Tech-Enabled Learning Events: What’s Now and Next?

The Association Learning + Technology 2016 report reveals that an overwhelming majority of associations offer technology-enabled learning like webcasts, virtual conferences, and self-paced tutorials. Learn just how they're using these tools and how the trend may evolve.

I usually spend the majority of this blog discussing how associations help educate their members and prospects through in-person meetings and events. But, as you are well aware, that’s not the only way associations deliver education.

As the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase, so will the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.

According to Association Learning + Technology 2016, published earlier this month by Tagoras, Inc., and sponsored by YM Learning, 87.4 percent of respondents said their organizations use technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning. This can be in the form of webcasts, webinars, self-paced tutorials, virtual conferences, blended education, and so forth.

Coauthors Celisa Steele and Jeff Cobb examine the use of technology to enable and enhance learning as well as emerging trends that will cause learning to evolve in the next few years—all based on survey responses from 174 participants.

Let’s take a closer look at some results from the survey that show where associations stand in three different areas. The findings may help make the case for tweaking your association’s technology-enabled learning strategy, particularly if you can increase your organization’s nondues revenue.

Types of Learning

The survey asked respondents using technology for learning about five emerging learning formats: massive open online courses (MOOCs), flipped classes, gamified learning, digital badges, and microlearning.

Microlearning, a new addition to the survey since the last one in 2014, shows the highest rate of adoption (18.1 percent), with another third of respondents planning for it in the coming 12 months.

“The current and planned use reported by respondents confirms our sense of the growing importance of offering small-size learning, though not necessarily to the exclusion of deeper dives,” Steele and Cobb write.

Flipped classes are the second-most-popular emerging type of learning, with 14.4 percent saying they currently offer the format. While the other three—MOOCs, gamified learning, and digital badges—are offered by less than 10 percent of respondents, the latter seems to have the most potential for associations, with 25 percent saying they have plans to introduce digital badges in the near future.

“Microcredentials are natural territory for associations and logically connect to microlearning,” the authors write. “Learners increasingly appreciate and seek out ways to demonstrate their ongoing learning in what we term ‘the other 50 years’—the typical lifespan after adults leave higher education.”

Staff leadership

For the first time, the survey asked if someone in the organization holds the title of chief learning officer (CLO) or a similar C-level title that references learning, education, or knowledge.

More than 40 percent of respondents said yes, and the survey data offers at least one argument in favor of a CLO-type position: Organizations with a CLO or similar position are more likely to report increased net revenue from their use of technology for learning than organizations without someone in that role (66 percent versus 43.2 percent).

“The CLO question strikes us as a good barometer for the amount of respect and emphasis given to learning in the organization,” said Steele in a press release. “As the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase, so will the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.”

Learning Reinforcement

Another question new to this year’s survey asked whether organizations are using technology to repeat, reinforce, or sustain learning after participants complete an educational product or service.

Nearly a third (31.5 percent) said they do, and 29.4 percent said they plan to do so in the coming year. But perhaps most interesting: 14 percent said they’re not sure if they’re currently doing it.

Some examples of efforts among those who do:

  • microlearning tasks delivered by email
  • virtual coaching with an instructor as follow-up to a formal online course
  • weekly scenario-based questions followed by feedback

“[G]iven the need to reinforce learning if it’s to stick and not be forgotten, we’d like to see near universal adoption of reinforcement techniques,” Steel and Cobb write.

How will your association’s technology-enabled learning offerings change in the upcoming year? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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