Published On: June 19, 2018By
Podcast - Association Technology Trends - Listen to the Talented Learning Show with independent analyst John Leh and guest Tamer Ali, SVP of Community Brands


To learn more about this podcast series or to see the full collection of episodes visit The Talented Learning Show main page.



Member-based organizations are facing unprecedented competitive pressure.  How are new technologies helping them retool for the future?

Join me as I explore these issues and more with Tamer Ali, SVP of Education at Crowd Wisdom™, a division of Community Brands.  With two decades of proven success in developing and delivering continuing education solutions, Tamer is my go-to source for insight into cutting-edge association technology trends.



As member-based organizations reposition themselves for the future, they are facing fundamental strategic issues.  These are the drivers for association technology trends in 2018.

Successful associations are gaining significant leverage from integrating traditionally disparate assets – systems, data and content.

Continuing education is increasingly attractive as a way for associations to create a sustainable competitive advantage.



As a consultant, I’m often asked about the many recent acquisitions by Community Brands.  Could you shed some light on this?

As you know, the whole industry is fragmented.  We see a lot of data and technology disparity, a lot of silos and a lot of pain for organizations trying to find the right solution.  So Community Brands is bringing together best-in-class providers to break down the barriers, centralize data and provide a solution set that brings in modern technologies, web services and the seamless integrations associations deserve.

Webinar Replay: The Power of Professional Development, How to Succeed with Continuing Education - featuring analyst John Leh


What silos do you see most often?

Broken user experiences.  In this era of frictionless commerce, it’s the opposite of that.  Tons of friction.  Tons of obstacles.  Many clicks.  Disparate screens that don’t look connected.  These days, people expect to sign-up with just a quick click or a phone number entry.  But just jumping over the fence to become affiliated with an association can be frustrating and complex.

Behind the scenes, the data isn’t shared.  Silos of data are just waiting to be tapped for valuable insights, but they’re not because they are trapped in legacy systems that don’t communicate with each other, or they don’t interface with other systems because they lack modern APIs and web services.  The industry has been slow to adopt.

Those are huge issues.  What are the biggest challenges associations face in 2018?

Associations have been facing an existential crisis of relevance.  Many have positioned themselves through two major product lines – membership dues and an annual event.  It’s very dangerous to run a business with only one or two products.  Organizations that are succeeding have diversified, primarily by adding continuing education.

So there’s a clear need to expand association product portfolios.  Anything else?

I see two more challenges:

1)  The need for stronger competitive strategy.  Associations used to be the only game in town for professional education, but now there’s competition from both for-profits and other nonprofits.  Some are nimble startups or well-funded ventures, and associations just aren’t structured to compete with them.  In fact, by endorsing these “frenemy” providers, or offering them a platform to reach their members, associations are actually cannibalizing themselves.

2) The need to keep up with member content demands.  This involves multiple aspects of content – volume, specificity and portability.  There is definitely some historic inertia, here.

Are you seeing a resurgence in the “career competency” model?  Or is that futuristic stuff?

It’s definitely not Blade Runner futuristic anymore.  When I started working with associations, educational content was offered through a “store” that organized content alpha-numerically like a community college catalog.  Unfortunately, some still use that model.

But more organizations are moving toward competency paths.  And it’s more than just a casual shift.  There’s increasing emphasis on associations supporting careers through predictable paths.  This is good for associations because it relieves the pressure of having to be a single source for all education material.

That’s an encouraging trend…

Associations can be the trusted authority that provides career benchmarks and the clear paths that align with various career trajectories.  I can’t think of any entity better than an association to make those suggestions for me as a professional.

The association can create some of the educational content, but also partner with other providers to fill in each of the necessary levels.  This is good for the association because it generates predictable revenues and reinforces the organization’s relevance to the profession.

Should this be tied to certifications or designations, or should this be viewed more broadly?

I think designations remain of value.  And with access to appropriate technology and tools, micro-credentials, microcontent and certificates should continue to be relevant.

WEBINAR REPLAY - Bridging the Learning Analytics Gap - with analyst John Leh and expert Tamer Ali of Authentic Learning Labs


This is actually a less risky option for associations that may consider major credentials or certifications out of reach.  A micro-credential or a focused path involves a lot less planning and a lot less work.  It also bodes well for participants because it defines skills that make them more marketable in their profession.

Could you share an example of a micro-credential?

Some purists say it’s a discrete task.  For example in certain fields, things like evaluating a P&L statement is a critical task and an essential capability.  So that could be a micro-credential.  It would be very valuable for financial industry employers or even for construction companies seeking that particular kind of expertise.

So for associations, what is the best content to sell?  Micro-credentials?  Test prep?  Regular certifications or credentials?  Or something else?

We always ask our clients that question.  What is the top-shelf educational content that can bring the masses to your portal when you first launch a new program or LMS?  Then we think about how they can position that content better than any other organization.

Makes sense…

We try to avoid generic continuing education because it may fill the shelves, but it doesn’t excite people.  So typically we focus on assessments, certification prep, exam prep or credential support – areas that make an immediate impact.  Those typically don’t require heavy lifting in terms of multimedia and rich experiences.  They also tend to be profitable because people tend to pay a higher premium for drill and practice or when preparing for a credential.

So let’s talk about the technology that supports this kind of continuing education.

The LMS is not going to die. But it is moving away from simply being a dispenser of content and a mechanism for tracking basic training activity.  A modern learning platform can analyze your profile, interests and behaviors, compared with similar members.  Then associations can use that intelligence to recommend appropriate content to you.

So the LMS is no longer a dummy terminal that dispenses content to the masses.  It’s more like a navigation assistant and a content discovery system…





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How to Capture Lifelong Learners: A Holistic Approach to Continuing Education

WEBINAR REPLAY: How can you support lifelong learning, as a continuing education provider? Replay this expert panel discussion led by independent learning tech analyst, John LehContinuing education can be a lonely experience. Many of us must rely on ourselves to identify credible training sources, choose and consume content, earn certifications and demonstrate our value in the marketplace. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

How can continuing education providers make it easier for professionals to connect with the right resources and navigate through the lifelong learning process?

Find out from our panel of experts:

  • John Leh – CEO and Lead Analyst – Talented Learning
  • Tamer Ali – SVP Education – Community Brands
  • Jacob B. Gold, CAE – Director, Education Development – Community Associations Institute
  • Kevin Pierce, MAT – Manager, Digital Learning – American Academy of Dermatology

You’ll discover:

  • Why and how to create a lifelong competency model
  • How to support self-guided and directed content paths
  • How AI helps enhance content recommendations and analyze results
  • The value of digital badges and credentialing
  • Pricing methods that lock-in long-term subscribers



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Looking for a learning platform that truly fits your organization’s needs?  We’re here to help!  Submit the form below to schedule a free preliminary consultation at your convenience.

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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