Summary: We have some incredible people here at Blue Sky eLearn, so we’ve decided to share some stories and observations from someone who’s been with us through thick and thin: Jocelyn Taylor, our Senior Director of Sales Operations. With over 10 years of experience at Blue Sky, Jocelyn has seen her share of ups and downs, wins and losses, and an incredible amount of change in our industry… Take it away, Jocelyn!
Ten years ago, when I accepted a job at Blue Sky eLearn (well, Blue Sky Broadcast back then!), I was an eLearning newbie. But I dove in feet-first to learn all that I could about this amazing industry, and it’s been nothing short of an interesting, evolving, sometimes crazy ride. As I reflect on the last 10 years, I’m sharing what’s stood out to me the most:
At Blue Sky, while we’ve always focused on learning, we’ve also been dedicated to meetings and events that revolve around education. When I started working at Blue Sky, we were already running webinars and hybrid events. We had an online portal where we’d store on-demand content from these events, as well as content recorded from conferences. But the portal wasn’t all—we were also putting that on-demand content onto DVD-ROMs and mailing them out to purchasers! I still remember so many folks wanting to purchase the DVD because that allowed them to hold on to the content forever, whereas content stored online could disappear at any moment.
Fast forward a few years, and suddenly it was hard to buy a laptop that even had a spot for a DVD-ROM. DVDs quickly started becoming a thing of the past, and more and more of our clients began embracing eLearning—and not just on-demand content from live events, but content specifically created for online courses, as well. Our flagship product, Path LMS™, was born, and the exciting world of eLearning evolved around us.
Since then, we’ve built and grown Path LMS, adapting and innovating based on what’s going on in the industry and feedback from our clients. Virtual events have become more important than ever (although, we always knew how important they were!).
Technology isn’t the only thing that’s evolved: our buyers have, too! And eLearning software isn’t the only technology that has come a long way in the past 10 years. Can you believe products like Slack, Instagram, and Venmo were in the early stages of launching or didn’t even exist 10 years ago?
Using new technology that has developed in the last ten years has forced each of our buyers to become more tech savvy. As a result, their expectations have changed for the products and services they are using, which translates into more sophisticated sales processes, impressive launches, and use of Path LMS.
Okay, I know there are plenty of people out there who knew another pandemic was inevitable. Even if we had all known what was coming, I don’t think many were prepared for March 2020. But, Blue Sky was ready to help the world adapt.
Being a company that focuses on eLearning, Zoom meetings and virtual events weren’t new to us. But they were unknown to so many of our prospective customers. Those professional organizations who had always done everything in person were now looking at online options and relying heavily on Blue Sky to help them find the best solutions.
The number of inquiries was overwhelming as we all tried to navigate this new normal personally and professionally. Blue Sky doubled in size to handle the demand. And while 2021 has seen some conferences and meetings go back to being in-person, one thing is for sure—virtual is here to stay. There may be certain aspects of in-person conferences that can’t be replaced, but it’s truly up to the individual attendee if those things matter to them. Virtual conferences and eLearning have allowed people to save time, money, or both. They also enable people to feel safer and stay healthy while there are still so many unknowns.
When I talk about the future, there are a lot of unknowns. Should or shouldn’t we hold in-person meetings and events? Will the pandemic worsen, or will things start to get better? While I can’t predict those things or provide advice on whether to hold your event in-person or not, I can say this (again): virtual is here to stay—and that should be exciting!
After 18 months of virtual events and conferences, no matter what happens, a virtual component will now be expected. With ongoing travel bans and varying comfort levels, even if you can have an in-person event, there will be plenty of people who may choose not to attend. From a planning perspective, things like diminished room capacity restrictions that limit the size of an in-person audience will need to be considered.
Hosting virtual events over the past year and a half has allowed organizations to expand their reach to those who may not have attended an in-person conference regardless of the pandemic. No one wants to lose these new learners by no longer offering a virtual component.
