It’s no secret: your members join up because of the benefits you offer. And professional development opportunities? They’re at the top of the pack.

You probably already offer many networking and formal events throughout the year, where members can connect and discuss crucial industry news. Then there are the professional development materials you likely provide: webinars, written works, and other such things. These can help set your members up for success in their careers.

But what about owned courses? Fully formed courses can help your member base level up their skillset and engage industry-leading thinking. They’re invaluable, though getting started can be intimidating.

You’ll need to invest in custom digital course materials. But don’t jump too quickly: before you start creating or working with a partner, pause and make sure you’re choosing the right materials.

Carefully vetted professional development resources make all the difference when it comes to an ironclad reputation.

You’ll want to make sure every resource is:

 

Yes, your professional development resources should be in-depth and reliable. But adding on these three elements will help you provide the most value to your members.

Let’s talk a bit about why.

Affordable

Ever try to professionally develop yourself? It’s expensive. When your members seek out professional development not covered by their employer, they’re usually paying out of pocket. These supplementary resources need to be factored into members’ personal budgets, and if the price tag is too high, they’ll opt out of the experience altogether.

Your course materials can’t be helpful if members can’t access them in the first place. So keep the price of professional development in mind when choosing a solution for your members. More traditional materials, like physical textbooks or instructor-led training, tend to be more expensive and might not be in-budget.

If you’re choosing materials with affordability in mind, consider the following:

  • Custom Digital Course Materials: According to Skyepack’s guide to digital course materials, some providers create these resources at no cost to your organization. Once ready, members can then purchase lifetime access with a low flat fee.
  • Open Educational Resources (OERs): OERs are online resources that you can share with members of your organization for free. The downside of this option is that these resources are largely open and able to be edited by anyone— so the quality of the information can vary.

 

Neither of these types of resources comes at a cost to your organization. If you’d like to enrich members’ experience, you could also purchase organization-wide access to an online course and gift it to members as a token of appreciation. But remember: this could come with a significant cost for your organization. Make sure to budget accordingly.

Updated

Let’s face it: even when it’s an evergreen topic (like office communication), content from 1992 isn’t going to be helpful to your members.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, “[for] workers set to remain in their roles, the share of core skills that will change in the next five years is 40%.” Work changes quickly. As a membership organization, you want to make sure that when you offer professional development options, they’re relevant not just to now but also in the future. Timely, and relevant.

As you research professional development materials, investigate whether there’s any flexibility to update them as instructional needs change going forward.

With free or ready-made materials, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make adjustments. But if you invest in custom-created digital materials, find a provider that uses a more flexible instructional design approach.

 

For example, instructional design processes that incorporate the Agile methodology use the viewpoints of both key stakeholders and instructional designers from start to finish. Because designers are given significant autonomy over how they organize the project, courses can be created on a quicker timeline. Plus, you (the stakeholder) can always ask for revisions after the course is completed by contacting the instructional designer directly.

Engaging

The best learning captures the attention of students. Remember: members complete these courses on their own time. If a course is engaging, they’ll be more likely to complete it from start to finish.

To keep your members engaged, switch up the elements of your course. For example, you could include:

  • Embedded assessments
  • Drag-and-drop elements
  • Audio and video elements
  • Images and charts
  • Animated elements

What you’re able to include will be defined by the course material provider you partner with. Traditional textbook publishers? Well, you’ll get a textbook. But if you go the digital course material route, you’ll open up opportunities to make your learning experience more interactive.

One of the key tenets of membership programs is keeping members consistently engaged, whether through events, newsletters, or community-building activities. Seek out professional development materials that are interesting, and these materials can contribute significantly toward your member engagement efforts.


Whether you’re looking to retain existing individuals or welcome new members, professional development materials are a great tool to impress your base. But first, you need to invest in the right resources.

While the content of professional development course materials is important, it’s not the only consideration to keep in mind. When you factor in affordability, regular updates, and level of engagement, you’ll be able to choose resources that are genuinely valuable for professional members. Good luck!

Austin Bates: Director of Operations & Instructional Design for Skyepack

Born and raised in Texas, Austin learned at an early age the importance of dedication to a craft. During his Masters pursuit at Texas A&M University in Educational Technology, Austin began to question “Why not create better ways to teach in the online environment?” Skyepack soon became his catalyst for this new paradigm in online instruction. He is valued for his abilities to plan course designs, implement powerful teaching technology, and execute daily production assignments. In his spare time, Austin enjoys biking, watching football, and making every minute count.

Austin Bates is the Director of Operations & Instructional Design for Skyepack.