The recent acceleration of digital transformations is leading many associations to pivot live events. Some are evaluating the learning management system or LMS for live events. If your association is considering a new LMS here a few things to consider.

1. What is an LMS great for?

Most LMSs are educational content delivery platforms. Educational content and delivery can take many forms. An LMS platform is great for online learning, continuing education, certification, and micro-credentialing. An LMS is frequently used for live and on-demand webinars, on-demand courses, workshops, and supporting face-to-face content.

More recently the LMS is being used for live events. Many associations are asking: “how can I show value to my membership when I can’t gather in a live event?”

  • I can’t have an event
  • I can’t have a committee meetings
  • How do I show value to members?

Many organizations are considering an LMS to help answer these questions.

2. What size organization should have an LMS?

Frequently, we are asked: “Is there a right size organization for an LMS?” and “Is there an ideal number of members, staff, or revenue that an association should have before considering an LMS?” There is no one size fits all for LMSs and many options are available in the marketplace. If you think your organization is too small there is likely an option that can fit your needs. You can find a solution that fits your scale. Many LMS providers offer tiers of service and functionality for more cost-effective approaches.

LMS pricing models are most often based on the number of users. Associations typically think of member value on a per-member basis so many LMS provider’s pricing models reflect this per-member approach. Users by month or users by year is a typical model. Other models are based on user growth or adoption of the platform. Some LMSs provide additional support to help associations grow member adoption of the LMS.

LMS Pricing Models

  • Per-User or Member
  • User Growth and Adoption
  • By Feature of Component
  • By Tier of Service
  • Number of Courses
  • Amount of Content or Data Usage

3. Where Should the LMS Data Go?

When considering the solution architecture of your association platform ecosystem LMS data provides a greater benefit if integrated with other systems. Reporting course completion or exam data to accrediting bodies for example may be required. In these cases, the data from the LMS may be combined with the member records before it is shared with an accrediting body.

The system of record is the authoritative data source for a piece of information. There are many factors in determining the system of record. In highly integrated environments a middleware or data lake may be the best solution. To get started thinking about what solution will work best for your organization consider the value the data provides. Consider how the systems can best leverage the data as well as what system is originating the data. If the data is valuable enough and needs to be available in the association management system (AMS), the AMS should be the system of record. In these cases, the LMS should read the data from the AMS. For instance, if the AMS is not originating source of data for credentialing or course completion, the LMS could be the better choice for the system of record. The key is to identify the value the data can provide and which system can best utilize this data.

Great User Experiences Start with Your Members

The key to great member experience is to integrate platforms so that your members feel like the organization is paying attention to their actions and needs. Members don’t know and don’t want to know what systems are being used, only that they are receiving a seamless experience. Members want to know that the organization is paying attention to their needs. In other words, when a member completes a course or completes an exam on your LMS they expect that the full ecosystem to recognize this activity from an email confirmation to an indication on the LMS dashboard.

4. The Upside of Breaking Down Organizational Silos for the Learning Management System

Frequently, departmental silos are a challenge for associations. For many associations live events are planned and executed by a live event or annual conference department with different practices and approaches than education departments. Bringing webinars and virtual events together is creating a new paradigm. From an LMS perspective, the goal is to deliver educational content. For an annual conference, the sessions are the delivery mechanism for educational content or informational. Given, the underlying goal may be similar, organizational siloes may present challenges in planning and coordination as live event content moves online.

The events team is usually very focused on attendee registration and getting members on location. In general, events teams also drive the marketing of the event. In contrast, an education team typically doesn’t emphasize registrations and marketing. They’re often more focused on the enduring aspect of the education that they’re offering. Long-standing educational value is a different value proposition.

Accordingly, there is value for online education teams to learn to think of their educational products as an event planner might. Similarly, events teams thinking about education as more enduring and not just be a one-time event can add value. Bringing together previously siloed departments’ values, and experience can lead to increased member value.

5. Reconsidering Events

Not every trade show or conference is created equally. What are your value drivers? Elearning and education sessions are well suited to an LMS. But not all events are a great fit for an LMS platform. Consider the ratio of the programming of your traditional conference offering: keynotes, general sessions, educational sessions, vendors and trade floor, and rooftop party. In moving a live event to a virtual venue, the member value may shift but you can do some things to provide similar value.

“You can do things virtually that will bring value to your members”.

Liam O’Malley, CAE, PMP, Vice President of Association Solutions at Blue Sky eLearn

Focus on Value

Conference Party - Live Events - Adage Tech

Ask: How can we provide value in a virtual environment? Consider the potential that the value of your offering online has shifted from the value of the in-person event. Online is different and that can be a good thing. For some members, a virtual happy hour may actually be more conducive to meaningful conversations than a crowded bar. Better conversations can mean a higher member value than conversations that are happening at bars, or rooftop parties.

“Focus on the value of the conference, and how to reproduce that value in a virtual environment… Value can change… Ask: ‘How do we deliver the value members came for in the first place.'”

Amber Winter, Vice President of Sales and Service, Web Courseworks

Reconsider assumptions about your offering and you can reach a broader audience. Some members who can attend virtually may represent new audiences that were prevented from attending your annual conference because of budgets, travel, or time commitment. In the long run, new audiences and expanded reach can be a great addition to the bottom line.

Now is a great time to reconsider your live events and make a push into virtual meetings. Audiences are more patient and more forgiving today. Lower production value is temporarily acceptable as COVID-19 has forced all to accept a larger role for virtual meetings. The increased flexibility in timing, duration, and content, is allowing associations to promote and product virtual events differently. Likewise, your audience may be distinct and broader. Ultimately, focus on member value, and results will follow.

Actual Disruption Webinar Series

In our recent webinar “Actual Disruption – Part 3: Members are using the LMS, right? But how?” we considered the new central role of LMS. Expert panelists Amber Winter, Vice President of Sales and Service, Web Courseworks and Liam O’Malley, CAE, PMP, Vice President of Association Solutions at Blue Sky eLearn led the discussion.  In the next episode of “Actual Disruption”, we will reconsider donations and explore the potential of adopting practices from across industry verticals. Register today for “Actual Disruption Part 4: Dominate Digital Donations“.

To view a recording of “Actual Disruption – Part 3: Members are using the LMS, right? But how?” register below.

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