In my first few days at LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit aging services providers, I was googling “what is an LMS?” I had been hired in a new role to assist in growing LeadingAge’s “distance” learning offerings.
I had worked at smaller aging nonprofits, none of which had a robust online learning platform. I not only needed to learn more about the members we serve, but also what it means to have a large online learning presence. Over four years later, we just wrapped up our first year with a live learning management system we call the learning hub or “the hub.”
Where to start?
After two years of exploring how we could offer a more comprehensive online learning portfolio, it became apparent that, to reach more members with our education offerings, we needed a platform that would allow us to deliver content in a variety of formats. An LMS was the only answer.
In the first six months, we hired a consultant, sent out an RFP and explored demos with various vendors until we finally picked our LMS.
We convened a team of individuals from across the organization to help with branding, design and technical aspects. Involving the “right” people led to a smooth process and eventual launch. Our team worked on everything from the content to branding to integration with our AMS.
We set realistic expectations for launching, but we were intentional about repurposing old content, while experimenting with how to deliver new content. We made sure to include the evergreen content that was worthwhile to our members, but completely redesigned the delivery of it. It was more important to do it well than to do it fast.
As our first year has come to a close, we have seen 2,000 individuals create hub accounts, reaching 20% of our members through online content. Among those engaged with the hub, 15% are non-members, which means we are reaching potential new members.
Getting it to the members
Our marketing is focused on raising awareness that LeadingAge offers a robust online learning platform. We segment our email promotions to different audiences, call attention to resources related to specific causes (e.g. Mental Health Awareness Month), and leverage member listservs to highlight content relevant to each group.
We know we reach members who do not attend our conferences through these efforts; over 50% of those accessing content on the Hub have not attended our conference in the last three years. We want to build on this success and continue to expand our reach. Eventually, our dream is for members to go to the hub on their own when looking for educational resources.
This summer, we celebrated the hub’s first year; we were bold and offered our membership one-time complimentary access to all content. This was a prime opportunity to raise awareness and gain new learners.
Unlike most learning management platforms, we offer an assortment of products, price points and content lengths. We see choice as an important aspect of member value. However, we have been very conservative in the features we utilize on the platform as we learn more about how to develop them for our members; we can take more risks, experimenting with more interactive learning experiences.
Perhaps the question we will start to ask ourselves as this second year unfolds is “are we producing content fast enough to meet the education needs of our diverse membership?”
The keys to our success are:
- Teamwork makes the dreamwork! Always respect and value the expertise each team member brings to the table.
- Research is essential.
- Be intentional; always keep your audience in mind. Follow-up with your members and read the reviews and testimonials on your products.
- Have patience and be realistic with expectations. Getting it done fast does not mean it is done well.
- Don’t forget to have fun along the way and celebrate milestones. One idea is a launch event for your association to introduce staff to the new platform over lunch or treats!