There are more than 80,000 professional associations the U.S. alone. Each of these organizations provides some level of continuing education – either as a basic member benefit or to generate incremental revenue streams.
Historically, associations relied on printed books and live presentations at annual conferences as the primary medium for educational content. But in recent years, association learning solutions have shifted rapidly toward virtual classrooms, self-paced online courses and other forms of digital content.
This is largely thanks to the rise of innovative association learning solutions that leverage advances in cloud, mobile, social and ecommerce technologies.
The foundation of today’s successful association learning solutions is the learning management system (LMS). Not a traditional employee LMS, but a different breed of LMS, designed specifically for association needs.
While employee learning platforms are geared towards delivery of mandatory compliance training, association LMSs are about making money by selling content that members choose to purchase voluntarily. Yet despite these differences, association technology buyers often waste time by including employee-oriented LMSs in their consideration set.
Here are some of the capabilities association learning solutions must provide (but are hard to find in an employee-centered LMS):
Specialized marketing functionality to attract and engage voluntary learners
Ecommerce features that facilitate content buying and selling
Functionality for managing certifications and other continuing education activities
Ability to integrate learning with other association technology and the overall business process ecosystem
Enhanced professional services from association education specialists.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve reviewed 100 LMSs – and more than 20 of these focus on association learning. We think they are all solid performers, but some are setting the pace for the others. To be included on this list, an association learning solution must offer more than just outstanding functional capabilities. An LMS vendor must derive the majority of its revenue from association clients, and publish top-notch client case studies on its website as proof of excellence in serving member-based organizations.
In alphabetical order, here are our picks for the world’s Top 10 Associations LMS Solutions:
Blue Sky eLearn— Blue Sky eLearn is a pure association LMS that provides LMS combined with event services. Associations need great content and an optimal source are member subject matter experts that present sessions at association tradeshows. Blue Sky provides heavy-duty services to capture educational content from live or virtual settings, then manage, sell and deliver that content to a global audience through the learning platform.
Classroom 24/7— Relative newcomers, Classroom 24/7 brings a new definition of the LMS acronym — a learning marketing system. Love it. These guys are serious about the business of associations. They offer an assessment service to evaluate an association’s content assets, staff capability, market viability of their content and creates an action plan to take them from 0 to 100 with their modern, powerful continuing education, ecommerce enabled LMS.
Digitec Interactive — Digitec has been providing professional and trade associations and nonprofits technology for 25 years. They just released a complete SaaS, mobile responsive rewrite of their application in the cloud that enables associations of all sizes to get in the LMS game. Digitec has a strong production and content development arm that can produce gamified mobile content, simulations, video and more.
EthosCE — EthosCE rocks the healthcare association world. If you are a healthcare association managing CME or CPE and want deep and proven experience and expertise to guide you, EthoseCE is perfect. 90% or more of their clients are in healthcare resulting in healthcare specific capabilities and workflow you just don’t find anywhere else including mobile support for doctors’ ground rounds, vouchers and PARS and CE Monitor integrations.
Peach New Media (now Abila) — Freestone, the LMS from Peach New Media (now Abila), is a pure, full-feature association LMS that offers specialized solutions for CLE, CPE and CME. They have an integrated webcast tool that has cool (and audit defensible) “checkpoint” features to ensure learners are actually earning their CE credit and learner engagement features such as integrated Twitter conversations, view materials, take notes, polls and surveys. They also have strong AMS integrations with their own NetForum AMS and virtually every other AMS for single sign-on, catalog, ecommerce and reporting established workflows.
tessello— Out of the U.K, tessello is marching to the beat of their own drummer. Employing xAPI, they focus on the 70:20:10 model of learning which asserts that 90% of learning is informal and social and only 10% is formal. Their LMS enables learners to document experiential learning experiences and engage in meaningful social learning experiences. These types of features enable associations to support the evolving performance improvement requirements of the ACCME and AICPA documenting on-the-job performance for credits.
TOPYX–The TOPYX (pronounced topix) LMS has a unique business model in the industry. They offer annual flat rate price ranging from $22,500-$50,000/year (based on optional functional and support options) for unlimited learners, admins and bandwidth making them an economical choice for many associations. Their LMS is full featured with xAPI, mobile and social features and there are no implementation fees.
WBT Systems — Dublin based WBT Systems has been around a long time supporting associations and they are the association feature powerhouse. Designed to support the most complex association deployments, WBT is modern with a mobile response LMS, sophisticated ecommerce, AMS integration, accreditation body integration, complex CE management, dozens of language localizations and integrated social/gamified features. When associations are really serious, have complex requirements and even a tiny % of failure is not an option, WBT Systems rises to the top.
WebCourseworks — Associations and nonprofits have unique needs and WebCourseworks tailors custom solutions to meet them. With LMS, course development and managed services, they provide holistic solutions to grow non-dues association revenue. Their user-centric LMS has powerful association features to manage complex continuing education, AMS integration and social learning.
YM Learning — Your Membership AMS acquired the Digital Ignite LMS in early 2015 and integrated them into the YM suite of products and services providing a broad association solution that helps grow membership and revenue. The LMS is fully mobile responsive, engaging and easy for learners to learn. Social, global and highly scalable, YM Learning is designed to manage and sell continuing education in the medical, legal, finance and most any other industry. Advanced psychometric reporting and reporting analytics, in general, is a strength of the solution.
There are 600 LMS vendors in the world and the majority provide specialist solutions based on industry, region and business application of the LMS. Serious LMS buyers prefer specialists rather than “one-size-fits-all” general solutions.
At Talented Learning, we have been studying the LMS market full-time for two years and have been grouping, rating and stack ranking LMS vendors by target market.
Join Lead Analyst John Leh, as he and Linda Bowers, CTO of WBT Systems, explain how to pick an LMS that fits your organization’s unique needs in this on-demand webinar: “How to Pick an LMS for Your Association.”
Shopping for an LMS for Your Association?
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John Leh is Founder, 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.