Report highlights growing pains of association e-learning
ASAE's past economic surveys have shown that the difficulties for in-person meetings and educational programs in the past few years have led to high hopes for online education to fill the gap. A new report from association learning consultancy Tagoras shows that a high percentage of associations are indeed investing in technology-enabled learning, but they report mixed results in two key categories: overall usage and revenue production.
Among respondents to the Association Learning + Technology 2011: State of the Sector survey, slightly more said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with course enrollment and revenue generation than those who said they were somewhat or very satisfied.
The good news is that 63.5 percent of the survey respondents said they rate their associations' overall use of e-learning as "somewhat successful," and 15 percent call it "very successful." Authors Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele offer some insight into the practices that are common among that 15 percent:
"We found that organizations that consider themselves to be very successful were significantly more likely than average to do the following:
- View revenue generation as a key benefit.
- Make use of professional instructional design.
- Have a formal, documented e-learning strategy.
- Have a formal, documented product development process.
- Embrace more interactive forms of e-learning (e.g., facilitated and blended offerings, use of discussion boards, games, and simulations)."
As Cobb and Steele put it, "E-learning has arrived in the association sector but remains far from mature." Surely complicating that maturation process is that the growth in options for learning technology has coincided with difficult financial times for the associations that are hopeful about their potential.
The practices of the ones that are making it work, though, aren't revolutionary, but surprisingly few are deploying those practices: "[R]elatively few organizations with active e-learning programs have developed a formal [e-learning] strategy (22.0 percent) [or] created a product development process (22.9 percent)," according to the report.
I'm curious if this lack of thorough development for e-learning strategy and process is the standard byproduct of the overworked and underresourced association or if the relative youth of e-learning as a discipline makes plotting out a strategy more difficult.
Interested to hear your thoughts. And keep an eye on the Tagoras blog, where Cobb says he plans to explore the report in more detail in coming weeks.