We sat down with JJ Area, the Education Programs Manager at AILA, to understand their educational programs and how they have developed over the years.
Who is AILA?
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is comprised of more than 15,000 attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law. Our mission is two-fold: to increase the level of knowledge and professionalism of our members and to encourage advocacy before Congress, the Judiciary, the Federal Agencies, and the media, for immigration-related interests. The association was established to promote fair and just immigration policy, advance the quality of immigration law, and enhance the professional development of its members.
Where does education fit into the overall structure at AILA?
All of AILA’s members have to be licensed to practice law in one of the US jurisdictions, and most of the jurisdictions require continuing legal education (CLE) courses. This means we have a built-in audience. Additionally, a large portion of our members are solo practitioners, so they aren’t members of large firms that have a large financial backing. Therefore, anytime we can offer quality education and save them a bit of money, they appreciate it.
One of our strategic goals is to increase the knowledge and professionalism of members so our education program is one of the main ways we accomplish that. We want people to have the most current information available. We offer a podcast feed as a way to disseminate information that we want to get out quickly and at no cost. These tend to be niche topics that we don’t feel our members would necessarily see a big return on investment for, therefore, our podcasts are a way to provide the information without a price point.
Can you describe the evolution of your learning programs?
I’ve been with AILA since 2010, and there have definitely been some ebbs and flows. When we began our distance learning offerings, there was a big rush initially since our members hadn’t seen this from us and found it as an easy, affordable way to earn CLE credit. As time went on, other organizations also began offering CLE courses and the market was saturated; our numbers dipped a bit, so we had to adapt. We have done that in a number of ways.
We started offering live webcasts of some in-person conferences to provide something a little more polished and technologically savvy. Also, rather than listening on the phone you can see somebody there in front of you on your computer and ask questions live, so you have that interaction. This is a new way for people to participate, earn CLEs, and save on travel cost. Plus, we have the recording of the webcast, which we sell and offer to participants to view anything they may have missed.
We heard from our members that they wanted more on-demand content considering their busy and unpredictable schedules. The webcasts and seminar recordings can be done at their own pace and have proven very successful.
How has CommPartners aided in the evolution and growth of your learning programs?
We have worked with CommPartners since 2007. We began with audio seminars, then webinars, and now livestream events. When Elevate was released, we found it a very attractive option, but weren’t sure how to implement it in our organization. At the end of the month we are excited to launch new offerings through Elevate.
Additionally, we’ve found everyone at CommPartners to be responsive, professional and dedicated to ensuring we provide exceptional educational programs to our members. It’s great to see that no matter where someone is in the organization, straight up to Rich, everyone is very professional and great to work with.
What’s next for your education programs?
We saw other associations hosting courses entirely online and we viewed that as the future of learning so we wanted to offer that to our members. At the end of July we will be hosting an online course using Elevate. Ultimately, we want to put together AILA University which will offer micro-learning opportunities for the busy, unpredictable schedules of our members. We want these to be specific, 5 minute videos that can address the questions of our members. These are topics that don’t need to be addressed in a 60 minute webinar, but can be a quick answer so our members can get back to their clients. We are starting this year and hope to keep building upon it and adding a robust curriculum that we can update as needed.
We also eventually want to get into digital badging with these offerings. We see it as an engaging way for our members to advertise their learning track. We see this as an essential element in the future of continuing education, especially with the new generation of lawyers graduating. Our team is always looking into the future and assessing what we need to do to accommodate our members.
Katherine Shamapande, Director of Education explains how CHAP seamlessly implemented the learning management system (LMS) Elevate, yielding unprecedented results. Through Elevate’s detailed reporting and tracking , CHAP can fully measure and understand their members’ engagement.
Prior to my arrival at CommPartners, I had the honor of serving as the Director of Professional Development at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Like many of you, my department was charged with offering a diverse portfolio of continuing education programs and generating a significant amount of non-dues revenue each year. And, as I’m sure many of you can also relate, we had constant pressure to produce more programs and increase non-dues revenue, without additional resources.
Luckily for me, I led a team of extremely savvy, hard-working professionals who were passionate about their work, committed to excellence and always willing to do more. However, I knew they were already operating at full capacity, so increasing their workloads was not a sustainable solution, nor was it appropriate. Instead, I had to take a step back and audit the business model and see what superfluous and antiquated processes were in-place. During that evaluation, something struck me…we weren’t aligned with the best vendor-partners (for our needs), and/or we weren’t leveraging them to their fullest extent.
To help shed light on what I’m talking about, I’ll use ASHA’s webinar product-line as an example. When I arrived at ASHA, the department was using a self-service tool from a supplier that was nonresponsive (in a timeframe conducive to our needs), expensive, and unable/unwilling to handle support-related issues from our participants during live programs. Additionally, it wasn’t in their scope to train our subject matter experts on the platform or share the latest adult-based learning practices. In short, we had to do everything and anything related to our webinars (i.e. speaker training, platform setup, teleconference reservations, program script, reminder messages to registrants, customer support during live-programs, post-event archive conversion/posting, the list goes on and on). Even though our webinars were profitable, it took a lot of work to produce a two-hour program and I couldn’t help but question the opportunity cost of our process.
