Report: Associations Using Learning Technologies
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What You Need To Know About Associations Using Learning Technologies

A whopping 92.6% of membership organizations currently offer technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning, according to Association Learning + Technology 2017. The report represents an ongoing effort to assess the use of technology for learning in the association market and provide insight into how the role technology plays in learning may evolve.

The finding that 92.6% of associations use technology for learning is impressive, but it should be noted that the online survey on which the report is based included a broad definition of what constitutes technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning:

There are many ways to use technology to deliver learning or to enhance learning, such as webcasts and webinars, self-paced tutorials, virtual conferences, blended classroom and online education, etc. For the purpose of this survey, any activity in which a user receives primary or supplementary instruction via a computer counts as technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Webinars Most Popular Product Offering

Among the membership organizations currently using technology to deliver or enhance learning, recorded (i.e., on-demand) and real-time (i.e., live) webinars and webcasts are the most popular types of product offerings. Recorded webinars and webcasts are offered by 91.4% of respondents currently using technology for learning, and 90.0% offer real-time ones.

Self-paced online courses, tutorials, or presentations rank third and are the only other offering asked about to garner a majority: 72.8% of membership organizations currently using technology for learning offer self-paced online courses.

Mobile Learning At A Tipping Point, Microlearning Beginning To Boom, MOOCs Going Nowhere Fast

Half (49.7%) of membership organizations currently using technology for learning provide a mobile version of at least some of their content, and another quarter (25.7%) plan to offer a mobile version in the next 12 months. It’s no longer a matter of whether to offer mobile learning but what to offer.

Microlearning is offered by under a third of respondents using technology for learning (30.1%), but that figure is noticeably higher than the 18.1% who reported using microlearning in the survey behind the 2016 edition of the report. Additionally, over a third (36.1%) of the 2017 respondents have plans for microlearning in the coming year.

Digital badges and micro-credentials are offered by only 14.8%, but a full quarter (25.3%) say their organizations will do something with digital badges or micro-credentials in the near future.

Micro-credentials are natural territory for associations, many of which already offer fuller-blown credentials, such as certifications. Micro-credentials also connect to microlearning. Learners increasingly appreciate ways to keep retool quickly and ways to demonstrate their ongoing learning in “the other 50 years”— the typical lifespan after adults leave higher education.

A meager 6.7% of respondents offer a MOOC, and only 5.6% plan to offer one in the future. While MOOCs may never be a fit for many associations, the massive business model has potential for associations with content that is valuable to broad swaths of the profession or industry they serve and even society at large.

Technology To Reinforce Learning

Organizations currently using technology for learning were asked if they use it to repeat, reinforce, or sustain learning after participants complete an educational product or service.

A third (33.7%) say they do use technology for reinforcing learning, and over a quarter (27.2%) say they plan to in the coming year, which means this use of technology is headed mainstream - and that’s good news because learning has to be reinforced if it’s going to conquer the forgetting curve.

Webinar Platforms At Saturation Point, LMSs Second Most Popular, And Community Platforms Poised For Growth

Given recorded and real-time webinars and webcasts are the most common product offerings, it’s not surprising that Webinar and Webcast platforms came out on top among the five types of platforms the survey asked about—91.8% of organizations use one, meaning we’re essentially at the saturation point for webinar and webcast technologies.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are the second most popular type of technology platform, used by 66.9% of respondents currently offering technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning. That’s up noticeably from 32.6% of respondents in the 2011 report.

In the 2016 report, 21.7% of respondents currently using technology for learning said they had a learning community platform, and 20.2% reported plans for using such a platform in the following 12 months. Those plans have played out; in the 2017 report, 37.4% use a private online community platform, and 14.7% plan to use one in the year ahead.

The Use of Data, Or The Lack Thereof

Nearly half (47.1%) of membership organizations integrate (whether manually or through automation) the data they collect in their learning technology platforms, such as a Learning Management System, with the data from other technology platforms they use, such as an association management system. But a full 30.0% don’t do any data integration.

That’s a lost opportunity for those not integrating their data, as such integration can provide organizations with a more complete view of learners’ activities, allowing them, for example, to better target content and offerings to interested individuals.

Only 14.9% of respondents report always using the data they collect in their learning technology platforms to make decisions about current and future educational products and services. Another 30.4% report using the data frequently for that purpose. But 35.7% use it only sometimes, and 4.8% say they never use the data to inform their portfolio decisions.

If an organization collects data, it should use it to inform product decisions. If an organization isn’t, it’s another lost opportunity.

Strategy And Process In Short Supply

A majority of respondents (57.1%) don’t have a strategy for their learning and education business, and 69.6% of respondents don’t have a formal, documented strategy for how technology will be used to enable or enhance learning.

Two-thirds (66.0%) of respondents’ organizations don’t have a formal, documented product development process that includes its technology-enabled and technology-enhanced education products, and 59.7% don’t have a formal, documented process for setting prices that includes their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced education products.

These four data points suggest much room for improvement in more intentional, consistent, shared approaches to developing and marketing technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.

Organizations With CLOs More Likely To Have A Learning And Education Strategy

A third (33.3%) of respondents have someone at their organization in the role of chief learning officer (CLO) or a similar C-level role. Are CLOs pushing the adoption of strategy? Or is strategy revealing the need for a CLO to lead the learning and education business? Whatever the answer to this chicken-or-egg question, both more CLOs and more strategy would be welcome.

The More Strategic Make Use Of Instructional Designers

For organizations currently using technology for learning, 59.2% use professional Instructional Designers. Having a strategy for the learning and education business in place correlates to a higher use of professional Instructional Designers - 79.4% of organizations with a strategy for their education business use professional Instructional Designers compared to 46.7% of those without such a strategy. Also, organizations with a CLO are more likely to make use of professional Instructional Designers than those without a CLO (72.2% compared to 56.2%).

Satisfied With Most Aspects Except Revenue

The survey asked respondents whether they’re satisfied overall with their current technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning initiatives, and 69.0% report being either somewhat (56.5%) or very (12.5%) satisfied.

However, when it comes to specific aspects of technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning, the numbers of the very and somewhat satisfied are at least slightly lower across the board. Revenue, the biggest area of dissatisfaction, is the only area in which a majority aren’t satisfied—only 43.5% are very or somewhat satisfied with revenue.

The area of highest satisfaction is feedback from participants (67.5% are very or somewhat satisfied). Usage, such number of course enrollments, ranks second in satisfaction (60.9% are very or somewhat satisfied).

In general, these results show that technology for learning is well received and well used by members and customers, but many organizations still struggle to get the desired revenue out of the offerings.

The Path Ahead

The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in recent years. To meet learner needs and stay out in front of the competition, organizations need to arm themselves with data. Association Learning + Technology aims to help leaders who want to be fully informed as they make strategic decisions about launching and growing new education initiatives.

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