Three Reasons to bring your Community into your Online Education Programs

Three Reasons to bring your Community into your Online Education Programs

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present at the 2019 Higher Logic Super Forum, on the topic of community-based learning.  At the start of the session, I discussed the difference between training and learning.  I suggested that training tends to be one dimensional or instructional, in support of a specific process or job with a singular path towards the end goal.  Learning can be described as a multi-dimensional approach, that links educational experience and work performance.  It focuses on personal qualities and situational decision making.  Too often online education programs that fit well into the learning space are structured as training.  The problem is, there is little space created for engagement, conversation and sharing of ideas and this leads to minimal learner to learner or learner to instructor engagement.

A way to address this situation is to create space for sharing of ideas, reflection and connection among participants. This was one of the initial goals when we formed a close partnership with Higher Logic to bring learning and community together as a single offering.  While we have had some success achieving this on a macro level with an integrated user experience (UX), a single menu structure and seamless integration, we have not had great progress on a content level.

In my talk yesterday, I made the case that if you are offering online learning that is enhanced from a collaboration among participants, an integration of your community and LMS on a program level makes a lot of sense.  Here are three benefits of integrating discussions within your online course, virtual conference or webinar offerings:

  • Your community members have already taken time to set up their profile and participate in the community. They can now leverage that presence to engage fellow learners in a more focused way. Adding online education to their participation makes them more active and creates synergy between the two platforms, therefore increasing participation.
  • Satisfaction with a course will be enhanced when there is the opportunity to share ones ideas or thoughts with other learners.
  • Adding discussions provides a continuum of what is learned. It provides participants the opportunity to continue with the topic once the course is completed.

Recently, CommPartners enhanced its integration between Higher Logic’s Community and CommPartners’ Elevate LMS.  Is it time for you to make this a priority in 2020?


If you have questions on how to move forward with community based learning, contact Meghan Gowen, VP of Client Development at mgowen@commpartners.com
Five Key Considerations to Selecting an Association LMS Company

Five Key Considerations to Selecting an Association LMS Company

We’ve noticed that among many organizations, a primary focus for their RFPs is to ensure that the platform selected meets a defined set of requirements. The review process of narrowing down a list of providers, tends to be based on which companies can satisfy those requirements.  The company you will be working with is typically a secondary consideration, but should it be?  Here are five considerations when identifying the ideal company to support your LMS platform.

  1. How has the company developed and evolved?
    • Have they grown organically over many years and have an established staff with a long tenure? Alternatively if the LMS was part of an acquisition, how was it handled?  After the transition, did a core group stay on to provide continuity?   Has the mission or focus changed?  Companies that are home grown tend to have a more singular focus on the client and not worried about politics and mixing in with other internal forces.
  2. Do they have a positive culture?
    • Do you sense that their staff is happy and fulfilled?  The platform you are selecting is the tangible component of your decision, however the relationship you are establishing will most likely be, at minimum a few years.  So like any relationship, is this a company that you feel confident and comfortable engaging with on a regular basis?
  3. Does the company have a reputation for listening to client ideas or requests and incorporating that input in their development process?
    • The set of features within the LMS you are selecting is a moment in time.  This is not necessarily an indication of what the platform will be like a year from now, or multiple years from now.  It’s important to learn about how the platform will evolve and whether the company will take your future online education needs into consideration when making these updates. 
  4. How are their reviews?
    • Some of the best platform feedback and advice that your organization can receive are client reviews.  We have found that ReviewMyLMS is an excellent source of information because it focuses specifically on the association community.  It recognizes that the way association LMS options are evaluated is different than other markets.
  5. What complimentary solutions does the company offer that can bring value to your organization?
    • Are there additional services that can extend the effectiveness of your platform, such as, instructional design, course development, livestreaming, content capture and webinar production?  Being able to work with an all-in-one company on content and the LMS platform reduces complexity and leads to a more seamless result.

We all understand that a priority is selecting an LMS platform that will meet specific feature requirements.  However, it’s also important to consider that the company you sign a contract with can have a profound impact on the platform’s future success.

To learn more about Elevate LMS or our suite of online event solutions, please contact Meghan Gowen at mgowen@commpartner.com.
The Decision to Livestream: How We Have Evolved

The Decision to Livestream: How We Have Evolved

Ten years ago, CommPartners introduced livestream services with a focus on helping organizations, extend their reach and value of their place based conferences.  The rationale at the time was that only a small percentage of our communities are able to attend onsite, leaving a significant number unengaged with these premiere education and networking events.  We felt adding a livestream would be positively received.  We realized through our initial client conversations, this wasn’t necessarily the case.

