While associations are offering more online education than ever before, in-person seminars are still very popular among learners. Why? The opportunity to spend time with peers is still a big draw for members.

In Abila’s Member Engagement Study, we discovered that professional development and networking are some of the top ways members feel engaged with an organization. The desire to create professional and personal relationships is of great importance to members, which means associations need to facilitate avenues for this interaction. If you can tie it in with education, that’s even better!

Online communities are an effective way to promote connections among members as you increase the engagement surrounding your online learning programs. By integrating a community element into your courses, you’re creating a robust educational experience and differentiating yourself from your competitors, which will keep your customers coming back for more.

Consider linking up your online learning platform to your community discussions, so they display within your streaming programs. This allows members to communicate as they watch a live webcast or an on-demand program, while you simultaneously capture the interactions in your community.

If you have a speaker who loves experimenting with different interactivity methods, you can create a set of virtual instructor-led trainings that ties in your community with a webinar series. As a part of these trainings, the instructor can lead discussions before and after the event and ask attendees to submit homework within the community platform, so he/she can provide feedback. The instructor may even require registrants to collaborate as part of the course. You can weave these interactions in seamlessly with the webinars to create an engaging series.

A series like this can be very attractive to younger learners and can help get them on the path to becoming lifetime members. Remember, these customers are used to having a large online network through school and/or social media. They may be low on cash and hunting for a job, so will jump at an opportunity to invest in a course that not only supplies them with education, but gives them the chance to network.

If you offer certification through your online learning, make sure to tie that in with your community. Learners love to show off their professional prowess, so you can incorporate badges based on the completion of a set of online courses. Displaying these designations not only makes the member feel special, it also allows you to promote the course to others.

To learn more about leveraging communities to connect with your members, watch Abila’s webinar, Let’s Get Together: Leveraging Online Communities to Drive Member Engagement.