How Associations Can Embrace the Changing Education Landscape

digital text floating out of smartphone screen Associations Now May/June 2016 Issue By: Layla Masri

Mobile and personalization are disrupting the traditional association education model. Groups must be prepared to change their instructional design and educational goals to fit the new landscape.

You've no doubt heard of Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb and already know about the power of disruption and the role technology plays in it.

Associations aren't immune from disruption, especially in the education arena. Are you engaging your learners where they are? Can your members take a course or collaborate with team members while riding on a bus abroad? Can they attend a seminar while sitting by the pool?

Understanding the potential and pitfalls of new technology will allow your organization to identify threats and plan to turn those threats into opportunities.

Technology alters how we engage with what we're learning, how we interact, and how we manage the overwhelming amount of information available.

Just as the music, publishing, and retail industries have been forever changed by the rise of mobile, so too has mobile learning grown to be a natural extension for accessing information, communication, and collaboration. With access to limitless content, learners expect a customized experience.

What does learning disruption look like from an association's perspective?

New apps like Periscope and Meerkat, which enable live video streaming, allow users to share live, instantaneous content. This is a fantastic way to educate, but what happens if someone uses Periscope to broadcast your annual meeting's session content to an online audience for free? Your revenue and meeting experience suffer.

Be prepared to change your instructional model and educational goals to fit the new mobile landscape. Consider how the following technologies could affect your industry and members:

  • Geolocation beacons and wearables at annual meetings can track attendees to award continuing education credits based on sessions they attended.
  • Microcredentialing via Mozilla Open Badges, for example, provides an online standard to recognize and verify learning that happens anywhere, not just official events and courses.
  • Social media makes your educational content more shareable, but it also requires balance to ensure you are not being bypassed.
  • Podcasts are trendy again, and they provide an inexpensive and broadly distributed format for education on the go.
  • Google Cardboard and other virtual reality opportunities are opening up new avenues of exploration to those who may not have the budget to attend your event in person.
  • Learning sites like provide thousands of expert-led streaming video tutorials that may compete with your own offerings.
  • Blended conferences can embrace online viewers (even those who register for a single session), and tech networking platforms can give rise to online-only learning events that free up travel time and costs for you, your presenters, and your attendees.

Understanding the potential and pitfalls of new technology will allow your organization to identify threats and plan to turn those threats into opportunities.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Disrupted Learning."]

Layla Masri

Layla Masri is cofounder and president of Bean Creative in Alexandria, Virginia.