Embracing the New Association Learning Models

Long gone are the days when associations could simply offer a library of content alongside standard membership benefits and expect to see the same high-achieving retention numbers. Today, members are looking for something more, and for many, associations are valuable because they’re now viewed as the alternative—and much more cost-effective—solution to higher education.

So how does an association with limited resources and staff take on this new role in its members’ lives? I’ll be the first to say this is no easy feat. It takes an association staff that has come to terms with the notion that the way things have always been done may not be the wisest way to do them now. Your board and staff will have to buckle up and embrace the bumpy road ahead, one filled with growing pains and learning curves. But on the other hand, you might just get back those attractive retention stats that kept your board happy and your association on the right track. Let’s look at how that can happen.

Step 1: Prep With a Pop Quiz. To effectively take on this new relationship with your members, you have to shift your mindset into that of a teacher. Think back to your first days of school, when your teacher uttered the spine-chilling words “pop quiz.” Yes, most of us hated those moments, but what we didn’t know or consider was that, by administering a pop quiz, our teachers were simply trying to get to know us. They wanted to gauge where we were within our educational progression so they could ultimately cater to our specific needs.

Associations can apply this same methodology; when members first arrive on your association website, give them a pop quiz. What better way to engage individuals than to ask them questions about themselves? Upon quiz completion, members should have a recommended learning path in front of them, and you should have all the data you need to move each person correctly through your group’s library of content. And while you’re at it, offer a pricing discount to members who purchase their entire learning path right off the bat.

Step 2: Create Content Buckets and Learning Paths. A lot of associations think they need to start from square one to build learning paths, but the truth is, you can probably repurpose your existing content and use a lot of what you already have. This exercise will certainly force you to parse through your course library and rid it of programs that haven’t been relevant since the ’90s, but you probably should do that anyway, right?

Once your educational catalog is healthy, group your content into buckets, and within the buckets, create a path. From there, you’ll need the right technology to make this all come together. When you’re shopping around for an LMS (learning management system) or AMS (association management system), look for ones that have learning path tools to make this step as easy as possible for your staff and your members. The user experience is key here—anything that doesn’t live up to a good experience probably won’t work for the long haul.

Step 3: Score Data Like a Marketer. Marketers love their data and their scoring. They assign metrics to all prospects that come into contact with their business in hopes of nurturing them and moving them along to the next stage in the buyer cycle. This same practice works for association education staffers.

You probably have an association management system in place right now that tracks all of your member data. All associations do. Scoring is that extra step that will set your organization apart. Take your data and make it meaningful. Group your members into scoring categories and use the information to build content strategy for each group.

There is no doubt about it. Associations are not what they used to be—they’re better. Embracing personalized learning and deeper analytics is the first step any association can take to recognizing its greater role as the nucleus for professional growth and career advancement.