How CBIS Created a SIPAward-Winning In-Person and Online Training Course

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Editor's note: This is the seventh of an ongoing series profiling the 2018 SIPAward winners. See links to the others below.

"The project began with multiple meetings between CBIS [Columbia Books & Information Services] and MOAA [Military Officers Association of America] to determine the exact format, topics, and materials that would be needed for the course. It was determined that a hybrid live and virtual on-demand training would be the best fit. The live training was scheduled for the morning before the annual board meeting to ensure proper financial knowledge leading into board meeting and set a tone of responsibility."

That comes from Linnae O'Flahavan, education program manager for CBIS division Association Trends. It's no surprise that their SIPAward-winning project—first place, Best Online Learning Product—started with meetings with their customers. What format will work best? What topics should we cover? What aspects will encourage your staff to participate?

The end product—an in-person and online training course for nonprofit board members—succeeded on many levels. Originally created for MOAA, it was later adapted into various online formats to serve other Association Trends customers. The course's three modules teach board members about their fiscal roles and critical financial information.

Credit for the course also goes to group publisher Emily Howard. Here are more reasons for the course's success:

Design a flexible format. Though the original course was customized for MOAA, CBIS was able to re-use and re-format the training to fit a variety of contexts for many organizations—and create three unique products:

  • an online single-user board training course for individual board members on CBIS' own LMS;
  • a custom created live training coupled with ongoing online access for entire boards; and
  • a customized, fully-branded SCORM compliant eLearning course that could be distributed to organizations for use in their own LMS.

And maintain that flexibility. Throughout 2017, various formats were customized and designed for other organizations. The National Speakers Association wished to have an online-only version of the course created as a SCORM-compliant file that could be uploaded onto NSA's own LMS. In addition, single board members reached out to take the course on CBIS' own LMS.

Find a speaker and vendors you have confidence in. CBIS had previously worked with Nat Bartholomew of Clifton Larson Allen on successful webinars, and therefore was confident that he would fit perfectly for this training. With his expert advice, a final presentation was agreed upon and materials gathered for the training day. A recording company was booked, and the team worked closely with hotel and A/V staff to ensure proper tools (staging, lighting, mics) were in place.

Make it easy to use. The general eLearning course designed for the CBIS LMS is housed on an easy-to-use, password-protected system. Students can watch a video of each module with the corresponding slides. At the end of each module, students must write down the verification code that flashes at random points during the video for proof of completion/participation.

Add engagement components. Videos were uploaded, FAQs and Glossary of Terms were collected, and activities created. Quizzes at the end of each module let organizations monitor how well each board member is retaining the material. A confidential, built-in discussion board allows board members to discuss topics and ask questions of peers while taking the course.

Provide an added incentive for taking the course. A certificate of attendance is handed out to those who complete the course. Even more valued, Association Trends applied for CAE credit as an Approved Provider with ASAE, and was successfully able to grant all students 6 CAE credits for taking the online course. That was a huge step.

Get testimonials. The president/executive director of MOAA wrote a letter of gratitude to Joel Poznansky, CEO of Columbia Books, and noted that even experienced board members found this to be the best training they had ever received.

Continually update. The plan for 2018 is to continue marketing the various formats of the course to associations and nonprofits of all sizes. A content update will be conducted to keep the information fresh, current and relevant for board members.

Celebrate. The course was successful in all of its formats, getting fantastic feedback and testimonials from both board members and organizational management. And it won a 2018 SIPAward.

Previous 2018 SIPAward profiles:

January Spring – Best Editorial and Marketing Collaboration
EB Medicine – Best Use of Video
AAA Northeast – Best Product Launch
Access Intelligence - Best Conference Marketing
Behr's Verlag – Best Video Product
Cynopsis – Best Awards Program Marketing

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…