Guest blog by Bobby Kaighn, Higher Logic
Online learning is valuable, convenient, and scalable, which makes it an ideal benefit for associations. In the last few years, online learning has also proven to be very popular for members who want to advance their careers.
But many online learning programs aren’t as effective as they could be. Most courses are meant for individuals, which can feel isolating to some members, while other learners may find it difficult to apply online concepts in their daily lives.
Online learning communities can help.
By pairing your online learning programs with an online community, you can improve the member experience and help information stick, which will make your programs more effective. It could even boost enrollment.
Here are four ways community can improve online learning.
Four Ways An Online Learning Community Can Improve Your eLearning Program
1. Community Discussions Keep Learners Engaged
Coursework, no matter how interesting, can be tiring. An online learning community adds an interactive element to elearning courses, including peer discussions, file libraries, blogs and emails.
Learners can use these tools to connect with their peers and start conversations about course topics. They can also ask questions and share their thoughts on how course material relates to their lives. All this interaction helps learners engage with your courses and can make the material in them more meaningful.
2. Peer Support Helps Learners Complete Courses
Unlike traditional education, online learning doesn’t have a built-in support system. You can’t walk up to a professor after a lecture to ask a question or form a study group with friends. In online learning, if someone gets stuck on a challenging concept or loses motivation to complete the program, there may not be anyone around to help.
With an online learning community, you give learners that network of peers. You give them a space where they can connect with peers who are also working through the same course and can help them through difficult material. Participants can ask for help publicly through discussion forums or use private email if they don’t want to open their concern up to the group. Their peers can also help motivate them to finish through conversations or by sharing helpful material, just like they would have in a traditional learning environment.
3. Community Mentoring Programs Help Learners Apply New Skills
Many associations use online learning programs to help members with professional development. With an online community, you can add practical experience to online concepts through a mentoring program.
Learners can either sign up for a mentor while they’re taking the course or after completing the program. Their mentor will then help them apply course concepts in their daily lives, giving them advice and tips based on experience.
By using a community mentoring program to help learners apply course concepts, you make it more likely that they’ll remember and use what they learned. That, in turn, translates to members getting more value from your programs.
4. Community Networking Extends Engagement After Learners Finish Courses
Traditional education uses networking tools like class reunions and alumni groups to build deeper, long-term connections between students and organizations. Often, those connections result in generous financial or advocacy commitments to schools.
Your association can use an online learning community for similar benefits. Build a community for your learning program alumni so they can continue networking and stay involved with your association after their courses are over. They can use their new connections to provide continued support, pursue job opportunities, and more. This long-term networking will also help keep your association and its programs top of mind, which could lead to future referrals as alumni find new people who could benefit from your programs.
Use Community to Improve Your Online Learning Programs and the eLearning Experience
Online communities provide the social element that’s often missing with online learning programs. They allow learners to connect with peers, share their thoughts, and get the support they need for a successful educational experience.
And, by improving your online learning programs, you also increase the value members get from your association, making it more likely they’ll stick with you and refer their friends and family.
Some associations choose to invest in a learning management system to create an online community and promote collaboration between learners. If you would like more information on how to create quality educational experiences that engage and inspire the learner, give us a call at (800) 274-9390 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with someone.