In last month’s article, we looked at the overarching maturity curve of online continuing education (CE), from online registration all the way through to fully blended learning. Over the next few weeks, I’ll break the curve down to three segments to help you identify where your organization is and how you can progress up and to the right.
First though, let’s take a minute to think back on the days before the Internet was widely available. The days of Sonny & Cher, Celtics-Lakers rivalry and rotary phones, or even Doogie Howser, Bruce Springsteen and cassette tapes. Back then the most common ways to register for CE events were through mailed or faxed registration forms and payments by check. Event attendees carried a physical confirmation notice with them to the in-person event and were probably checked in on a sign-in sheet.
While we all have nostalgia for the good ol’ days, there are other things we can happily leave in the past and instead, make room for the new…like online CE.
In-person CE with online registration
For most organizations, adding an online registration option to an in-person event is the first step toward online CE. Through an online form and acceptance of credit card payment, registrations happen more quickly, reports are dynamically created and payments are processed faster. The actual CE event is attended in-person. Sophisticated organizations can integrate their online CE registration form with their member management system for a more comprehensive approach.
Online on-demand text-based CE
Another form of early online CE is text-based information followed by a quiz that demonstrates learning. This text-based CE likely comes in the form of a PDF document like an ebook or whitepaper. Members can download the file and read it at their convenience. To demonstrate learning, there is often a quiz afterward.
Frequently organizations offer this option in parallel with offering live events.
If your organization is in either of these early phases, you have a great opportunity to grow your online CE options this year. Consider these four options for moving forward.
- Select the first course to also offer online. Based on previous registration data, mandatory CE requirements, speaker prominence or other info, select a first course you want to offer online. Using existing curriculum will allow you to focus energy on the change in delivery instead of new content.
- Add an online component to your existing live event. You can augment a planned live-event by also offering it as a broadcast event or a recorded replay. In either of these scenarios, you’ll want to collaborate with a video production agency to capture the event and then offer it to your membership. There may be investment involved with capturing and/or broadcasting a live event, however you’ll reap much larger return on your investment by selling the event online to a much larger online audience. While you are capturing the live event, you can also record it for ongoing on-demand use which increase the return on your investment.
- Transform live event content into an online course. Frequently repeated courses, for example your ethics course, can easily be transformed into a webcast. By eliminating the live in-person audience, you reduce one-time costs and instead create a repeatable event that can be offered online. Technology, such as InReach’s CE Management System, can help your staff do this easily.
- Market your new online CE. Educate your members about your new online CE through a variety of channels. Your website, email marketing and social media should all be included in your promotion plans. Just like with an in-person event, if your members don’t know about it, you’ll likely see diminished success.
- Evaluate online event success. After testing your first online event or two, evaluate the success of the event with your members and staff. Did the members find the online experience more convenient? Was the feedback positive? Were there actual or potential cost savings? What did you learn from your first experience that you can apply to future online events?