After assessing the aforementioned situation with my team, we agreed it was time for a change and that meant parting ways with our self-service vendor—an easy decision once CommPartners shared their fully managed webinar approach with us. With CommPartners onboard, we immediately realized a 50% reduction in work associated with webinars…an incredible savings on all counts. We invested that “extra time” towards thinking more intentionally about future webinar programming and concentrating on hot-button topics that would likely garner large audiences (and revenue). Additionally, we were now positioned to host more webinars than ever before. Although it would take us a little over a year to measure the impact of these calibrations, it was worth the wait! In 2014, we offered 16 new webinars and made $385k; in 2015, we offered 19 new webinars and made $567k. That’s a revenue increase of 47% in just ONE year!
We applied the same analysis on all of our product lines and vendor-partners, made similar adjustments, and observed positive results akin to our webinars. Leaning on our vendor-partners to collaborate with us on a much deeper level and act as true extensions of our staff was the best decision we made. It enabled us to focus on our core competencies and objectives, while offloading auxiliary responsibilities to our vendor-partners, who were better equipped at handling those tasks. The collective amount of saved time allowed us to plan more strategically for the future, invest in new formats and initiatives, and expand our continuing education portfolio and revenue streams.
Want to explore how CommPartners can help you focus on your core competencies and objectives? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 443.539.4858 and let’s chat!
Written by Christopher Urena ASHA Professional Development
By name, a learning management system (LMS) is content-driven. It is a site designed to be your members’ and clients’ one-stop shop to access your full array of educational content and collaborative material. Thus, in conceptualizing an LMS, commonly a great deal of time is spent organizing and developing content, while other attributes of the site become more of an afterthought. This can often be the case with the site’s visual concepts and design.
While design plays a more passive role in an LMS, the majority of us have had experiences where a site’s design can cause us to be immediately attracted to, or turned off by, the site upon arriving on the home page. Site design shapes the entire user experience – from whether the user feels welcomed on the site, to the ease of access and navigation. Additionally, in our technology-heavy lives, we have become used to viewing the quality of a website as representative of the credibility and professional-ness of an organization. So while the design is an aspect that literally falls in the background of an LMS, it is also an element that should not be overlooked.
We recently sat down with Kimberly Hedges, Vice President of Web and Technology Strategies with Americans for the Arts (AFTA). AFTA’s Elevate site is soon to launch with a unique and creative design. Admittedly, this is to be expected from an association in the art world, but our conversation with Kimberly revealed that AFTA’s focus in conceptualizing its Elevate site was on items that are broadly applicable to LMS design:
1. Branding is King
Like many associations, AFTA’s design concepts began with its association webpage. “We wanted our materials to look the same across all offerings,” Kimberley explained. Therefore, AFTA’s Elevate page is designed to mirror many of the details from its main website including fonts and color schemes, backgrounds, and menu offerings. In this way, users experience a seamless transition from AFTA’s main website to its Elevate page, and are also able to easily recognize that they are working with an AFTA product.
2. Design Tailored for an LMS
While AFTA’s website served as a blueprint for its Elevate design concept, AFTA also wanted to ensure its design elements worked well in an LMS format, as Kimberley explained, “we wanted to make sure it had a strong relationship to our main website but could still take full advantage of all the LMS functionality we’d have with Elevate.” Here, AFTA drew inspiration from CommPartners’ Elevate site for some cues on building a structure specific to an LMS. AFTA also sought to place itself in the mindset of a user coming to the site, and thought about what design elements could make a user’s experience easier and more pleasant. For example, AFTA developed ‘user-friendly icons’ based around content type and subject, which it created to visually stand out with bright colors. These help users easily navigate from page to page and quickly find relevant learning content.
3. Convey a Message/Make a Statement
As Kimberly explained, AFTA sought to use its Elevate site to highlight its role as part of the creative industry in communicating the value of art. In a unique approach, AFTA accomplished this by incorporating public art recognized by its Public Art Network Year in Review Project into its main website and Elevate platform as the background images for its webpages. For interested individuals, the background images are linked to more information about each piece of art. Appropriately, for the background of its Elevate site, AFTA chose a public mural entitled “The Knowledge” installed on the campus of Portland State University.
4. Keep it Professional
While AFTA incorporated bold colors and artistic design into its Elevate page, it was also important to not lose sight of the fact that the Elevate site is a business tool. As such, in addition to conceptualizing a creative design, AFTA also stressed the importance of organization and flow as the building blocks for the site. In this way, AFTA’s Elevate site is able to portray life and art, while at the same time remaining an effective tool for its members to collaborate and learn.