Many membership organisations offer some form of online learning resources (elearning). Elearning tools include simple things like written articles or one-off videos through to multi-stage courses with professional accreditation.
This post will help you decide whether your membership organisation needs a full online learning management system (LMS) or whether your needs can be met using simpler tools for things like webinar hosting or content sharing.
Why do members want online learning?
It’s important to understand the needs and desires of your specific members so you can use the right tools to provide online learning. Members may be motivated to learn online based on one of the following reasons.
General interest learning
Your members are motivated by a general interest in the subject matter.
Voluntary or mandatory ‘continued professional development’
Your members may be inspired to voluntarily learn a new skill or subject. Professionals may be required to meet certain learning targets to continue practising.
Nonprofits and politically motivated organisations will often rely on volunteer participation. These volunteers may need to complete some training which you can deliver online
Other membership organisations deliver more in-depth multi-stage elearning courses, such as professional qualifications (which are often run in conjunction with an educational institution).
What are the most common elearning tools?
Written articles can be fairly easy to create and are widely accessible and searchable. Members can read at their own pace on any device and easily skip through to find the information they need. It’s harder to have a sense of progression and save progress while reading long or multi-stage articles.
Video content tends to be more engaging than written content and it can be easier to encourage your members to consume the content in a linear fashion. This is useful if you’re providing mandatory training for example. Video obviously requires different equipment and skill to create but if you’re happy with a relatively low production value you can achieve a lot relatively easily.
A live webinar is a good choice if you want more control over confirming that people have attended and completed a course. The live nature of a webinar requires less technical skills and practically zero editing. It also allows people to interact in real-time asking questions to make sure they have understood. You can also make a recording of the webinar available after the live session as well. For many membership organisations, their backlog of recorded webinars is a valuable resource for members.
Structured courses with assessments
Learning management software (LMS) becomes necessary if you want to offer structured, interactive courses. These could progress over multiple stages with tests or quizzes at each stage. Members can work at their own pace with easy ways to track their own progress.
LMS systems can be expensive and complex because they are often built for professional organisations whose primary focus is online education. Designing courses and assessments is also time-consuming. If you are considering an LMS it is therefore probably because you have already tried the simpler tools above and reached their natural limitations.
Here is a curated list of some of the best software platforms for managing your member-focused online learning resources.