How to Use Learning Paths in Your Association Content Strategy

Learning paths within an online Resource Library provide accessible, self-guided educational content to enhance the value of association membership.

Like an ever-growing stack of unread books on a nightstand, your association’s content strategy may be well-intentioned, but it only provides value when your members truly engage with it. Introduce a learning path as a way to get members turning those digital pages.


A learning path consists of a series of related, self-paced digital courses, including videos, podcasts, articles, and lessons. The customizable information offers education and training opportunities in small, easy-to-digest chunks that members can tackle when and where they want. Yes, even in bed. It’s an easy and convenient way for associations to promote their content and help members with their professional development.


But why is content engagement so critical for associations right now? While many associations have long grown weary of discussing the impact of COVID-19, the pandemic’s disruptive changes continue to linger. For example, with business travel not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for several more years, associations need viable alternatives to engage with members. A robust content strategy, enhanced by learning paths, presents such an option.


Association members have made it clear how much they value content that will help with their professional development and growth. According to the 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands, training is the second-most important benefit of association membership.


Specifically, among association members in the early stages of their careers, 58% ranked training as their top priority. Engaging with young professionals using quality, accessible content is a powerful way to attract and build loyalty among new, younger members who hold the key to association growth and future success.


As the demand for training increases, are associations losing ground?

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 The Future of Jobs Report, there is a four-fold increase in the number of individuals seeking online learning opportunities and a fivefold increase in employers offering online learning opportunities to their workers. In another survey by Chief Learning Officer, 81% of C-suite and senior-level learning and development professionals plan to adopt new training techniques in the wake of COVID-19 disruption.


As interest in online learning grows, associations are not the only organizations to make the connection between opportunities for professional development and user loyalty.


While association members still rely most frequently on their employer or professional organizations for training, many are also turning to resources like YouTube, Google, and LinkedIn, the 2021 Association Trends Study found. Moreover, members indicated the quality of training from these other resources often surpasses that of their association. This should put associations on high alert.


Now is not the time for associations to rely on techniques that may have worked in the past, before the competition caught up and when event conference sessions could suffice for a year’s worth of training.


Association leaders have a real opportunity to develop well-constructed content strategies that offer a steady stream of credible and timely digital information strong enough to compete with other online learning resources.

The learning path approach

LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report states that career development is a top motivator for online learning engagement. Employees feel most motivated to learn when the information:


  1.    1.  helps them stay up to date on their field,
  2.    2. is personalized for their interests and career aspirations, and
  3.    3. helps with their promotion prospects and other career goals.

The same elements that encourage workplace connection can keep members engaged with their association. With these motivators in mind, a curated learning path can ramp up a member’s desire to consume your association’s content.


Along with tapping into top learning motivations, the education sector offers other best practices when creating a content learning path:


  • Progress tracking capabilities allow members to self-monitor their advancement throughout the learning path.

  • Flexible formats, such as video, podcasts, webinars, or white papers, provide variety to keep members engaged along the learning path.

  • A clear link to larger goals puts each element of the learning path into a greater educational context.

Used strategically, learning paths can be an easy and convenient way for associations to keep members returning to the association’s content while providing them with the valuable professional development they seek.


SME uses its Resource Library to promote learning paths

Learning paths can be much more effective when part of a structured whole. That’s why the most successful and impactful content strategies often include an online Resource Library, which can serve as a platform for your organization’s learning resources.


A Resource Library is a branded online hub that serves as a one-stop-shop for members, offering curated, thought-leadership content, including white papers, e-books, videos, and podcasts. Also known as a “Content Hub,” or “Knowledge Hub,” a Resource Library is a multifaceted way for associations to engage with both existing and potential members.


While a Resource Library typically features content from third parties such as corporate sponsors, industry solution providers, and advertisers, associations can also publish internal content within a Resource Library — and use a learning path approach to deepen its effectiveness.


For example, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) used its resource library to create learning paths in partnership with AWS Partners. The organization employs a mix of downloadable, cloud-based white papers, e-books, and videos to help educate members using loosely structured learning paths on topics important to their members, such as “Smart Manufacturing” and “Engineering and Design.”


Learning paths don’t need to be overly formal. Nor do they need to offer professional certification or continuing education for members to find value in them. Associations can repurpose and repackage existing content and even augment it with advertiser or sponsor content, as SME did with AWS.

Case Study:

How Two Associations Deepened Member Value While Growing Non-Dues Revenue

5 ways Resource Libraries can add value

As associations look for new ways to engage with members, Resource Libraries represent a powerful tool with many benefits, including the ability to create specially designated sections with customized content. Other advantages of introducing a Resource Library include:


  • Around-the-clock availability. Members can access and engage with the content at their convenience 24/7/365. This kind of flexibility is critical for busy professionals and presents many advantages over traditional events-oriented training and education offerings. And, because members can interact with the content when and where they want, they’re much more likely to do so.

  • An innovative way to repurpose existing content. Because Resource Libraries can accommodate so many different forms of content — from podcasts and white papers to videos — it’s easy to plug in the type of content your members need, when they need it. Moreover, it reduces the time and effort you must spend generating new content.

  • No tech skills necessary. With the right platform and partner, establishing a Resource Library is easy and does not involve web development or design. For example, when an association partners with Lead Marvels, Lead Marvels fully manages the Resource Library platform.

  • Revenue generation. A well-executed Resource Library can attract sponsors who want to share their thought leadership and expertise on member-engaging topics. This kind of non-dues revenue generation has become increasingly important as associations continue to recover from the pandemic.

  • Making your mark. As your Resource Library becomes more robust, members will increasingly turn to it as their one-stop-shop for information and learning. This level of engagement is one of the most effective ways to boost membership, build loyalty, and elevate your brand.

The right tool for the job

Without an impactful content strategy, your association is at a real disadvantage. As sources of professional education and training continue to proliferate and improve, the ability to compete in the digital content arena is necessary for associations’ growth and success — especially as traditional avenues, like live events, have yet to regain previous levels of revenue generation and member engagement.


A Resource Library, strengthened by learning paths, can help associations compete against other platforms like LinkedIn, Google, and YouTube that are also increasingly vying for your members’ attention.


If you’re interested in learning more, join us for a free demo on how a Resource Library can grow member engagement and non-dues revenue for your association.

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