Along with expanding reach, having a 100% virtual event allows for organizations to be more flexible. For example, an in-person event could be up to five full days. On the other hand, a virtual event could be a series of shorter days or sessions over an entire month or quarter, expanding potential touchpoints and value to the learners.
For organizations planning to stay 100% virtual in 2021 (or even 2022!), there is no need to worry about changing restrictions, shutdowns, or travel bans affecting conferences. Having a virtual component be at least part of the plan allows organizations to be in a good spot to transition to a 100% virtual event if necessary.
What will the next 10 years at Blue Sky eLearn hold? I don’t know for sure. And while there are so many unknowns about the future, organizations are finding great success with virtual events, and that is so exciting to see! I’m ready for the next 10 years with Blue Sky eLearn, and I hope you are too!
About the Author
Jocelyn Taylor is the Senior Director of Sales Operations at Blue Sky eLearn. She has over decade of experience in sales and marketing, specializing in associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside—whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).
Micro-credentials can be an outstanding way for organizations to support all aspects of professional development and lifelong learning for their stakeholders. But, what are micro-credentials, and why should you consider using them in your association or organization? We had an informative conversation with Dr. Ginger Malin, CEO at BadgeCert, which answered these very questions.
Our VP of Client Experience, Amanda Davis, guided the discussion during our webinar: A Fireside Chat with BadgeCert & Blue Sky eLearn: Innovations in Learning: The Small but Mighty Micro-Credential. Watch the entire webinar here, and read on for some key insights.
A micro-credential is a short competency and learning-based recognition. Completing a micro-credential provides evidence to potential employers that individuals have mastered the skills necessary to succeed.
Digital badges often represent a collection or “stack” of micro-credentials. They are great visual ways to show a commitment to learning and acknowledge achievements on resumes, social media, and more.
Stackable credentials are an opportunity to start small and then stack one credential upon another to build a mastery of a specific competency or skill. It’s like a “choose your own adventure” for your professional career advancement.
Micro-credentials provide numerous valuable opportunities to organizations and can include:
Content Utilization: Many organizations have vast, yet often scattered, libraries of content. Micro-credentials offer a new way to present and package content for members while recognizing credential holders’ achievements. The goal isn’t necessarily to create new content; rather, it’s an opportunity to recenter what you’re already doing and repackage it in a different way to support members.
Providing “Value Adds” to Members: Professionals need ways to individualize their learning and differentiate themselves in the competitive employment marketplace. Micro-credentialing is a fun and fulfilling way to help members advance their careers and engage them on more levels within your organization.
In a word, yes! The best way to assess how micro-credentials can help fill gaps of learning is through a content audit. Using the audit as a roadmap, you can easily identify gaps that will create a guide for future content development needs, show repurposing opportunities, and, most importantly, show you all the progress you have made thus far. Once you have audited the content and created a content curation plan, you can determine where to develop micro-credentials.
Other areas micro-credentials can help address:
Pre-Credential: In what ways do you help people who are new to an industry or organization? How can you help them get prepared to sit for a credential? Micro-credentials are a great way to help new folks dip their toes into the water and determine if they are working toward something they are truly passionate about.
Post-Credential: Learners have earned their credentials; now what? Micro-credentials are a great way to continue adding to their accomplishment, build upon their experience, and keep them invested in the credential.
Adaptation: As we’ve seen in the last few years, change can happen fast. Organizations need to adapt to changes in their respective industries and a constantly changing environment. Micro-credentials are a great way to fill in the gaps during times of change and transition.
Additional Recognition: Micro-credentials are rich opportunities to recognize more nuanced achievements. These recognitions go beyond course completion to identify something skill-based and unique to the learner and organization.
Micro-credentials help answer the common question of “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). Associations that provide more opportunities for formal recognition have an advantage over associations that don’t. A member will feel like they have more “skin in the game” and want to continue their membership if they have more chances to demonstrate their learning, be formally acknowledged by an industry authority, and thus be supported in their career.
