As we round the corner to the end of the year, many organizations are thinking about what they can do to reinvigorate their continuing education and professional development offerings in the new year and beyond. Here are five approaches to consider:
1. Flip the classroom
Across the K-12 world, a growing number of innovative educators are embracing the idea of “flipping the classroom.” Instead of using up classroom time for lecturing, they are having students spend time at home to familiarize themselves with the key content for a course. This might happen through reading, listening to podcasts, or viewing videos from sources like Khan Academy. Valuable classroom time is then spent for facilitated discussion and collaborative learning. While not every topic lends itself to this approach, many do – particularly at more advanced levels.
In the coming year, challenge your organization to flip some percentage of your educational offerings – whether classroom-based or online. Provide high quality content prior to the scheduled event, make your expectations about reviewing the content beforehand clear to the learners, and make sure your subject matter experts are well prepared to facilitate discussion. (The best presenters will tend to welcome this approach, in my experience.)
2. Reserve a “New and Emerging” Block
In the numerous surveys and interviews I have conducted, “timeliness” always emerges as one of the key things learners value in educational content. Yet, in our recent speaker survey – conducted in collaboration with Velvet Chainsaw – just over 70 percent of respondents indicated that their calls for proposals for session speakers close 8 months or more before their meetings. I’m sure you can see the disconnect there.
Going into 2012, challenge your organization to reserve a block of sessions that will be named no more than 60 days before the event. Get your speakers excited about it, and make sure your members know about it.
3. Bring in Some Instructional Design
In the surveys we have conducted on online learning in the association sector, we have consistently found that well under half of organizations use professional instructional designers – whether on staff or by contract – when creating educational experiences. In our recent speaker survey, only 41.9 percent of respondents indicated that they measure whether learning occurs at their meetings. Better design makes for a better experience for the learner and it contributes significantly to delivering on an expectation that I think more members are going to demand from education going forward: return on investment.
Challenge your organization to up its ID game in 2012. If you truly can’t afford professional help in this area, at least be sure to read essential works like Bob Mager’s “six pack” on designing and delivering great instruction and Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard Mayers e-Learning and the Science of Instruction.
4. Invest in improving your SME talent pool
I hear again and again from learners that the key factor that makes an educational experience great is an effective presenter. Yet, in my experience most organizations do relatively little to help their presenters be more effective instructors. Our recent speaker survey indicated that around 73 percent of organizations prepare their speakers for meetings, but only about half of those that provide preparation actually provide training or tips for better presentations. Diversity is also an issue – most organizations rely on the same speakers again and again and do little to cultivate a “bench” of talent, particularly among younger generation members.
These are not terribly difficult issues to address. Start by putting together good supporting materials – e.g., tips on developing sound learning objectives and communicating information effectively – and using these as a basis for brief training sessions for speakers. And build a solid channel for communicating with current and prospective speakers, whether through an e-mail list, listserv, discussion board, or other means. Make it easy to spread the word about speaking opportunities to those who may not otherwise think of themselves as speakers. Challenge your organization to do these things in 2012.
5. Invest in improving your learners
We live in a world that demands continual lifelong learning for those who want to thrive and associations are in a unique position to service that demand. Nonetheless, learners themselves need to be prepared to learn effectively, and as I have argued before, many are not. We are not adequately trained by our education system to be self-directed as learners, and we certainly aren’t prepared to take full advantage of the wealth of opportunities that technology-enhanced social learning offers. Supporting learners in being better prepared to learn is a tremendous opportunity for associations.
Challenge your association to capitalize on this opportunity on 2012. Actively provide learning tips to your conference, Webinar, online course, and online community participants in whatever form makes most sense. Blog posts, newsletter article, tweet, and videos are among the wide range of delivery opportunities. And you may want to check out my 15 Ways of the Successful Self-Directed Learner.
Those are my five. What would you add?