How to Prevent Member Education Burn OutAfter your organization decides to increase learning opportunities, there is usually a flurry of activity to roll out some eLearning. Classes are designed, written, and posted. Then the waiting begins. Build it and they will, supposedly, come. Are people signing up? Are they completing the classes?


With 86 per cent of organizations now using some form of eLearning courses (Dixon and Overton, 2011)[1], you need to look at what you are offering. Make sure you are keeping your educational material fresh and engaging to keep your members coming back.

1.    Relevant Content

Your association is in a unique position to provide subject matter expertise that can define your membership and keep their knowledge of the field current. Curating the most interesting news stories, posting regulatory changes, and bringing experts together for annual meetings helps reinforce the association’s position as the “go to” source for information. How does that translate into course offerings?

Instead of trying to determine what your members want or need, the best approach is the direct approach.


Surveying members will give you a sense of what THEY think is relevant and interesting. Ask in multiple ways, email, annual meetings, and by picking up the phone.  This gives you a compelling reason to touch your members and shows that you value what is important to them.

2.    Clear Learning Objectives

What are they going to learn and why are they going to learn it?[2] Making sure you can clearly articulate what they should get out of the learning forces you to be clear about it before you offer it. If you don’t know what they will get out of the learning, how will they?

 3.    Engaging content

Adults retain 20% of what they read and hear, 40% of what they see, 50% of what they say, 60% of what they do, and 90% of what they see, hear, say and do (Copeland, 2003)[3]  Anything you can do to keep learning offerings from being passive experiences will help make the content more engaging and memorable. Consider adding frequent breaks so the learners can engage with the learning material.  Discussion groups where learners can share ideas and facilitate information exchange can help them see real-world applications. Games can be fun wrappers for delivering content, but they have to use instructional design parameters to reinforce the learning objectives.

4.    Embrace the reality of Interruptions

Get a group of people together and how long is it before everyone is comparing their “busyness badges”?  We all suffer from competing demands for our time and attention. Plan your learning around the fact that your learners WILL get interrupted. Package the content into smaller chunks so they can move through the material and see progress.

Knowing what to do is not the same as actually doing it.  Iterate your ideas, ask for feedback, test course content with focus groups, and don’t be afraid to try new approaches.  Not everything will resonate with all your members. Finding the right content and delivery styles tales time. But keeping it fresh, interesting, and relevant will encourage them to continue to come back for more.

[1] Dixon, G & Overton, L, 201 1, “Towards Maturity 201 1-12 Benchmark Full Report”, Towards Maturity,

[2] Clinton Longenecker, Rob Abernathy, (2013),”The eight imperatives of effective adult learning”, Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 21 Iss 7 pp. 30 – 33

[3] Copeland, L. (2003). Training that rocks. Proceedings of ASSE’s Safety 2003, Denver, CO, USA.

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