Guest Post by Rick Rutherford, Writer, Speaker, and Association Technology Evangelist
There is little question the world of continuing education and professional development has been going through a number of significant changes recently. For associations this means the pressure to simultaneously meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition continues to grow. It is vital for leaders to be armed with the relevant data required to ensure their CE programs will be successful.
Understanding the role of lifelong learning in professional life is increasingly important, especially with job-switching on the rise as mid-life career changes continue to accelerate. The call for continuing education programming that serves the needs of these lifelong learners has never been greater.
The world of CE is nothing new for associations. The ASAE study The Decision to Learn, reported that more than 80 percent of associations deliver professional development and training programs, with around one-third administering accreditation or certification programs as well. Education and certification have become, on average, the third-largest source of revenue for associations.
For decades associations have been the bedrock for continuing education and professional development for countless professions, impacting the lives of millions of individuals. But as is often the case with technology, delivery of these invaluable services has changed, and will continue to change rapidly. Enter the wild world of online learning – credentialing, micro-credentialing and badging, often delivered by Learning Management Software.
According to Adrienne Segundo, IOM, Chairman/COO for Limitless Association Solution Resource, the future of associations will revolve around credentialing and certification programs. This means continuing education can no longer be just about holding an event where only a fraction of its members attend – it’s about creating innovative opportunities to connect all members with learning opportunities by leveraging the technology available today. For many that includes utilizing an AMS and/or LMS for their programs.
When asked for recommendations on initial steps an association should take if they are already utilizing an AMS and are interested in adopting credentialing as part of their CE efforts, Adrienne offered these tips:
- Pull together all stakeholders (entry level staff, directors, CEO and even a few key Board/Committee members) and map out what you want to get out of your LMS.
- Identify current needs/wants as well as future needs. For example, do you need an LMS to only provide CE tracking, or in addition, provide a member/user with recommendations regarding additional training the need based on lack of CE in a respective area. You might also need the LMS to provide mini-evaluations by assessing where the member/user is regarding their current job role and recommend where they might need additional training in order to advance their career.
Once you have determined the answer to those questions the next few items are key in selecting the right LMS for your organization’s needs:
- Is it a proprietary LMS? If so, how does this potentially impact your CE program?
- Is it an open source LMS? If so, how easily can you customize your offerings?
- Identify desired features based on your needs/wants.
- Identify start-up (implementation) and maintenance costs.
- What are capabilities for future expansion? It is important to ensure the LMS you select allows for that anticipated growth.
For an association looking to add credentialing to their CE strategy, and are in the market for a new AMS, Adrienne recommends: First, ask your current AMS provider if they have a credentialing module that can be added as part of the solution they provide. Several AMS companies have this capability already in their suite of options – sometimes switching to a new AMS may not be the most optimal solution. If not, then conduct a search for an AMS that includes a credentialing component and focus on the following: capacity, capability, tracking and security.
- Capacity: It is imperative that any AMS system with certification capability you select actually has the capacity to store a lot of testing related data – from eligibility requirements and examination records all the way through recertification and renewal. This information MUST be retained for years within the database and not be overwritten;
- Capability: This is where capability comes into play – the AMS in question must have the capability to contain multiple fields to enable the import and export of information to/from a contracted testing vendor;
- Tracking: Tracking examinations, specifically for those who hold current status within the certification and/or renewal process is a must; and,
- Security: The information captured within a certification program must be maintained in a secure environment. The data needs to be segregated from what is traditionally captured in a membership database. The certification exists between the individual and the issuing program. The AMS must have features available to secure their information and not allow any personal information to be released and/or shared without permission.
There are many “credentialing only” software companies in the marketplace that may integrate with an AMS you are using. If you choose to go that route it is important to understand the flexibility of the application program interface (API) used by the AMS you work with. Having a handle on your current and future needs are equally as important in this scenario.
Guest post with Rick Rutherford
Adrienne Segundo has over fourteen years experience in the association industry with her most recent move to opening up her own boutique AMC that specializes in the development and maintenance of certification programs. Limitless Association Solution Resource is based in Littleton, CO and she serves as the COO/Chairman of the business. Prior to that she served as the Director of Credentialing & Operations for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). The NBSTSA is the leading certification program for the CST and CSFA professions and both of these certification programs maintain NCCA accreditation. Adrienne has extensive experience in exam development, ANSI ISO 17024 accreditation, NCCA accreditation and any advance credentialing and marketing of many credentials.