The continuing education market is sweet. By some estimates, continuing education (CE) represents $47 billion of total formal training spending in the U.S. alone. So, it’s no surprise that the CE market is attracting a broad spectrum of providers. Associations, for-profit commercial training companies, academic institutions, and subject matter experts everywhere are competing for a slice of today’s lucrative CE pie.

With all this competition, you need more than good content to succeed with continuing education programs. It also requires the ideal mix of technologies. From my perspective as a learning tech analyst, that includes at least a baker’s dozen essentials, and today’s post will share my first five.

What to Include in Your LMS “Recipe” for Continuing Education Success

So, what exactly, should you bake into your continuing education infrastructure? In most learning technology circles, the following list of ingredients you’ll find in a good learning management system (LMS) is considered secret. However, an informed buyer is a successful buyer. If you combine each of these key elements in a way that suits your taste, I’m confident you’ll find your perfect CE LMS solution.

  1. User Interface: As with any modern digital business environment, CE success begins and ends with user experience design. It’s fruitless to try selling content to voluntary learners if your interface looks, feels, and works like an Excel spreadsheet – or worse. Instead, demand that customer-facing functions have the same seamless visual appeal, logic flow, and mobile capacity of mainstream content providers such as YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon. Anything less may not convince leaners to invest their time and money with you.
  1. Individual Ecommerce: Discounts, coupons, and promotional pricing can dramatically improve your sales – especially when those capabilities are tightly integrated with shopping cart and checkout capabilities. Also, look for the ability to provide free content with payment gates and free “trials” with timed content access prior to purchase. These features can make the difference between a fly-by prospect and a customer conversion. 
  1. Organization Ecommerce: In the context of continuing education, ecommerce is much more than a single LMS feature. Serving organizations with many learners is a great way to expand CE content sales, exponentially. Strong CE solutions support the process of buying in bulk within the LMS and automate processes for identifying and uploading learners, assigning content to learners, notifying them, and providing them with easy access to content. Also, on the backend, look for a solution that provides administrator-level dashboards, notifications, and status reports.
  1. Social Learning: More than threaded discussions, social learning now includes real-time activities within a course, class, or any content item, as well as broader social interaction at the LMS platform level. Intra-class social activities include working in groups, submitting assignments, peer and instructor evaluation, interactions, and grading. Platforms should include support for multiple social activities, including “following” learners, identifying experts and mentors, subscribing to user content channels, and liking/sharing/commenting on content.
  1. Gamification: Where social learning stops gamification begins – again, at both the content and LMS platform level. Intra-content gaming capabilities should include the ability to author content with learning games like flashcards, matching or at the highest level where leaners compete against each other within content, based on cumulative points, questions answered, time-to-completion, or highest grades. At the platform level, gamification should include leaderboards and contests that award content, cash, or other prizes. Also, Open Badges integration is a way for learners to display their credits and achievements in a universally portable format.

Everyone knows a good recipe takes practice and patience. Be sure to tune in to our PART TWO blog, tomorrow, for the remaining essentials to LMS success. And, for a deeper discussion, join our free webinar, “How To Drive Association Success With Continuing Education,” this Thursday, September 21, at noon CT.

About the Author

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named one of the Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers of 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant and blogger who helps organizations develop and implement learning for business technology strategies. John’s advice is based on 22 years of industry experience, having served as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.