If you want to contribute to the end of your professional continuing education (CE) program, online or otherwise, follow one or several of these ten rules for creating lousy online CE. Or, are you already following these rules? If so, your program may be in the early stages of what is bound to be a slow demise.
Rule #1: DO NOT PROVIDE ONLINE CONTINUING EDUCATION—AT ALL. You’ve heard the rationale for not providing online continuing education: Online CE will cannibalize in-person events. Networking is too big of a part of professional CE, and you don’t get networking through online programming. It is too expensive to provide online programming. First, none of these “excuses” are true. Second, even if you don’t buy your excuses are not true, someone else will provide online continuing education if you don’t provide it. If you aren’t fully in the game, your learners will look elsewhere for their online CE.
Rule #2: PROVIDE ONLINE CONTINUING EDUCATION—BUT MINIMIZE ITS PRESENCE, VALUE, ETC. So, you’ve figured out a way to provide online CE (InReach!), but you have no business plan or strategic plan to work for the success of your online delivery of CE. You are probably motivated to do nothing by the “fears” outlined in Rule #1, and you are not going to truly work for online CE success. Because you are offering “something” you call online CE rather than “everything” you can for online CE, you’ve checked “online CE” off your to-do list.
Rule #3: DESIGN AN OVERALL CONTINUING EDUCATION CURRICULUM THAT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE ONLINE CONTINUING EDUCATION AS AN EQUAL PARTNER TO THE IN-PERSON EVENT. For most continuing education providers, an in-person event must be economically sustainable. Therefore, economic limitations preclude providing a comprehensive curriculum that serves to meet all the educational needs of your learners. If the more economical online delivery of CE is utilized in the curriculum planning process, CE providers can increase member service by providing learners more educational opportunities and probably for the first-time ever, a comprehensive CE catalog.
Rule #4: CONTINUE TO DEVOTE CE RESOURCES TO ONLY IN-PERSON CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Most CE professionals and staff have significant workloads. Getting in-person event details handled can be all consuming. Given the focus on in-person events many times online CE is an afterthought and not a priority. Making online CE a required part of your overall CE work is fundamental to a successful CE program. Don’t ignore it!
Rule #5: DO NOT PLAN AND PROVIDE ONLINE-ONLY PROGRAMS. While webcasting and capturing in-person events is a must-do, there is much more to online CE planning. The online delivery mechanism and studio-only produced CE is the best way to fill gaps in your overall curriculum. This means you provide programming that is online only and not related to an in-person event. Because online delivery is more affordable than in-person events, you can now plan and provide programming that you could never provide through an in-person event. For example, it is possible through online delivery to prove programming to addresses narrow and more advanced substantive areas. Likewise, if there is a need to quickly deliver important information, the turnaround in planning and delivering an online program is the most effective way gets the critical information to your learners.
Rule #6: DO NOT WEBCAST, CAPTURE OR REPURPOSE YOUR IN-PERSON EVENTS. A lot of work goes into planning in-person events. Online versions of your in-person events multiply the fruits of the hard work. A proactive plan to use the content of the in-person event every possible way will maximize the return on your investment and keep your participants happy. With very little additional effort, you can reach a broader audience and increase your net revenue by webcasting and capturing programs to delivery on demand programs. It’s an economy of scale principle.
Rule #7: MARKET IN PERSON EVENTS ONLY. Like online programming itself, marketing of online programs is often treated as an afterthought. Just having an online catalog on your website is not enough. You must push the opportunity out to your learners through all standard marketing tools. Additionally, promotion of individual online courses should be as aggressive and routine as marketing in-person CE events. Set up and follow a marketing plan.
Rule #8: LET YOUR SPEAKERS PRESENT ONLINE PROGRAMS WITHOUT TRAINING OR BEST PRACTICES. Presenting to an in-person audience differs from presenting to an in-person/online or online audience. When conducting speaker training, include training that addresses best practices in presenting online programs. See the InReach training catalog for best practices in speaker training.
Rule #9: PICK AN ONLINE DELIVERY MECHANISM AND USE ONLY THAT ONE IN PROVIDING ONLINE CONTINUING EDUCATION. Don’t be lazy and don’t presume. Your learners and their delivery preferences for online programs vary. Meet the needs for all by providing every possible delivery: in-person events, webcasts, webinars, replay, audio only, on demand. Be a full-service CE provider.
Rule#10: JUST DO IT THE WAY YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE IT. Don’t get stuck in a CE rut. Evaluate how you are doing with your online CE catalog. Look at your planning cycles, training of speakers, content, materials, and overall program quality, and make appropriate changes to improve your product.
The adage, “Rules are made to be broken,” certainly holds true for these rules. Do the rules describe, in whole or part, how you handle your online CE? If so, break the rules now and take steps to build a long, healthy life for your continuing education program.