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.
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.
Recently, Lance Simon, Blue Sky’s Senior Director of Business Development, was joined alongside George Duarte Lopez, Blue Sky’s Integrations Manager, and Liam O’Malley, Blue Sky’s Vice President of Association Solutions, to explain LMS-AMS Integration and discuss the three most common AMS-LMS integration options.
An overview of technical terms and technology concepts regarding LMS-AMS Integration:
What are the three key elements that we talk about with LMS-AMS Integration?
What is SSO?
The purpose of single sign-on according to Lance Simon, “is for your users to have one less username and password to forget.” But the official definition is as follows: “SSO is an authentication scheme that allows a user to log in with a single ID and password to any of several related, yet independent, software systems.”
Why is it important?
The terminology you may hear with SSO:
All methodologies provided below are for achieving token-based SSO:
Important questions to consider with SSO:
What is eCommerce?
eCommerce (i.e., purchase) integration is the synchronization of purchases between the AMS and the LMS. The AMS is the “system of record” in which the shopping cart, checkout, and financial transaction take place. Purchases may be reflected immediately in the LMS or upon the user’s next sign-on. The product catalog (descriptions and pricing of courses, webinars, etc.) may reside either in the LMS or the AMS.
Why is it important?
The terminology you may hear with eCommerce:
eCommerce: Important Questions to Consider
What is it?
Writeback is the process of transmitting activity completion records (courses, webinars, other activities) from the LMS to the AMS.
Why is it important?
The terminology you may hear with writeback:
Important questions to consider:
The webinar concluded with a live software demonstration of an LMS-AMS Integration, using a Path site that’s integrated with the Fonteva system. Our presenters walked through the three components of an LMS-AMS integration.
WATCH: Watch the recorded webinar here.Read Post
No matter how large your association is or how widely your members are spread out around the country and even the world, the internet has the power to keep you all connected. This is especially useful if a global pandemic prevents your regular in-person meetings and member engagements.
Maintaining an accessible and multifaceted online presence will keep all of your members interested in your association’s offerings.
Whether you want to make the most of the features offered by your membership management software, use your website to better tell your association’s story, or provide new types of online opportunities for your members, it’s always a good time to improve your digital engagement.
Let’s take a look at how you can use your association management system (AMS), website, and additional software systems to:
When the courses, events, and other programming that you offer members closely match their professional needs and interests, they’ll be excited to remain involved in your organization. Use the member information you have collected to create programming they’ll be excited to get engaged in.
Continuing education courses, conferences, live learning events, and other types of programming expand your members’ professional networks and help them grow in their careers. When it comes to developing the programming that will benefit your members most, the information stored in your AMS and other software solutions provides a wealth of valuable insight.
If your association is considering upgrading your AMS as part of your digital strategy, you can boost member engagement by choosing a system that offers:
When your association has plenty of updated information about your members, you’ll be better prepared to appeal to their interests and encourage future engagement in the process. To learn more about the data management capabilities you should look for in an AMS, check out Fonteva’s guide to the best association management software.
Among the many pieces of information your members’ profiles contain are their continuing education records. You can help them explore even more educational opportunities by offering them additional courses.
Your members joined your association because they value opportunities for professional development and growth in their careers. Continuing education courses are a valuable—and often necessary—component of that growth. Your association can facilitate your members’ continuing education by offering them courses through an association learning management system (LMS).
Whether your association is choosing an LMS for the first time or upgrading your current system, be on the lookout for features that the best LMS software solutions offer, including:
As with your association’s website or any other system your members use, effective design is essential to keeping them engaged. Test your LMS and the courses you create before offering them to your members to ensure that the user experience is positive.
Your digital strategy isn’t limited to the continuing education courses and other activities your members complete online. Use your AMS to help boost attendance at your next conference or other live events, whether virtual or in-person.
Members will be excited to meet and learn from like-minded professionals. Well-attended conferences and events help them grow their networks and encourage further participation in your association’s offerings. Use your AMS to facilitate event registration and management and increase turnout.
Your members will be excited to register for your event when the process of doing so is easy and they’re well-informed about the experience in advance. Your AMS can help:
To encourage event registration, create a marketing plan that includes automated emails, website notifications, and any additional online methods your association uses to stay in touch with members. When they’re well-informed and able to register easily, they’re sure to attend.
Selling branded merchandise in connection with events isn’t the only opportunity you have to increase your association’s revenue. Your digital strategy can help you expand eCommerce opportunities year-round.
When members want to buy your association’s products and services, the eCommerce features of your AMS should offer an easy and secure purchasing experience.
Whether you’re spreading the word about your association by selling branded merchandise or distributing continuing education courses, your AMS should be able to help you:
With plenty of options and a convenient, trustworthy eCommerce system through which to purchase, your members will be eager to take part in everything your association has to offer. Whether you’ve recently added new options to your online store or you have other news to share, you’ll want to keep your website updated so that members are always in the know.
Your members know to check your website when they want to stay updated on recent developments involving your association. Make it easy for them to find the information they need—and explore more of your association’s offerings—with an easily navigable website.
The best association websites are efficient, interactive, and versatile. Much of your material can be presented in the form of web pages, and it’s essential to keep this material updated for your members. As you evaluate your website, make sure that:
When your association’s offerings are tailored to personal and professional needs, your members will be eager to stay engaged with your association.
Reaching your members online is the most effective and efficient means of staying connected with them and encouraging future engagement. A digital strategy based on the needs and interests of your members is sure to help your association’s programming succeed. But to do so, you’ll need a dedicated membership management system and comprehensive tools to rely on.Read Post