Want additional ideas on how to implement micro-credentials into your learning program? We discussed so much more during our webinar, including:
I recently moderated a Think Tank event for the Association Executives of North Carolina Young Professionals group, FUEL. This event brought association executives and their partner organizations together to discuss the problems they see facing the world and innovate new solutions to fix them.
Think Tanks do not create policy, but they do bring new ideas and solutions to the table to enable change. The format for this event was a moderated discussion where attendees submitted questions ahead of the event and then answered each other’s questions by providing ideas and feedback during the live session. It was an amazing experience watching peers help peers—especially during our ongoing global pandemic. The energy in this session was unmatched. It was exciting, scary (at times), enlightening, and ultimately gratifying. I know no greater success than being able to assist my peers in their pursuit for positive change!
This was my second opportunity to moderate this type of session, and I had an absolute blast doing so! The discussion revolved around three main topics: 1. The Shifting Work Culture, 2. The Work We Do, and 3. How Will the Work We Do Be Affected Post-Pandemic?
Because these topics are top of mind for many association professionals we engage with at Blue Sky eLearn, I’ll be sharing highlights from each in a series of blog posts titled “Thoughts from a Think Tank”. Read on for part one of this three-part series.
WOW! Such great stuff. It was so insightful to hear how people are navigating office culture in this uncertain landscape. As the world changes, so does our office dynamic. This conversation demonstrated that now, more than ever, paying attention to people is vital. “People” can take so many different forms: team members, constituents (those you serve), clients, partners, and others.
The time spent nurturing will pay off in your business outcomes. Take the time now to set yourself up for success in the future. The “loud and clear” message was to make sure you are appreciated for your contributions. There is opportunity out there, and if an organization is unwilling to show you how important you are, other places will.
Be sure to look out for the next blog where I’ll share highlights from our next topic, The Work We Do.
About the Author
Amanda Davis, CMP is our Vice President of Client Experience and has nearly ten years of experience in the association world, strategically focused on learning products. With multiple association roles as Director of Learning & Development and Online Learning Manager, Amanda has a deep understanding of the adult learning landscape and what keeps association executives up at night. Amanda recognizes the importance of strong learning technologies for today’s nimble associations and hopes through her role with Blue Sky eLearn, she’ll be able to contribute to the success of our growing mix of association clients.
Amanda graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, with a degree in Communications Studies with a concentration in Interpersonal Communications. She and her husband are parents of a four-year old, Leo. Amanda enjoys playing competitive tennis, completing DIY projects for their very own “Fixer Upper”, and community outreach activities. Seemingly she stays very busy but is always sure to make time for family fun.
The first pitfall into member attrition is the assumption that members are committed to sticking with an organization simply because they’ve signed up to pay regular dues. That financial pledge is far from a binding agreement, and their continued membership is contingent on your upkeep of further incentives to stick with the program.
Just think about the difference between the expectations of a one-time donor and those of a longtime member. When a regular supporter pledges a gift, they’re investing in your ability to forward the cause. When a member pledges their dues, they’re also investing in your organization’s ability to provide value through development and training opportunities.
Never forget that their continued support is conditional on the exchange of extra resources, events, and opportunities. Fail to provide these engaging opportunities, and your membership rate is sure to drop.
Funny enough, one of the most important steps in the event lifecycle is often one of the most overlooked. Keep in mind that not even the best events can succeed without strong attendance. That’s why marketing is such a crucial step to the success of your association events.
Promoting these special membership events is a multi-step process that could include written invitations, videos, and social media posts. Far and away one of the most effective channels for association event marketing is email. This reach of this medium is unrivaled, with 99% of consumers checking their email daily.
However, you can only maximize the benefits of email marketing to your event when you employ specific engagement strategies. In this guide, you’ll find out how and why you should:
With an intuitive and comprehensive email marketing strategy, you’ll work to increase your member engagement and retention, giving your associates an invaluable return on their investment.
