Association members grow and change over time, and their needs grow and change with them. Unless the association addresses these changes, members won’t see the value of their membership. One tried-and-tested way to keep members engaged is providing professional development opportunities – either to improve networking avenues for members or to support them in certification exams. But how do associations accomplish this? Through a learning management system (LMS).

Learning management systems have taken over how associations distribute and generate revenue from their professional development materials. But like everything else, not all association LMS platforms are created equal.

Below are the seven essential features that associations should look for when selecting an LMS. Selecting a software vendor is easy, but it’s looking at the product they’re selling that can get tricky.

  1. Built-in Course Authoring

The more engaging the course, the better understanding and value your members will receive from it. It’s important to think about how your association will rapidly create high quality courses for members. Built-in course authoring tools are a good way to accomplish this, not to say they should replace your current course authoring. Look for ways you can use the LMS tools to add to the experience for your members.

Course authoring should let associations include videos and images within courses for visual interest, games for additional learning strategies, as well as interactive drag-and-drop experiences for variety. An LMS will help your team create the most functional course possible while keeping the user experience in mind.

2. Assessment Authoring and Analysis

To most associations offering CE, assessments are the key reason they need an LMS. Assessment tools are the only way associations will be able to gauge learner comprehension and whether the course meets accreditation or certification requirements. When choosing an LMS for your association, be sure both assessment authoring and analysis are possible.

Assessment Authoring

Choose a robust learning management system that lets your team create tests without much complexity. Ask for options that will let your team upload existing questions to their LMS or write new ones directly in the program, build a question bank and tag questions with different qualifiers.

Assessment Analysis

Writing the questions is winning just half the battle. Associations need to be able to analyze their questions and their learners’ test results in order to build better assessments moving forward. Ask the LMS vendor if you can do psychometric analysis of quiz and test questions, generate the percentage of correct answers per question or section, and average results across assessments and courses.

Remember: analysis leads to data-driven decisions, which leads to a stronger education program in the long run.

3. External Credit Claiming

Learners are receiving credit in a variety of ways these days, not just in your association’s LMS. They also want to watch and participate in live webinars, attend conferences outside of the association they are a part of, and broaden their educational experiences and when they do, they want to receive credit for them.

Make sure that the LMS you choose offers an option for members to track all their education with your association by inputting credits earned elsewhere into the system, which the LMS can then log into the member’s transcript or record.

4. Adaptive Learning

Individualized learning experience is often missed in the LMS selection process.. Ensuring members have the best experience possible is an effective way of retaining membership and will be a good marketing tool to attract potential members moving forward.

Adaptive learning technology in an LMS allows associations to market different courses to their members based on industry or trade, previous coursework completed, member-indicated interests, and mentor or mentee status.

5. Credit Tracking and Transcript

The primary reason why members use their learning software is to track credits and certificates as they further their careers and meet annual accreditation requirements. Therefore, associations should pick an LMS with an easy-to-access and easy-to-use transcript for every learner.

Associations in the medical, education, and trade industries especially, should use an LMS that can provide accreditation and certification in whatever format required by the member’s industry. The learners in these fields are held accountable by their associations to maintain a certain level of education by taking classes online or at universities.

6. Business-driven Reporting

A learning management system is more than just a tool to distribute courses to association members. Reporting data generated by an LMS gives the association the ability to prove business outcomes, identify training factors that increase productivity and performance, provide better learning experience for their members, and make data-driven decisions on investment.

Go with an LMS that will let you track and analyze course completion data, course popularity, course ratings, instructor ratings, and so on. When your association can see and analyze your own metrics, you can calculate your growth trajectory and make informed decisions to increase your association’s member engagement and create a stronger community among your members.

7. Customization and Integration

Make sure that the LMS you choose can be customized to your association’s brand. Being able to use your logo and your association’s theme colors is important in building authority and trust in your association. Learning management systems do not adhere to a one-size-fits all philosophy, so choose a learning management system that is flexible.

Knowing how an LMS will fit with everything else in your system is the final feature that associations should focus on, as system integration is where a lot of the frustrations come from. Choose an LMS that can easily communicate with your association management system (AMS), your payment processing software if it’s not included in your AMS, and your communication software.