Guest blog by Jake Fabbri, Senior Vice President, Marketing – Fonteva, Inc.

Whether it’s online courses, learning sessions, discussion forums, streaming seminars, or live webinars — when it comes to eLearning and the value it can bring to your organization, the possibilities are endless!

You might already understand the value of eLearning from a marketing or sales perspective, but it can also be a great tool for online users. Offering useful information and training can go a long way to familiarize online users with your space, while also creating a great impression for continued engagement.

If your membership management solution supports eLearning and event planning, both online and in-person, are you making the most of it?

eLearning is a major engagement opportunity for organizations ready to make the most of their tools in smarter ways. We’ve highlighted a few of the most important benefits that effective membership management software can have for your eLearning efforts. Your software should accomplish the following:

  1. Foster community
  2. Give members the flexibility they need
  3. Offer integrated eLearning opportunities
  4. Encourage networking and extended engagement
  5. Collect and analyze rich eLearning data

Your eLearning program shouldn’t have to be cobbled together! Any effective software solution should give you the tools you need to plan, organize, and manage your courses and sessions more effectively than ever. Ready to learn how? Let’s dive in.

1. Foster Community

Making the most of your eLearning capabilities starts with building a sense of community. By this we mean a feeling of mutual understanding and belonging, of being drawn together in support of a larger goal.

We also mean literally grouping your members together into online communities!

Of course, the benefits of encouraging the more abstract meaning of community are obvious. Validating your members’ feelings of inclusion and usefulness are essential. The benefits of digitally managing communities for your members can be just as significant. They include:

  • Encouraging interaction and engagement, with you and with each other
  • Creating custom permissions based on membership levels and communities
  • Allowing members to create and manage their own subgroups and committees
  • Extending discussions and collaboration between members
  • Creating a stronger culture of peer support and interaction
  • Boosting interest in your in-person events and sessions

Making it easier to engage with your work is the first step (and often the most effective way) to boost engagement all around. Your management software should actively help you build a more distinct sense of community and shared purpose in your program!

Doing so will lay a strong foundation for the new eLearning programs you develop. Simply providing the tools to strengthen community ties between members can provide a serious boost in interest for your upcoming programming.

2. Give Members the Flexibility They Need

Your membership management software must offer features that are flexible and truly useful. They should definitely be geared to you as an administrator, manager, or executive, but they must also apply to your members!

Member-facing flexibility is crucial for actually engaging users with eLearning programs. Otherwise, they might feel underappreciated, or as if they’re simply being treated as customers rather than full members. Prioritizing UX is certainly a good place to start.

More generally, you should use membership management software that’s already built on a flexible platform like Salesforce, or one that integrates seamlessly with the management tools you already use. Membership tools that work with your underlying management system should include integrated reporting, member profiles, and automation features.

Your members need effective, flexible tools, too! Make sure your management software gives your members the freedom to really have a say in how they engage with your programming. They might want to:

  • Create and manage their own subgroups within communities
  • Form committees to formally conduct program business
  • Allow chapters to fully plan their own online and in-person events
  • Foster small- and large-scale collaboration between communities
  • Create smarter reports and draw from program data to make decisions

Imagine hosting a major convention for all your chapters. Now imagine if each chapter, committee, group, or community were able to plan their own learning sessions and seminars. They could easily share their updates and insights with the rest of your members, generating big-picture thinking and a stronger sense of community.

Now imagine taking that capability online! Offering that same level of freedom and variety with your eLearning programming leads to richer relationships with (and within) your organization.

Not all membership management software can offer this level of flexibility, though. Be sure to conduct an exhaustive membership software comparison before making any changes.

3. Offer Integrated eLearning Opportunities

Working to integrate your online eLearning experiences with your live programming is a best practice that many associations and organizations overlook. This is often because their management doesn’t offer intuitive planning tools, or it’s because they get trapped in a certain way of thinking. Don’t think of your programming events as separate, disjointed units!