The poorer your email content, the more difficult it will be to market effectively. After all, even the most engaging messaging template will feel empty or uninspired with a dull message. Once members read through too many poor messages, they might very well become non-openers.
Your top priority should be to optimize your content. By taking the time to create appealing, informative, and specific content, your email marketing immediately becomes far more likely to digitally engage your members and thereby increase actual event registration.
Many marketing emails are in danger of falling through the cracks and getting ignored, whether that’s due to generalized messaging or other poor content practices. A badly curated message will bore and alienate readers from the attraction of the event being promoted. A great message will encourage indecisive members to take a chance and enjoy the opportunity.
Here are a few tips to optimize your own email marketing content:
These content best practices can also be more easily streamlined with an effective membership management software—integrations between your member database and your email tools make it easy to automate the process of personalizing subject lines with members’ names. This is especially helpful if your team is short on time or if your membership base has recently grown, when creating truly specific, personalized content can be a logistically difficult task.
However, your personalization strategies should go far beyond simply calling your members by name. While this is a good first step, the best way to give them a stronger sense of connection with your organization is to personalize all of your member outreach.
As mentioned above, our recommended strategy is to integrate your email marketing tools to work in conjunction with your existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and/or Association Management System (AMS). This will allow you to track and apply important member data in all of your email communications.
For example, your AMS and CRM systems are capable of gathering and organizing data such as member age ranges, shared interests, and other segmented similarities that go beyond the initial courtesy of remembering your associates’ names. You can use this information to personalize marketing campaigns to the members receiving them, such as sending more virtual event opportunities to members outside of your local base of operations.
You might consider focusing on a few of the following strategies when deciding how to make use of precious CRM data:
Fonteva’s buyer’s guide to event management software may also be of some use to take full advantage of these event strategy methods.
These techniques will not only improve your relationship with members, but can also increase the registration rates of future events and build life-long support for your association. After all, the more personally connected that a member feels to your organization and other members, the more likely they are to see value in your programming.
Now that your event marketing tool is working closely with your AMS and CRM software, you are free to analyze and implement this data in ways that might not have been previously possible.
One of the key tools available to you is the ability to create comprehensive data reports on your marketing efforts. After all, how can the success or failure of your association events and marketing be measured without having that data organized in the first place?
By compiling reports on member engagement statistics, your team can review the strengths and weaknesses of your email marketing strategy and course-correct in a more informed manner. This helps you to foster successful practices, and suss out what operations could be improved.
For instance, your team can make note of which emails have been read and which tend to be left unopened. Then you find a common trend among the non-openers, such as certain style, content, or subject choices, and adjust that unfavorable trait in your future messaging. Finally, you could use this information to increase event registration rates, as you minimize the possibility of important event emails ending up as dead non-openers in your members’ inboxes.
Try experimenting with this strategy for yourself. Let your software run an email marketing and data report for your team to review and see how you can implement tangible, specific changes to your next marketing campaign.
Even the most capable development professionals can struggle to market their member events, and great opportunities can still tally an attendance rate far lower than expected. Unfortunately, these events are only as successful as the number of participants there (virtually or in-person) to enjoy what you’ve created. Especially considering the current pandemic, many association events are in crisis with the struggle to increase their attendance rates and overall success.
Thankfully, with a more engaging, personalized, and informed email marketing strategy, your team can break down the roadblocks that keep your members from engaging with your event emails and with the events themselves. For more tools to help manage your membership operations, Fonteva’s listing of top management software options includes detailed descriptions of various association services and features that may suit your individual needs.
About the Author
With over two decades of experience marketing association technology, Fonteva CMO Jake Fabbri has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs of associations and the challenges technology can solve. Jake’s marketing expertise has been honed by demonstrated excellence in the areas of lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.
