Even before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed association members online to fulfill their learning needs, a massive generational shift in the workforce was already fueling demand for more virtual continuing education courses. According to Community Brands’ 2020 Association Trends study, 73 percent of early career professionals are primarily engaging with virtual learning options while a mere six percent are mostly interested in attending in-person events.

In order to remain relevant and deliver value to younger members, association professionals need to dedicate more of their continuing education resources to building courses and content delivery methods that facilitate online learning. One of the best ways to do this is by offering credit-based courses that help members maintain professional certification requirements.

Continuing Education for Professionals

While certain industries require rigorous testing and intensive coursework to maintain certification status, most professions only need to comply with the continuing education requirements set down by the states that issue their licenses. Attorneys practicing in the State of New York, for example, must follow the continuing legal education (CLE) rules laid out by the New York State CLE Board, which is a joint project by the state’s courts and the New York State Bar Association.

Each state maintains its own set of guidelines, but professional development requirements across individual industries tend to be quite similar. They typically call for practitioners to earn a number of continuing education course credits each year in order to keep their license in good standing. These requirements seek to maintain a delicate balance between the need for professionals to stay informed about the latest developments in their field and the amount of time they spend actually working in the industry.

Associations have traditionally helped members meet these learning needs with in-person events like seminars, workshops, and conferences. Most association professionals continue to prioritize these types of events above online alternatives, despite the shifting preferences of their members. By transitioning to more virtual delivery methods for continuing education content, they can keep learners engaged and generate additional sources of non-dues revenue.

Earning Credit for Continuing Education Courses

Fortunately, associations don’t have to create complex virtual courses to help members earn credit toward their ongoing development requirements. Most professions have relatively modest standards for what counts as a live learning experience. Typically, there only needs to be some form of interactive element that helps ensure that the learner is actually engaging with the material.

Live webinars or webcasts from a place-based event both certainly meet this criteria since attendees can interact with the speakers through a Q&A or have ongoing conversations with other viewers through a chat feature. However, previously recorded webinars can also incorporate interactive elements provided they’re delivered as scheduled rebroadcasts that function similarly to live sessions. A moderator or even the original presenter can log on during the rebroadcast to field questions in a live Q&A or direct additional discussions in a chat. Checkpoints can also be set up to ensure that viewers are engaged with the session.

These types of courses are great for associations with members that need to take part in live learning events as part of their continuing education requirements. Webinars, in particular, are inexpensive to produce and have a quick turnaround. They’re also easy to repurpose for a scheduled rebroadcast, which allows organizations to make them available to busy learners who may not be able to attend the original event. This is particularly useful for industries like the legal field and healthcare, which have numerous specialty areas and would be difficult to accommodate throughout the year with traditional coursework. Delivering a combination of live and rebroadcast online learning content that covers hot topics and important industry trends is one of the best ways to help association members meet their professional development obligations.

Choosing the Right Platform for Continuing Education Courses

After associations put together a learning strategy that accommodates the online education needs of their members, they need a delivery platform that makes it easy to track engagement and issue credits for attending those courses. An ideal learning management system (LMS) should not only integrate smoothly with an organization’s existing association management system (AMS) or customer relationship management (CRM) platform to update member information as credits are earned, but also provide the tools to turn learning resources into a source of revenue.

Better data on member learning trends can help associations promote their continuing education content more effectively, marketing upcoming virtual content to learners who have yet to meet their requirements for the year or previously viewed related content. After online courses have been scheduled multiple times, they can then be converted into on-demand courses and indexed in a larger learning library. This creates an ongoing cycle of learning content creation that keeps the calendar full and provides plenty of “just-in-time” learning material that can be marketed to both members and non-members.

Delivering Your Continuing Education Courses with Freestone

The Freestone online learning platform is an ideal solution for associations looking to expand their content strategy with webinars, webcasts, and on-demand courses. The intuitive viewer interface makes it easy for presenters to interact with viewers while also empowering those viewers to navigate learning material, converse with fellow learners, and get credit for participating in live continuing education courses, even if the course itself was a rebroadcast. Freestone integrates seamlessly into multiple AMS and CRM platforms to streamline member management, track learning engagement, and generate revenue.

To learn more about how Freestone can help your learners earn credit to meet their continuing education course requirements, talk to one of our LMS experts today to set up a free demo.

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