All of your educational programming should work together to enrich your members’ experience and invest in their development. This includes your live, in-person programming like keynote addresses and panels and your live, online events, like live-streamed seminars, lectures, or presentations.

For instance, offering live seminars, live-streamed online versions, and recorded webinar versions for later use is an excellent way to make sure everyone who wants to engage with your eLearning content can.

This connects back to the flexibility we discussed in the previous section. Simply put, integrating your educational programming across outlets and events offers your users more opportunities to get involved. The result is increased engagement all around.

There are a few reasons why this comprehensive planning  – connecting your digital, live, and in-person programming – is a best practice. It has major benefits, including:

  • Increased opportunities for new or inactive members. Offer more ways to get involved, then connect all of them for maximum effect. Inactive members might just need a new way to engage with your programming.
  • Strengthened connections within your network. Integrated community features of your software help everyone get to know each other before the event, then it gives them an easy way to stay in touch afterwards.
  • Boosted engagement with gamification and badging features. Tie digital rewards to in-person attendance and vice-versa using your management platform.

For the best results, use a membership management platform that’s built on a larger, comprehensive system. For instance, integrated Salesforce event management features can totally support your eLearning efforts and take them to the next level.

4. Encourage Networking and Extended Engagement

The right membership management software can facilitate interactions between your members like never before. After all, the point of your program or association is to bring like-minded individuals together around a shared interest, cause, or profession.

Your eLearning programming should facilitate increased activity at every level. Members should be able to interact naturally in a variety of ways:

  • Engaging directly with your program via online eLearning content
  • Attending in-person gatherings and sessions
  • Interacting with each other in membership communities
  • Collaborating on community, group, or committee projects
  • Engaging with each other in learning and discussion sessions
  • Networking both online and in-person

Effective membership management tools can offer member-facing networking features that provide a serious boost to your rates of engagement with eLearning programming. For instance, member self service tools, engagement scoring, and chapter or committee microsites make it easier for your members to identify one another and make connections.

Combined with an integrated approach to programming (above in Section 3), these features can contribute to a robust culture of interaction in your community.

Let’s say all your users can freely engage with one another on your eLearning presentation software, posting discussion comments and seeing each other’s interactions during webinars. Extremely productive collaborative relationships emerge when those discussions spill over from the webinar to a newly-formed committee in your management platform!

Start with this rundown of some top membership management tools from Double the Donation to study up on ways to boost engagement and unite all your programming efforts.

5. Collect and Analyze Rich eLearning Data

One last essential benefit that your membership management software should provide in relationship to your eLearning program involves data. Of course, data collection is one of the major benefits of any integrated management or planning system, but this is particularly true of any program that regularly engages its members with online-only content.

There are a few ways that your membership platform can benefit your eLearning programming through smarter data collection and analytics tools, including:

  • Self-service data collection. Giving your members the ability to freely update their own information results in more data overall. Engaged and excited members will happily provide you with their professional histories, interests, or additional contact info.
  • Awards, credits, and badges. As we’ve touched on in other sections, try offering special achievements then tying them to particular levels of engagement with your eLearning program. This provides an easy way to track and measure those activities.
  • Program analytics. A comprehensive but flexible membership management system will offer analytics tools to generate smarter reports on any aspect of your program. These insights will help you track engagement, sign-up, and session attendance metrics.

Access to richer, more comprehensive sources of data like this will directly contribute to your organization’s or association’s ability to make more precise budgets. Plus, adapting to your members’ preferences and interests in real time creates more engaged communities in the long run!

Make sure any membership or eLearning software you use includes intuitive analytics tools and  seamless reporting to your CRM or other underlying platform.

Offering your members and the wider community eLearning programming is an excellent way to keep your base of support engaged with your work. More importantly, it represents the value that you place on your members, investing in their professional and personal development.

If your membership software isn’t actively contributing to your eLearning planning, strategy, and management, you’re missing out. Get all your tools in sync for the best results! If you’re looking for new or updated management tools, be sure to review some of the most essential features to look for with Fonteva’s comprehensive membership software guide.