Learning Management Systems for Membership Organisations - Key Features to Look For
Here we look at the unique requirements you should look for in a learning management system (LMS) for membership organisations, in order to make your platform effective for current and future training needs, while improving many other aspects of member administration.
Over the last few years, many professional bodies and trade associations have added online training, services and member benefits via an LMS to supplement their offline offerings.
However, as everyone is becoming more tech savvy and comfortable in doing more of their business and social networking online, many membership organisations now conduct the majority of their communication via an LMS or online portal, with some even being primarily or entirely run online.
Add to this the need for social distancing and remote communication while the coronavirus pandemic continues through 2021, and many membership organisations need an online hub to be able to function at all.
Often, generic LMS solutions can technically be adapted to meet the needs of a membership organisation with some custom development work. However, choosing one that has this use case catered for by design (rather than being very focused on training internal company employees) can save a lot of hacking around and headaches.
At imc, our Learning Suite has been developed with membership organisations as a key user-type, making it easy for administrators to organise training, certifications, CPD / CE, online communication and much more.
LMS key features for a membership organisation
These are some of the key features we have worked to continually improve, and that we recommend you look for when choosing the best LMS for a membership organisation like yours:
CPD / CE
Many professional membership organisations require a level of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) / Continuing Education (CE) for members to demonstrate their commitment to staying up to date with the latest industry information and best practices.
Therefore, a good membership LMS will help both users to follow and record any points-based training, whether conducted online or offline, while enabling administrators to signpost suitable courses and content.
While the typical LMS for employee learning and development will be set up to deliver on the top-down training requirements in line with a company’s business and compliance needs, many people join an organisation for the benefits of expert instructor and peer to peer support.
Therefore, a membership LMS should facilitate group chats, threaded discussions, and many of the content liking, sharing and commenting features that users will be familiar with from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Membership bodies, especially larger organisations, may have multiple types of learners, each with their own needs in terms of features, as well as content. For example, there will be the members themselves - who may form one or more type - there may be the organisation’s own staff who need training and their own ongoing support and development, and there may be external partners, such as affiliates and 3rd party training companies.
A multi-tenancy LMS like imc Learning Suite allows you to use a single learning platform instance to create distinct learning environments for each of your audiences. Each group sees only their self-contained learning experience, which can be tailored to their needs in terms of content, hierarchies, active features, and even branding.
Learn more about multi-tenancy here.
Many trade associations and membership organisations, including some of our clients, have tens or even hundreds of thousands of members. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your LMS can scale with you to large numbers of members without costs spiralling out of control.
Unlike online training for company employees, many organisation members will need to stay enrolled but may be relatively passive - perhaps not active at all for many months or longer.
Therefore, the pricing model used within an LMS for membership organisations should be tailored to or flex to reflect that lower level of resource usage seen within a typical corporate LMS that will be priced based on users / active users.
Of course, there are many moving parts within a membership organisation, with training being just one of them. Admin time is therefore a potentially big expense, so management of member data should be as seamless as possible across software platforms for CRM, email, video conferencing, finance, multimedia content and more using APIs.
For example, imc offers easy integration with popular 3rd party applications such as PayPal, Shopify, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Linkedin Learning and Salesforce.
It’s this streamlining of software products that enabled the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), who have 47,000 members worldwide, to go from 5 different systems for attendance bookings, training content, email notifications and more to managing everything within their LMS.
Keeping content relevant and fresh is key for learner engagement with your content. Adaptive learning capabilities within your LMS helps to intelligently assess learners’ existing competencies as they progress through training content. It will guide them to what they need to learn and improve on, and reduce the repetition and frustration that can come from ploughing through training where they are already capable.
LMS ecommerce functionality enables a membership organisation to deliver self-service enrolment, and purchase of individual or group courses, event attendance and more.
For larger organisations especially, this can greatly reduce admin overhead and bring significant cost savings. Look for integrations with popular ecommerce payment gateways, such as PayPal and Shopify.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, many events were already moving to a hybrid model in order to reduce the need for travel and open themselves up to a much wider audience.
Having virtual conferencing capabilities within your LMS allows you to quickly and easily set up and deliver tradeshows and member events at a fraction of the traditional cost and logistics. They can even be recorded and made accessible for any timezone, and open up discussion forums in moderated groups.
Content Creation Tools
Specialist learning and development teams will often create elearning content with popular software, such as Articulate, and make it available within the LMS. However, a membership organisation will often have tens or hundreds of subject matter experts who could be sharing their valuable expertise with the community.
An easy to use learning content development tool, like our own imc Express, can enable experts with no formal learning design experience to create and share training materials all within the LMS ecosystem. This can greatly reduce the time and expense of rolling out new training.
A large membership organisation will often have various levels of management, and local area leaders governing and supporting members within their group.
An LMS that is purpose built with membership organisations in mind will allow you to easily create hierarchies with differing levels of permissions, reflecting your own organisational structure.
Analytics & Reporting
Many membership organisations will have one or more overarching objectives supported by projects and events running across a year. A good LMS will enable you to easily create custom reports, giving you clear visibility of progress against overall and group targets.
Detailed analytics will enable you to laser in on groups or individuals that need additional support, as well as high-performers who could be earmarked as future leaders.
How we can help membership organisations like yours
If you’re involved in the running of a membership organisation and are looking to improve training delivery or reduce the time and expense of managing multiple software platforms, then the above checklist of features could help you leverage an LMS.
With the imc Learning Suite, we’ve helped a wide range of membership organisations, such as the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and the Australian NRL (National Rugby League) to manage many areas of their member administration - not just training - all within the single ecosystem of their LMS.
If you’d like to discuss how an LMS could benefit your organisation too, contact us at imc for an informal chat about your requirements.
Multiple portals, one system
A multi-tenancy LMS is a single learning management system instance that serves various learner groups with differing training needs.
Training external audiences
The concept of training external audiences like members, is often referred to as Extended Enterprise Training. But what is an extended enterprise?