One of the reasons for the slow adaption rate was within organization structures, conference and meetings and online education were not always aligned as complementary elements of an education strategy.   A livestream presents the intersection of these two areas.  Organizations were not internally set to address this new opportunity.  Specifically the conference and meetings folks were hesitant to invest in any initiative that might take away from the number of onsite attendees.

Fast forward ten years later, we are seeing significant movement of organizations embracing the chance to increase their audience to more than just the people that attend onsite.  So why is this happening now and how can you leverage this opportunity?

We believe there has been a breakthrough for three reasons:

  1. There is greater recognition that attending online vs. onsite are unique experiences, with different motivations and expectations for participating. The fear of losing onsite attendees to an online offering have not materialized.  Alternatively, if presented in the right way, adding a livestream component, will grow the audience and can inspire online attendees to attend onsite for subsequent years.
  2. Increasingly our members and extended community staffs are working from home full time or several days per week. We are increasingly comfortable managing our work from a distant location and collaborating through our electronic devices.
  3. Host organizations are realigning how they present content with less focus on how it is originated. The emergence of online education and learning management systems that have become centralized knowledge communities are being used increasingly as central repositories for conference content, virtual events and eLearning programs.

With greater appreciation and emphasis  on livestreaming we have become more educated and strategic about how to position, price and deliver these programs. Provided below are considerations and approaches to help you generated positive results from your investment.

Position Your Livestream Programs for Success

We know attending an event remotely, without the energy of a crowd or being at a venue  is vastly different than attending alone, through your computer screen.  Therefore to have a successful outcome, the planning process should be based on understanding the virtual learner and planning accordingly. Having an alternative or parallel remote participant plan to actively engage online attendees moves them from passive observer to active participant.  Ideas include:

  • Have programming for just the virtual audience such as pre or post session interviews, pre-produced content, facilitated chats, raffles or giveaways.
  • Have an on camera MC for the virtual audience stimulating chats, submitting questions to speakers, and engaging remote attendees.
  • Make sure presenters incorporate the virtual audience in their session by looking at the camera, mentioning virtual attendees and having exercises available if the onsite audience is involved in an activity.
  • Use a platform that offers engagement features to blend the remote audience with the onsite audience such as live polls, crowdsourcing and contests.
  • Ask virtual audience members to upload their picture or groups they are participating with in the collaboration area to give the event a community feel.
  • Show a live map of where virtual attendees are logging in from.

Price Your Livestream to Strategically Fit Your Goals

Clients ask us all the time, how should we price our event?  Before considering pricing, it’s important to confirm strategy and your reasons for offering the live stream.  Some questions you want to consider are:

  • What is the value or uniqueness of the content we are providing?
  • Are we issuing credit for this program?
  • Are the speakers we have well known and would they attract an audience?
  • Do we draw onsite attendees from certain geographical areas or level of experience in our community?
  • Are we at capacity for our onsite event?
  • Are we using the livestream to attract participants to our community or our brand, onboard new members that can’t afford to travel, extend the conference experience, promote attendance for subsequent onsite conferences or a combination of all of all of these?

Based on responses to these questions, you can decide if you want to price your program at a full conference rate similar to the onsite event or attract more online participants with a lower, easy decision rate. In considering revenue goal, sponsorship and / or a virtual exhibit hall  can help offset the attendance fees and assure your program meets your budget objectives.

Deliver or Produce Your Livestream in a Professional and Engaging Manner

While education strategy is critical for online events, the production quality will be noticed and is critical to the program’s success. The goal is to have remote attendees feel they are onsite and have a front row seat. We recommend the following:

  • Consider a room or multiple rooms to hold all your virtual event sessions that work well as a virtual setting. Think about it as a studio with excellent acoustics, visuals, camera positioning and sound.
  • Use your onsite audience to build energy in the program form the virtual audience. Include roving microphones and camera shots to capture audience engagement.
  • Use the virtual MC to have a prominent role representing remote participants. Have him or her on camera introducing questions to the speakers.
  • Use lower third name graphics to identify who is speaking.
  • Consider multiple cameras to switch shots and views.
  • Have a remote interview area in a public place that attracts onsite attendees in the audience.
  • Consider an eye in the sky mounted camera to cut to transitions to provide the remote audience a sense of the energy at the event.

There appears to be a realization that a livestream is an excellent way to expand an organization’s reach and impact.  Providing the opportunity to participate online says to your community that you value their involvement regardless of where they are geographically or what stage in their professional life they may be.


If you are interested in discussing the opportunity for a  livestream for your organization, contact Meghan Gowen, VP Client Development at mgowen@commpartners.com.

