This article originally appeared in the International Association of Continuing Education & Training newsletter.

In the past decade, continuing education (CE) has experienced a distinct trend with respect to the stages of maturity CE providers go through to bring the benefit of online CE to their members and participants.
Most member organizations started at the lowest level of maturity, which was to provide in-person events that allowed participants to earn CE credits. Though the CE was provided in-person (not online), some organizations utilized the Internet to take event registrations from their members — a small first step towards online CE.
The next stage was providing an early form of online on-demand CE as text-based courses. This was a big step toward providing multimedia online CE. Once organizations realized the power of providing CE online, these organizations took the next step — providing online live event courses, where they would broadcast live speakers and their content in real-time over the Internet. By doing so, the providers literally removed the barriers of in-person events by enabling members who could not travel to the event venue to participate remotely, from their offices or homes.
Many of these organizations soon realized they could capture a broadcasted live event and stream it to their members at a later time in an online on-demand fashion. This time, the content was not limited to text but was true multimedia streaming.
By providing a captured live event in an online, on-demand fashion, the organizations could increase the return on their live event investment. It also offered members who missed the live event the opportunity to view it at a later time, at their convenience.
This is the typical evolution that we’ve observed throughout the years. You could, of course, argue that upon certain circumstances, these stages may occur in differing order.
It’s important to highlight that the higher the online CE maturity, the higher the convenience and educational experience to the member. A recent end-user/member survey found that convenience is the number one factor when choosing a CE option. Simply put, online CE maturation produces member satisfaction, which increases nondues revenue.
Observant readers may have noticed that I haven’t discussed the last three stages of maturity:

1. Online on-demand (storyboarding)

2. Online social collaboration

3. Full blended learning
Storyboarding refers to content that is highly interactive and provides a learning experience that builds organically, for a richer experience. Storyboarding may include multimedia streaming with interactive testing.
Online social collaboration will foster online learning in groups. In the future, members will be able to enhance the learning experience by participating with others over the internet.
And finally, blended learning will pull it all together. Members will use a combination of in-person, online and social collaboration to achieve the most convenient, engaging and effective way to learn.
The final three stages are not widely adopted at present. If your organization has mastered the first four stages, look to these final three to inspire your CE growth, execution and, ultimately, your ideal member experience.