" What presentation methods will be used, i.e., PowerPoint
slides, streaming video and/or audio, or an indexed study
" What kind of testing capabilities are required? Will tests be
graded online? Does the format allow weighting (giving different
point values) for different questions? Is there a question bank so
the organization can alter the questions as it sees fit?
" Will your organization charge a fee to those taking the
course and/or the test? If so, make sure the provider can create a
shopping cart with a secure online credit card processing
An alternative solution is to have participants pay via the
organization’s main website, which will give them an access key or
login to obtain materials.
" Will speakers or authors whose works are used in online
courses require royalties and/or additional payment? Be sure to get
a signed release from them in advance. Also, find out what fees the
suppliers of online learning collect from every transaction.
" Lastly, remember the most important factor in a successful
online education program is marketing. Be sure to promote these
programs and make it easy for your audience to find the site and
the materials they are interested in. Provide links to download
necessary video or indexing software, and make sure participants’
privacy is protected at all times.