3 Ways to Make Your Conference Website More Accessible

3 Ways to Make Your Conference Website More Accessible

In the past five years there has been increased focus from technology companies on making their Web based applications accessible to all participants.  At CommPartners, we recently teamed with eSSENTIAL Accessibility to provide assisted technologies to support access and usage of our Elevate LMS to those with physical challenges.  In that spirit we are pleased to post this blog from Michael Doane, Marketing Manager at Cadmium CD.

Conferences and trade shows provide education and opportunity to a wide range of people with different abilities. It is more important than ever to make sure these people can access the full range of opportunities your event has to offer, both online and onsite. That’s why many tech companies are embracing website accessibility standards like WCAG 2.1.

Michelle Wyatt, CadmiumCD co-founder and CEO, says, “As a software company that services and supports global users with various backgrounds and needs, we take it as our duty to uphold this mission to the best of our ability.”

What is WCAG 2.1 AA Accessibility?

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.” Its goal is to, “make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations” (source).

Is compliance compulsory?

While these standards are not required by law for private companies, the EU does require all public sector websites to adhere to WCAG 2.1 equivalent standards (source). This includes products sold to or used by public sector organizations.

For now, US public sector sites only require 2.0 standard, but will likely adopt 2.1 standards in the near future as more organizations understand the need for modern accessibility standards.

Meghan Capiaghi, Lead Accessibility Developer, recently shared some tips on how CadmiumCD is making certain products more accessible (watch the recording).

Here are her 3 main tips on making your conference website more accessible:

1. Create Contrast on Your Site

Colors are an important factor for accessibility. To be truly accessible to those with visual impairments, your site must have a contract ratio of at least 4.5:1.

To determine if your selected colors meet the requirements, check out this website: https://webaim.org/resources/ contrastchecker/

2. Use Instructional Language

“Click this Button” makes no sense to someone who uses voice commands. Get creative with your language to reflect a wider audience. “Use this button” may be more appropriate.

3. Don’t Forget About PDFs

Do you share PDFs on your conference website site? Any documents linked from your site must also meet accessibility standards outlined by the W3C’s WCAG 2.1 initiative.

To learn more about how to create accessible documents, refer to this website: https://www.section508.gov/create

Additional Resources

  • An introduction to WCAG 2.1 standards can be found on the W3C website.
  • CadmiumCD has created a resource for clients who would like to uphold WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards, which can be accessed here.

 


Michael-Doane
About Michael Doane

Michael Doane is marketing manager at CadmiumCD, makers of the myCadmium software platform, an award-winning suite of conference and trade show management products. Visit the CadmiumCD blog for more articles like this.

ASID Accomplishes Education Mission Through Elevate LMS

ASID Accomplishes Education Mission Through Elevate LMS


Read the Full Story
Commpartners had the opportunity to speak with the American Society of Interior Design about their success with implementing CommPartners Elevate LMS.  As an organization who focuses on the design and aesthetic of beautiful interiors, it was important that their platform encompassed a clean and cohesive design to match their brand.  This led to one of their main deciding factors to be the ability to work with the CP team to create a fully customized site to their specifications.

ASID identified a number of core requirements they wanted to address with a new LMS, stated in the bullets below.  Click the case study to learn how they overcame these challenges by utilizing Elevate LMS.

  • Provide a seamless user experience where the LMS is fully integrated with ASID’s web presence and database
  • Match ASID’s mission by focusing on design of attractive imagery and navigation elements that allow learners to easily access their content
  • Ensure an engaging mobile experience
  • Support learners’ desire for well conceived and developed on demand content.

 

“Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.”

“Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.”

I’m a big fan of the author James Clear who writes about the formation of habits. I believe (good!) habits are an important element of success (I’ve written about it before.)

In a recent blog post, Clear wrote: “Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.” Read another way, this is the old adage of don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Or don’t let perfection be your target, because you’ll always fail.

I see this very commonly when discussing the integration of systems with clients (e.g., AMS and LMS). The optimal situation is a real-time, two-way integration between the two systems so that data is shared immediately.

But this often proves to be very time-consuming and expensive to develop (and sometimes can’t be developed!). So rather than a two-way, real-time integration we opt for a two-way passing of data on a schedule (e.g., once per day). Optimal? No. Beneficial? Absolutely.

So when considering changes to process or technology within your organization, keep in mind that while the change might not be optimal, it can be beneficial, and that’s what we’re looking for.

This guest blog post/article first appeared at www.effectivedatabase.com and is repurposed with permission.

 


Wes Trochlil is a published author on data management in the association market. He helps organizations move data management from a cost center to a revenue generator.