BLOG: Top Six Academy ‘Ticks’ for Professional Bodies

helen-wattsProfessional bodies and trade associations are always looking for new, engaging ways to communicate with, and service their memberships, and the quality and breadth of their online presence is becoming increasingly vital in staying ahead of the game. Helen Watts, Unicorn’s Director – Strategic Relationships, looks at the latest initiatives.

It’s the aim of each professional body to be viewed as the go-to place for their profession, and there is a whole host of boxes they must tick to ensure they can keep delivering even better value to their membership, while at the same time encouraging new members.

Ease of access to qualification support, thought leadership articles, CPD tools and activities, training and networking event booking and timely information services all help to create a strong member community and attract corporate business and are increasingly essential components of a strong online presence.

The mobile revolution means members now expect to be able access products and services by smartphone and tablet, so the possibilities for member engagement are hugely enhanced by the provision of mobile-ready tools and Apps.

Finding one solution to tick all the boxes is not always easy.

One option is to extend your website to include content curation and access to information services and event booking. But website functionality typically doesn’t encompass the tracking and book-marking capability that can successfully feed into CPD records, and provide the detailed management information that corporate customers require.

CFA%20pre-loginIntegrating with a virtual academy, however, underpinned by an LMS enables you to offer a wide variety of professional development and learning support and assessment opportunities, whilst integrating with your website and membership database via APIs and data feeds.

Utilising this connected approach can minimise the compromise on quality often involved in sticking to a single supplier, and still deliver a seamless online experience for members and corporate customers.

There is the added attraction of significant revenue generation potential in attracting corporate business – particularly if you can tailor solutions and offer branding.

The perception of a high quality solution that only you as the professional body for your sector can deliver can be leveraged significantly and will be highly valued.

So what is the real value of a central ‘hub’ or virtual Academy?


1) Online learning

It is now surprisingly inexpensive to create engaging, interactive online courses. Professional bodies typically have a wealth of existing assets that can be repurposed for this, such as classroom course presentations, study manuals and research papers etc. Leveraging existing materials opens up a whole new audience, particularly when created in such a way that it can be consumed on or off line on tablets and smartphones.

2) Qualification Support

Convert study texts to eLearning and utilise existing banks of practice questions, or create new ones, to provide revision tests. Package them with guidance, reference, reading lists and other supplementary materials in an online programme for each subject to give students an easy to follow qualification routemap.

CIPS%20route%20mapFor lower level qualifications (eg. those assessed by multiple choice), if your LMS can deliver secure online assessments, consider including this in the package?

3) CPD

By providing tools to help members to identify role-specific learning gaps, record their CPD, and access competence-related activities, including eLearning, videos, assessments, and eBooks, whether as a member benefit or on a revenue generating basis, you can provide significant support for your CPD scheme.

4) Thought Leadership

Creating a central library of whitepapers and articles enables you to provide a go-to place for research and information and host a community of expert knowledge sharing and reference. Why not include your own App to enable members to access the library when on the move?

5) Event Management

An LMS will give you the ability to manage your member events – public and in-company training – in one place. Use the platform to publicise events, take bookings, manage waiting lists, send joining instructions and associated materials, automatically log attendance to CPD records and capture post-event evaluation results as well as other MI.

6) Competency Frameworks

If you provide a competency framework, create and publish an online set of industry standard job roles which link to competence pathways containing training, development activity and assessments mapped to the competencies identified for each roles and level, effectively providing automatic pre-set training plans. As an extension, you can provide corporate organisations with diagnostic tools and the ability to adapt your standard offering to meet their own needs.

Wherever a professional body is on its digital journey, there are some great affordable tools and solutions to help enhance individual and corporate offerings, and to increase levels of engagement with target audiences to really give them full value for their membership.

Want to know more about how your organisation could utilise academy learning? Contact Helen at

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