By Sarah Lampson
The value of professional development offerings to members is usually very clear to association staff (and we hope to our members!), and we also need to be aware of the value of helping students succeed. Members’ success increases members’ engagement, improves their careers, and advances professions as a whole. Barriers to student success include lack of student time, unclear expectations, inadequate support (technical and otherwise) and/or instruction - all of which the association can address.
1. Busy professionals who have invested in professional development want to learn – not spend time guessing preferred format of reports, trying to interpret vague goals or spending hours searching for information. Prioritize learning by:
- Having a brief online training for the class platform – a short webinar is well worth the time upfront.
- Explicitly state what sections are required in a report by providing some frameworks or sample assignments.
- Provide a list of recommended resources if there is no textbook.
- Provide clear instructions. (You’ll know they are clear if everyone follows them successfully the first time.)
2. Everyone in your association can help students succeed
- In addition to instructors, member experts can support learning by providing free webinars relevant to a particular assignment or unit.
- Senior members can mentor students, advise on their assignments, suggest resources and act as a sounding board for them as they plan their learning.
- Staff can respond promptly to students, organize study groups, recruit mentors, send reminders of key dates, implement tangible solutions to student concerns and challenges and make sure feedback is collected from all stakeholders.
3. Hire the right instructors
- Instructors need to be very comfortable with technology
- Instructors should understand that this is not less work that in person teaching but different work. If the course doesn’t include online lectures the faculty member needs to engage in other ways and be dynamic, pro-active and invested in student success as demonstrated by phone calls, online engagement and responsiveness to students.
4. Train the instructors. Instructors should have training and clear requirements to:
- connect with students right away
- give clear instructions up front
- provide academic support
- monitor student progress and reach out students who are not participating
- direct students to appropriate help for technical issues
- respond within 24 hours to all student requests and inquiries
- self-evaluate based on student retention and success
Cultivating and supporting student success is critical to the student experience and the member’s perception of your association. Sustainability of the program (and possibly your association) is tied to student retention and experience. Helping the students accomplish their goals will directly benefit your association.
The CAE® Program provides a valuable professional designation in not-for-profit leadership that is recognized across Canada. The program addresses the competencies required of leaders in an increasingly competitive market. The CAE designation sends a message that your leadership career is on the right trajectory.
Sarah Lampson is the Executive Director of CARA and works with the Executive Board to provide organizational leadership and develop and implement its strategic plan. Sarah’s key achievements include significantly increasing services to members, a proven track record of strong financial management and stewarding international partnerships that have resulted in the development of Canada’s first professional qualifications in research management and administration. Since Sarah was recruited to CARA in 2013 membership has increased 15% and the number of members volunteering with the association has increased 400%. Sarah has co-authored two books and is a nominee for the Hamilton YWCA Women of Distinction awards in March 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @lampson_sarah.