Continuing Education Learners Prefer an Online Experience, Even for Live Meetings


How can continuing education (CE) providers deliver activities that achieve the perfect combination of convenience and value?

It’s a big question. And as technology enables an ever-expanding portfolio of educational formats, many providers are finding that learners’ preferences and expectations for all CE activities – live and otherwise – are rapidly evolving.

Here are three trends you may have experienced at your own organization:

  1. Live meeting attendance is declining.
  2. Busy professionals expect access to online activities, like continuing education webinars and enduring content, in addition to live meetings.
  3. Providing relevant, valuable content is paramount, regardless of activity type.

A recent white paper published by Ashfield Commercial and Medical Services underscores the universality of these experiences. While Ashfield’s research centers on live meetings for health care practitioners, many of whom participate in continuing medical education (CME), the results offer insights to any organization that provides continuing education to professionals.

Drawing on the Ashfield research, let’s take a closer look at how technology is shaping the future of CE activities – and how it’s improving them.

Why is live meeting attendance declining?

Many CE providers are witnessing a decline in live meeting attendance, and that’s particularly true across the health professions.

Your organization’s situation might be different. Despite the general downswing in attendance, 85% of respondents in the Ashfield study reported attending a live meeting in the last year. Professionals continue to value face-to-face educational opportunities, and they probably always will.

Still, the general trend is toward virtual. 61% of respondents report that it is “difficult” to attend live events and want educational content to be “available online and in real time.” 49% also reported participating in a live, online educational activity in the last twelve months, an option that wouldn’t have been so widespread just a few years ago.

What can CE providers learn from these figures?

If providers want to optimize access to educational activities and remove learners’ logistical barriers to receiving CE credits, the solution is clear: Start offering alternatives to live meetings, like CE webinars and enduring activities, so that learners can participate wherever they are.

Use data to make CE activities relevant.

Regardless of the delivery format – live meeting or otherwise – learners crave content that helps them be better at what they already do well. They want content to be relevant to their practice, and technology can help with that.

One thing continuing education providers love about the Rievent Platform is the ability to collect comprehensive learner and activity data. You can pull reports for individual CE activities or across all of your activities. Then you can drill down to view granular detail about how and when learners accessed content or registered for an event.

Data like this helps you understand which activities are most valuable to learners and why they find the content valuable. View that data alongside post-activity evaluations, which you can require learners to complete before requesting credit, and you’ll unlock all kinds of intelligence about the learner experience.

According to the Ashfield study, 36% of responding health professionals had never provided input about the agendas or programs addressed in their meetings. At the same time, 75% of respondents want to have more input into the topics covered during live meetings!

Your learners have a voice, and they want you to hear it. Technology that enables activity evaluations and collects participation data can bring their voices to the fore.

What your learners want from CE activities

Some of the most eye-opening insights from the Ashfield white paper relate to the criteria that learners use to evaluate educational experiences. Overwhelmingly, respondents want technology to play a bigger role:

In other words, learners want providers to simplify the process of obtaining CE by utilizing the latest technologies. Live meetings are valuable, they contend, but activities delivered via the web can be just as valuable and significantly easier to access. They also want technology to play a bigger role in live meetings, including seamless registration and payment for meeting attendance.

“Traditional” continuing education formats remain popular, but…

…learners just don’t think of them the same way they used to. Unlike in the past, live meetings now represent one way out of a variety of ways to obtain CE credits. If a learner can’t attend a faraway meeting, she’ll look for an activity that’s available in a more convenient (i.e. online) format.

The bottom line? Sophisticated learning management technology for continuing education is here, and it has an impact across all types of CE – from live meetings to enduring materials and beyond.

Nowadays, learners expect it.