As part of my day job I’ve had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) for the past few days, and as might be expected, have done so with an eye to the vital signs of online learning in the association community. I am glad to report that an e-learning heartbeat was easily detectable, but I am concerned that it is still not as strong as might have been hoped by now.
There are two main areas I look to in arriving at a diagnosis: learning lab sessions and online learning vendor presence in the exhibit hall. These, I feel, are driven by member input and the market environment more than the general assemblies or Thought Leadership sessions are.
In the official program for the meeting there were 4 out of a total of 116 learning sessions that, in my opinion, suggested a connection to online learning (directly or indirectly). These were:
- The Steps for Creating an Online Community
- eLearning: Know What You Are Building Before You Buy a Hammer
- Open Access: Digital, Online, Free-of-charge Publication Models
- Strategies for Effective Online Events
Naturally, I am applying the somewhat broad definition of online learning we use at Mission to Learn to arrive at the list above. If I had to base my diagnosis on the number of sessions alone—particularly those that actually had “e-learning” or “online learning” in their titles—I might have sent the patient off to intensive care by this point. I was able to attend the “Know What You Are Building…” session, however, and the high attendance suggested a strong interest. I was also able to participate in the “A Dialogue on Professional Development” session where attendees narrowed down a long list of potential topics to a final four that included online learning and re-purposing of content—the later with a strong online focus.
I also had numerous conversations with meeting attendees that reflected a hunger for more concrete guidance regarding e-learning and, of course, am aware of the growing adoption rate of online learning in the association sector. I have heard rumblings (though still have received no concrete information) about an online e-learning event planned by ASAE for this fall, but even so, ASAE is simply not doing enough to provide substantive support around a strategic tool that can so clearly contribute to a fundamental element of nearly every association’s mission: education.
The number and variety of vendors who have recognized the opportunity that e-learning represents in the association market is somewhat more encouraging, though I think there is plenty of room for improvement in this area as well. Here are the companies that were grouped under the Distance Learning exhibitor category this year:
- Blue Sky Broadcast
- Boston Conferencing
- Business Training Library
- Fusion Productions
- Isoph (LearnSomething)
- KRM Information Services
- Results Direct
- Stony Hill Management
- University Alliance
Many of these, it should be noted, are Webinar providers and/or companies that capture meeting content to make it available on an on-demand basis. While this is understandably a popular e-learning option in the association market, I do have my concerns—which I will address in a future posting—about whether the overall quality of education being delivered via this modality—particularly in its archived, on-demand version—is what most associations really want to achieve.
To wrap up, there were some good resources that were made available as part of the learning sessions. These included:
- Know What You’re Building Before You Buy a Hammer (addresses e-learning strategy development)
- Five Considerations for Successful Webinars
- Tactics for: Effective Online Events
Whether you were at the annual meeting or not, let me know your thoughts on how well you feel ASAE is supporting your needs with respect to online learning.
P.S.—By the way, if you would like to see other blog posts about ASAE, visit http://www.technorati.com/tag/asae2007, which was set up by Ben Martin, or subscribe to the RSS feed at http://feeds.technorati.com/search/asae2007.