3 Member Certification Program Features Your Association Needs
As an association staffer, you know how important it is to support your members through all aspects of their careers. Between hosting networking events, distributing a current events newsletter, and keeping members in the know about policy regarding their field, you’re probably busy!
But let’s not forget one of the most important things that an association provides to its members: continuing education.
When your members are engaged in continuing education, they can propel themselves forward in their careers, learn more about other opportunities in their fields, and certify themselves as experts in various subjects.
In some industries, continuing education is even mandatory. For industries such as healthcare, teaching, and various trades, working professionals must earn a certain amount of credits every year in order to maintain their licensure.
Your association should be prepared to help your members maintain their accreditation and further their careers, but there are some opportunities that you can offer that will make that easier than ever.
The 3 best member certification program features that your association should offer are:
Online learning options.
Social learning opportunities.
Advanced credit management.
These features are broad, so we’ll break down the specifics of each one and how they’ll help your members maintain their certifications and enjoy themselves doing it. If you’re ready to learn more, let’s get started.
1. Online learning options.
When you offer your members a certification program through your association, you have to keep in mind their needs and preferences. For working professionals, this means that you should try to make your certification process as easy and convenient as possible.
As you plan your certification program, keep in mind that most of your members won’t have the time to sit in a brick-and-mortar classroom every day after work to make sure that they earn all of their credits. There are several ways that you can make learning easier for your members, so let’s lay a few of them out in more detail.
Choose a smart LMS.
If you haven’t already integrated an LMS, or learning management system, into your software stack, you should seriously consider it. This software makes creating and distributing courses easier than ever.
With the right LMS provider, you can offer certification courses directly through your association membership software. This means that your members will be able to access their learning software in the same place that they already use to network with other members, pay dues, and track association events.
An LMS will make it possible for your members to access their certification courses online anywhere, at any time. This will increase the likelihood that they’ll actually use the LMS (increasing your association’s non-dues revenue!) as well as increasing their overall satisfaction with the value that your association provides.
Don’t forget that many working professionals access the internet primarily through their phones or tablets. Choose an LMS that offers mobile-optimized and responsive course designs.
Once your LMS is online and your members are ready to start learning, it’s time to decide how best to convey the information for them to learn. You should be able to create courses in a variety of engaging ways, but one of the most useful may utilizing video.
Videos are more effective than reading out of the ‘textbook’, because most people are more receptive to being taught information by a real person.
Videos are also useful for associations that are people-centric like nursing, because they give learners the opportunity to interact directly with experts and ask situational questions. For more information on features that healthcare professionals might require in an LMS, check out this list from Web Courseworks.
Online learning options are crucial to expanding your learner base, because it makes education that much more accessible to everyone, no matter where they are.
2. Social learning opportunities.
Humans are social creatures by nature. That’s what drives the success of your association! We love to work with people like us to improve, whether that’s in school, at home, or in the office. Your association’s member certification program should offer your members the opportunity to work with and learn alongside their fellow members.
As you go, remember to track important metrics and incorporate them into your business intelligence strategy to give your members more of what they like and less of what they don’t.
There are a ton of different ways to support social learning, so we’ll just highlight a few of our favorites.
Forums and discussion boards.
An easy way to integrate social learning into your courses and certification programs is to offer your learners a space where they can talk to each other and share knowledge as a group. This eliminates the pressure of messaging someone you don’t know personally.
Forums are a great way to get people talking and sharing knowledge. A mediator like an association staffer or the instructor for the courses starts the discussion with a question about the subject matter, and that opens the floor to all of the learners to offer their input.
Members can offer their own thoughts, respond to other learners on their posts, and have genuine conversation through the LMS-facilitated forum. This Socratic method of learning is a proven way to engage members beyond just ‘sitting’ in a virtual classroom. When learners are asked to interact with the material through more engaging methods than just testing, they’ll come out with a better overall understanding.
Another great way to encourage social learning is to facilitate a peer-to-peer feedback routine in online courses. By this, we mean pairing students up or creating small groups in which learners can have their work read and critiqued by their peers. This offers learners the opportunity to share and learn from one another.
Because everyone engaged with your member certification program is going to be a working professional in your industry, everyone in the peer group will have something unique and valuable to contribute.
Peer-to-peer engagement also creates a networking opportunity for members—you never know when a classroom connection will turn into a business relationship!
While not everyone will have the time or capacity to attend a regional meetup, you may find that a majority of your learners do. Through features like geolocation registration, you can create groups of members involved in your certification courses based on region and facilitate live training and other networking opportunities.
Everyone learns best differently, so target your socially-driven learners with information about getting face-to-face time with other members and their instructor through place-based live training in their region.
For more help with your regional events, check out ePly’s event registration tools for associations!
3. Advanced credit management.
The whole purpose of your member certification program is to empower your members to take control of their education, pursue their careers further, and maintain their licensure in their chosen field so that they can continue to work.
One of the more difficult aspects of managing your member certification program is making sure that everything your members do is counted towards their certification!
Naturally, their continuing education will come from a variety of sources. Between conferences, in-person classes, networking events, and their online education, they have so much to keep track of in order to keep accurate records.
That’s where your LMS can help. In addition to being a way to produce and distribute certification courses, you can use it to create accurate transcripts for your members and log any credits that they earned outside of the LMS. Let’s break that down in more detail.
Your LMS will naturally track the courses that your members complete within it on their in-software transcript, but what about the courses that they took before? Or on a different LMS? Never fear. A strong LMS will empower your members to input their credits from other opportunities, so that all of their continuing education credits are stored in the same place.
This will give your members a place to create a professional portfolio, which will help them when they apply for promotions or new jobs in other companies than their current one.
Depending on your industry, your members may need to track multiple credit types per activity. Offering this opportunity empowers them to save time and achieve more, all while keeping track of it on a cloud-accessible transcript.
External credit tracking.
You want your members to take advantage of all the opportunities that they can, and that means that they may not earn all of their credits through your LMS. Other opportunities for learning include attending events in their industry, listening to podcasts or consuming other accredited media, or publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals.
These types of credits are all crucial to maintaining certification, earning certifications, or moving forward in one’s chosen field. Empower your members to take full advantage of these by choosing an LMS that supports external credit tracking.
With this feature, your members will be able to keep all of their credit-earning activities in one place, instead of having to keep multiple running lists to prove their efforts.
Plus, having one comprehensive transcript that contains all of a member’s credits makes it easy to submit to employers or certifying boards! Instead of sending multiple files, your members can just export their single transcript and send it right over. This eliminates a lot of stress during certification periods.
Your member certification program is one of the most valuable offerings that your association has. Make it even more helpful to your members by including some best practices for learning and engaging while they pursue excellence.
Need assistance integrating an LMS with your association’s AMS, CRM, or member management solution?
Our award-winning MemberPrime division helps associations extend and accelerate their iMIS systems through integrations, add-ons, and more. Contact BroadPoint’s MemberPrime division today to get started!
Author: Amber Bovenmyer, Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks - Amber Bovenmyer is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks. She’s committed to helping association executives realize the potential of their education programs and turn them into high performing revenue generators. Amber was named one of Madison, Wisconsin’s 40 under 40 and the number 1 LMS salesperson by Talented Learning.
BroadPoint’s MemberPrime division works with Web Courseworks, along with several other partners, to help our clients deliver excellent member experiences. Learn more about MemberPrime’s partners.