Successful Strategies for Distance Learning [CASE STUDY]

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Face-to-face events remain the preferred method of learning for many. But, when it comes to convenience and cost savings, nothing compares to online events. In 2008, APIC embarked on a journey as the “Pied Piper” of learning and discovered enormous opportunities as well as plenty of unexpected challenges. Like many organizations impacted by the economic downturn, APIC put a stake in the ground and decided it was time to embrace the sign of the times and grow its education business through online activities.

Budget cuts across the healthcare spectrum triggered fewer people in seats at our offerings and organically ushered APIC into providing webinars to meet the diverse clinical learning needs of our members and the broader infection prevention community. We launched our webinar program: free to APIC members and $149 for non-members. We did this by enlisting sponsors. Our sponsors would underwrite the cost of the program, while enjoying the branding, promotional, and lead-generation benefits without having to craft the content.  Sponsorship may be exclusive, or may be shared with up to two other sponsors. The unintended benefit was soaring growth in APIC’s membership.  No longer were we solely connecting with our members four to five times per year at face-to-face events, we were now able to reach our global community at their convenience.

Offering webinars proved to be the perfect bridge between our members and online learning. In 2008, we started with 20 programs and today we have over 100 webinars in our library. We have discovered that what matters most in education are the presenters. Our instructors range from experts in the field to emerging leaders in infection prevention. Our speaker training strategy is simple, we offer tools and resources that will assist them in creating learning experiences that connect, inspire and engage the audience. A few ways to ensure learning with online events include:

  • Minimize complexity
  • Use structure and hierarchy
  • Hooks and stories (this is how people learned before written communication)
  • Keep it real
  • Don’t use fabricated stories- use real stories that hit people in the gut and touch them emotionally
  • Teach not tell
  • Instead of giving all the answers, ask the right questions to get learners thinking
  • Make it challenging
  • Keep it visual
  • 80% of Americans are visual learners, they will learn more from a picture than text, even when both appear simultaneously.

APIC’s webinar program has ultimately served as the gateway to creating and offering content online in various formats.  In addition to webinars, we developed six self-paced, interactive courses. No journey is without peaks and valleys, and APIC is no exception.  In 2010, after a demand for more “soft” skills, APIC decided to try a new financial model. We continued offering clinical programs for free to members and charged a minimal fee ($25) for the professional development webinars. Our members did not welcome the idea of paying for webinars and the series was poorly attended and unsuccessful. We have since moved on from that valley and continue to offer just- in- time learning on hot topics. Our average webinar and course enrollment has increased by 25% over that last year and since 2008 we have educated nearly 15,000 learners with our online education. Since 2009, revenue for APIC’s online courses increased by 78% and continues to grow with more awareness and accessibility.

We want people to say “this was the best online program ever” and our goal for 2012 is to continue offering engaging online experiences that stretch our learners capacity and teaches something new. We endeavor to remain the credible and reliable source for infection prevention education through online offerings.

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