Six Considerations for a Successful Online CME Program
Needless to say, the most successful online CME providers have a lot of things going for them, but without attention to six important areas, their online programs wouldn’t live up to potential. And when we talk about potential we mean both customer satisfaction and program revenue.
So what are the six areas that you need to be aware of when it comes to creating or running a successful online CME or any professional continuing education program?
1. Content: is something that no one is ever surprised to see on the list. Obviously, there would be no CME program, online or otherwise, without solid educational content. By solid, I mean relevant, accurate, complete, and well-delivered, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to online continuing education. In our ten plus years of experience working with CE providers, we have learned that in order for participants to think of an organization as a preferred CE provider, they expect to see not only the specific content they are seeking at that moment, but a generous selection of courses that might satisfy future requirements. This is an important fact to keep in mind as you launch an online program.
Beyond the meat and potatoes of content, there are five additional areas that have a marked effect on how a participant finds, accesses, interacts with, and uses content to stay informed and meet industry requirements.
2. Catalog: I use the term catalog, because it’s what a participant sees on the surface--but it’s much more than that. I’m referring to the web presence through which your participants browse, select, sign up for, track their accomplishments with, and, eventually, evaluate online courses. First impressions are lasting and in these times of nearly effortless and fast Internet interaction, the face you put on your online program and the way it responds to your participants’ actions are critical.
3. Website: I suppose this seems redundant after what I’ve just said about catalog, but the reason website is on the list is that it is very important for your online “catalog” to mirror the branding of and fit seamlessly into your organization’s website. But there’s also another reason… a surprising number of continuing education providers inadvertently hide their online CME catalogs. It’s true. So I wanted to make the point that in order to have a successful online CME program, the catalog must be highly visible and easily access on your website.
4. Service: Even with the best technology in the world, things come up. It could be the participants’ computer or operator error, but they will still look to you for help. I can’t stress enough the importance of readily available, capable end-user support. And if you are working with a CME management system provider (like InReach), make sure they can provide this service for you. I can tell you from years of first-hand experience that most organizations don’t have the breadth, depth, and variety of expertise that it takes to provide end-user support.
5. Marketing: “If you build it they will come” definitely does not apply to online CME. Marketing is an important factor in any successful online CE program. And, as you know, it typically takes some time and multiple communications to make the point that you are offering a new benefit/service, so heavy up on the marketing, especially in the early stages.
6. Sharing: as I mentioned, no one is ever surprised to see content on the list, but it is often surprising how short the shelf life of content can be. Since CME providers invest considerable time and effort in creating high-quality content, finding ways to maximize the reach and revenue potential of that content is typically a goal. Our response to that challenge has been to create a way for CME providers to share content and the revenue associated with it. It has proven to be the most straightforward, cost effective, and ultimately the easiest way possible to expand the reach of content and increase the profits from it. Of course, the flipside of the sharing equation is the advantage it provides content developers as they try to provide a full offering with limited budgets or subject matter expertise. Sharing with other content developers allows everyone to focus on their strengths and supplement in areas of weakness.
So there you have it. It’s a simple list, but a critical one. Isn’t that always the way?