Every day, each of us makes many decisions on how we spend our time and money. Some of these decisions require careful consideration and can take weeks or months, while others happen almost unconsciously, based on a feeling of comfort, expectations and trust.

All organizations, regardless of mission are in the business of attracting consumers to their brand and hoping that over time these people will have increasing loyalty and investment. That investment can be through a purchase or one’s actions. They are our members or stakeholders, channel partners, franchisees, or even people within our organization.

The question is; how can we influence potential customers, so making a choice to invest in us is an intuitive and easy decision?

I pose this question with a specific challenge in mind. My company helps clients provide, and in many cases monetize, online education through a learning management system (LMS). Our client organizations dedicate a significant amount of resources in their learning platforms and development of content, banking on the notion that if we build it they will come… and spend money. However, while knowledge cuts to the core of what attracts people to these organizations; expectations for participation are often not met. We find that some are having success while others are more challenged. When you look more closely at the reasons for this, you find that participation in one’s education offering has more to do with organization strategy than a learning strategy.

Where Community Comes in
Over the past several years, we are witnessing a movement towards open, transparent dialogue and sharing of ideas through social media and other means. This represents a profound shift for groups in their quest to build a following. It moves them from creating and directing to facilitating and empowering. A tangible way we see this happening is through significant growth of private online communities where conversations occur under the identity of a sponsoring organization. An online community changes the paradigm and invites dialogue. It also provides an on-boarding strategy to welcome new participants and break down social barriers which often lead to greater participation.

Private Communities and Online Education
As private online communities have evolved, these platforms have been created as separate and distinct areas within an organization’s Web presence. An organization’s LMS is typically in a different area therefore creating two, unique silos for community engagement and learning. Idea sharing happens in one area, while people enrolling and connecting through webinars, courses, listening to Podcasts or collaborating in a workshop happen somewhere else. This separate existence can cause fragmentation and a slowdown of momentum. Just like in other parts of society, social, community and learning go together.

Participation in learning calls for an investment.

People will resist that structure if they are not comfortable. Community cultivates comfort to make these decisions more intuitive.

LMS as a Component of Community
If our participants are already invested in a destination where they participate and share strategies and ideas about real life experiences, why would we disconnect them from where they go and move them somewhere else to start over?  In a sense, this is what we do when we create a partition between private communities and our Learning Platforms. In contrast to this, a more effective approach is when the LMS is a component to a community building on the existing relationships and patterns of engagement?

Our Work with Higher Logic
Over the past year, CommPartners and Higher Logic have collaborated about bringing together our two platforms to support the ideas shared in this post. Our initial efforts have been directed to create the HL Learn Online Academy where online training is embedded within the HUG Community and leverages the relationships that are supported through this outstanding resource. We believe this is the ideal way to showcase the many benefits that occur when learning is a component of community.

Richard Finstein
CEO, CommPartners

If you have questions or would like more information on the CommPartners – Higher Logic initiative you may email info@commpartners.com

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