By Kristen Wright, Director of Marketing, Forj

When the now legendary TED Talks came first made their way online in 2006, the presentations varied in length, with some exceeding 20 minutes. Now, more than 15 years later, talks are strictly limited to 18 minutes, and TED officials often advise presenters to speak only 3, 5, or 9 minutes.

This change reflects general trends in educational content consumption and format preferences, which currently demand a move towards micro-learning, an educational approach centered on small units. This learning model is undoubtedly applicable in a world where, according to human resources and learning analyst Josh Bersin, the average employee can devote only 24 minutes per week for formal learning.

“In the early days of e-learning, purists believed that abbreviated content was not educationally sound,” said Bersin, president and founder of research and consulting firm The Josh Bersin Company. “Now we know that’s not true.”

Neurological research confirms that learners retain information better through access to short, engaging content that they can consume at their own pace versus an avalanche of complex information in a single frame.

“One of the things I learned from the courses we developed [at The Josh Bersin Academy] is that the most effective are simpler than you think,” Bersin said. “Subject matter experts tend to know so much about a subject that they delve into depths that people don’t necessarily need.”

As sources of post-secondary education in the United States, associations provide their members with essential educational and training benefits. It is therefore imperative to keep up with changing member expectations and trends in the learning market, which impacts new member acquisition, retention of existing members, and non-member revenue streams. contributions.

Enable seamless and personalized learning

“Great education/training is highly relevant, aligned with the issues people face at work, interesting and easy to consume,” Bersin said. “It’s also a brand, so there’s authority behind it.”

A strong brand, like the ones associations have cultivated for years as the mainstays of their industries, can help educational content stand out among many competitors. “It’s important because today you can go to YouTube and find educational videos from self-proclaimed experts on almost any topic,” Bersin said.

In this content-saturated environment, it is no longer sufficient for associations to rely solely on annual events and online discussion forums as training venues. Instead, leaders should organize their offerings around how, when, and where today’s members want to learn.

To do this, associations should center their strategies on innovative engagement platforms that provide personalized, searchable, on-demand access to educational content. The best platforms complement association-led training with digestible micro-learning strategies and community-based learning experiences.

They also use AI-powered content delivery systems designed to simplify user experience, identify unmet needs, and drive personalization.

“With sophisticated learning experience platforms, a member will log in and the system will recommend content based on who they are,” Bersin said. He added that AI can also take the form of chatbots or messaging software that simulates natural language to answer questions, automate processes and solve problems.

The best part? Associations can use the data they collect from AI-powered learning and engagement platforms to gain powerful insights into member needs and interests, which in turn fuels improvements continue.

A holistic approach

One trend associations can adopt from the corporate world is moving away from instructor-based learning and toward what Bersin calls ability academies. Much more than content libraries, these spaces bring people together to advance business or industry capabilities at scale.

“In all areas of business, work and life, you learn things by doing them, not by taking a course,” he said. “Yes, the course teaches you enough to be a little better at what you are trying to do. But once you start doing it, you make mistakes, you get feedback and then you’re like, ‘OK, now I understand how to do this.’ Capacity scholars replicate this experience in a more structured way.

With the right technology, associations can create similar spaces for members to learn, contribute, and advance industry knowledge. Bersin likened the ideal experience to primary school, where students gather their desks to interact with educational materials and follow classroom lessons with assignments.

“Self-study or instructor-led learning is fine, but what about projects, temporary assignments, mentors and coaches? In school, that’s why students do projects,” he said. “That’s why they have homework. Everything we did in school was pretty clever when you think about it – it was developed with a lot of of experience.

The team at Forj, an MX platform for professional associations and community organizations, thanks HR thought leader Josh Bersin, President and Founder of The Josh Bersin Company, for his expertise in workplace learning and trends. For more information on how Forj can help nonprofits improve member and sponsor experiences, visit