Recently, Dan Streeter, Blue Sky eLearn’s VP of Learning Strategy and Development, hosted the webinar Beyond the Basics of Instructional Design: 3D Modeling, Microlearning, and Gamification. You can watch the 30-minute on-demand program here at any time, but in the meantime, you can also check out a brief summary below:
Dan first starts off with a framework, which he calls “The Learning Equation.” The Learning Equation is: Emotion + Experience = Learning.
Walk in feeling or acting one way… and walk out changed/feeling or acting another way. As instructional designers, our job is to allow for that behavior change to happen. Emotion is the thing that gets the person to be engaged in learning. Once you have a lot of experience you will get to the learning part!
What is 3D Modeling? It’s taking a 3D object and displaying it in a 2D space.
3D Modeling Tools can include things like:
Dan then dives into real-life examples – tune into the on-demand webinar to check it out!
Microlearning means providing learning in small learning units (think anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length).
Dan then talks about the Forgetting Curve. With the Forgetting Curve, day number one is the best day to learn something and hold onto it. There is then a slow deterioration every day after that. Microlearning allows for learning to be reinforced instead of just deteriorating.
Microlearning Tools include things like:
Dan then dives into real-life examples – tune into the on-demand webinar to check it out!
How does gamification work?
Games use each of the above items to motivate and train at the same time.
Gamification approaches include:
When it comes back to the Learning Equation, gamification is creating emotion and tension and because you are IN the game and you are getting an experience. Gamification can certainly increase the likelihood that learning will happen. But what tools will you need?
Dan then dives into real life examples.
Wait…we can’t give it ALL away here! Tune in to Dan’s 30-minute on-demand webinar to learn about our secret tool as well as dive in deeper to items 1-3 above!
Technical Account Managers (aka TAMs) are a client’s dedicated partner when it comes to SaaS products. They are real people on project teams helping and guiding clients (those we call Path Admins) as they are navigating a new tool.
During a project lifecycle at Blue Sky eLearn, the Technical Account Manager is introduced as a key player that can help a client with questions, troubleshooting issues, and ensuring they have a dedicated problem-solving partner.
But let’s break that down even more… What does this really mean?
No canned responses here… nope, no way
When dealing with many SaaS companies, getting support can be a convoluted and frustrating process. A typical support infrastructure often uses canned responses and complex protocols and messaging, making clients feel unheard when they need help.
We do it differently at Blue Sky eLearn
Our TAMs want their clients to know with 100% certainty that real people are answering every single ticket that comes their way. Using thoughtful responses and screen recordings as teaching tools, our TAMs are at-the-ready to solve each problem as unique. And while Blue Sky has comprehensive documentation on “how-to-do XYZ” (especially for those clients who like to try things on their own!), there is a level of teaching and guidance that takes place in each ticket that our team handles. TAMs need to teach and apply a unique use case to each ticket because a client’s company goals are not the same across the board.
Let’s solve the problem together
When our TAMs are reading through your tickets, they become detectives. They dig through your Path site, learn about your organization, discover where there might be a gap with an application of a feature or setup, and begin to find a targeted solution for you. At Blue Sky eLearn, our approach focuses on teaching and transfer of knowledge to ensure that your Path Admins can be successful.
Our TAMs encourage testing. And while testing a solution is important, when you receive our messages, our TAMs never want you to feel lost or like you don’t have a trusted partner on the other end. Feedback and communication is key to ensure what we’re testing is working!
The TAM team’s goal is to provide you with the best solution or fix to ensure you can continue hitting your goals and helping your learners access their educational tools.
Clients choose an LMS partner to address both a learning gap and an immediate need to provide an educational tool to their members and stakeholders. There is a clear vision driving clients’ initiatives. Technical Account Mangers work to ensure you maintain the success of that initiative by having not just the right answer to a question but also the tools to execute on that vision.
About the Author:
Brittany Donnelly has been with BSE since 2020. She has over 8 years of SaaS experience in project management and client support. She loves to travel and explore all over the world with her two young boys.