LMS for Associations

3 Ways Associations Can Use Social Learning to Increase Member Engagement and Revenue

by Debbie Williams

Associations often struggle to retain members for several reasons, one of the most pressing of which is member engagement. When members become disengaged, they often cancel their memberships, decreasing association revenue.

Social learning, a training and professional development technique that helps people learn together in a social setting, can help prevent this from happening. Unlike the traditional eLearning used in associations, social learning increases engagement by encouraging members to participate and get involved with their peers. One study by J.R. Shoen¹ even found that social learning activities like group discussions can increase a learner’s active attention up to 75 percent.

Associations can use social learning to attract more members and increase revenues.

How to Boost Member Engagement with Social Learning

Here are a few ways to leverage social learning to drive member engagement:

1. Start a virtual course club -- Many associations provide members with free training, as well as create content that members can buy. To increase engagement with the training and association, associations should create a virtual course club for members that develops more face-to-face gatherings with others taking the same online courses. Vision Critical, a technology company, tried this idea and loved it. A contributor to LinkedIn wrote:

“The team at Vision Critical saw great success when they created a learning club within their organization. In the engineering department, for example, the team would choose a course to watch each week and then get together on Monday to discuss what they had learned. Not only did this help with learning retention, but it also brought the team closer together.”²

Association members often can’t meet in person because they live far from each other, but they can connect virtually. Consider placing members into groups based on their interests and assigning them to watch a video or mini-course within a seven-day period. At the end of the week, invite members to discuss their opinions about the video or course via online forum.

2. Host online workshops -- Online workshops give association members the opportunity to learn more about topics they are passionate about, share knowledge, connect with peers, and participate in social learning. Workshops don’t have to take place in person, they are often hosted digitally. If you charge members a fee, these online gatherings will produce another revenue stream for your association.

Consider this example: The American Association for Birth Centers (AABC)monetizes online workshops.³ For one of its workshops, “How to Start a Birth Center,” AABC includes a video tour of a Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. The tour is part of a larger 12-week program that exposes learners to successful birth centers to help them open their own. Faculty members lead the tour and teach a full online workshop, allowing allows learners to interact with experts.
Online workshops engage association members because they can ask questions and get answers from association leaders and subject matter experts. The workshops help members develop valuable skills that can propel them to reach their goals and increase loyalty to the association.

3. Build learning communities -- Building online learning communities adds value to the member experience by helping them network with others in their field who can help them learn, find new jobs, or advance their careers.

To create a virtual learning community, start by creating a central, online hub where members can gather.

“An eLearning blog, forum, or website serves as a central hub for your online learning community,” wrote Christopher Pappas, founder of eLearning Industry’s Network.4 “Rather than being dispersed all over the Internet, the community can gather in one centralized location and share their thoughts. This is also the place to post your support contacts, as well as links to all of your online platforms.”

After establishing the central hub, appoint online learning community leaders to monitor discussions and report issues to association employees. Place longtime members into these roles because of their experience and commitment to the association. Offer community members valuable, free resources such as informational videos, podcasts, and webinars to encourage members to participate and stay engaged with your association and its educational content.

Combine Social Learning with Other Tactics to Increases Association Member Retention

Increasing member retention is a common challenge for associations. Social learning can help, but to be most effective your member retention efforts should include a wide range of tactics. Combine social learning with increased member benefits, networking tools, and local and national events to help your members get involved.

If you’re interested in learning more about using online professional development as a benefit that engages and retains members, take a look at the article: How Large Associations Can Use LMS Software to Increase Member Retention.

Association Training


1. LinkedIn. 3 Social learning tactics to boost learner engagement. https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/learning-thought-leadership/3-social-learning-tactics-to-boost-learner-engagement.

2. ScooX. Why eLearning works: 3 stunning statistics for 2017. http://blog.schoox.com/why-elearning-works-3-stunning-statistics-for-2017/.

3. American Association of Birth Centers. https://www.birthcenters.org/page/hsbc_register_online.

4. eLearning Industry. 8 tips to build an online learning community. https://elearningindustry.com/tips-build-online-learning-community.

Debbie Williams

Debbie Williams

Director, Marketing