Tag: credentialing programs

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

New CEO Heather McNair shares what’s next for Cloud Generation

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

Two years ago (almost to the day!), a group of close friends and colleagues took a big leap and started Cloud Generation, a new software company serving the association community. Those two years have passed in the blink of an eye, and we’ve been through big changes in that time: renovating and selling homes, three cross-country moves and a new little addition to the CG family on the way, just to name a few.  

We’ve also come to market with an incredible credential management software suite. Each day using the software, I have a moment where I marvel at what we’ve built together – I couldn’t be prouder of the work the team has done.

I’m honored the team has asked me to move into the CEO role and lead Cloud Generation into the future. Rob Wenger, our current CEO and chairman of the board, and Conor Sibley, CTO, have spent countless hours over the past two years building a strong foundation for both the company and our credentialing platform. Now ready to move on to their next challenge, they will be joining our friends at Association Analytics (A2) to lend their expertise as A2 plans for what’s next. Rob and Conor will remain on CG’s Board of Directors and serve as advisors as we launch into our next phase of growth.

Throughout my 20 years in the association space, both as an association executive and vendor, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to improve member experiences – from online communities back in the early aughts to automation, machine learning and AI with Higher Logic. I’m excited to bring those experiences to this new role and continue pushing the limits of what’s possible.

We’ve taken a forward-thinking, “What if…” approach at Cloud Generation, answering with the creation of a credential, badge and learning delivery management platform beyond anything we could have imagined two short years ago. Now we’re delivering curated, guided learning experiences through efficient, data-driven automation – and we’re just getting started.

Many thanks to Rob, Conor, and the rest of the incredibly hardworking team at Cloud Generation for ensuring our vision came to life. And many thanks to our amazing clients and friends in the industry for all your support and feedback. I’m humbled by your faith in me and excited to continue giving back to the association community.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.” 

Beginner's Micro-Credentials Checklist

Micro-credentials: a beginner’s checklist

Micro-credentials: a beginner’s checklist

Beginner's Micro-Credentials Checklist

Ready to set up some micro-credentials for your learning program? Maybe hoping to streamline, update, or change up the ones you’re providing? Or does the term micro-credential send you into a spiral of confusion, apprehension, and anticipated exhaustion?

All valid reactions – except that last one, we don’t want you to feel that way.  

Before we share the how, let’s quickly break down the what: What is a micro-credential?

Micro-credentials are rewards or recognition for a very specific set of skills, abilities, or scope of knowledge. Think of them as bite-sized portions of a larger credential, certification, or learning program. Want to level up on leadership or a new technology at work? Need to keep current on a procedure or specification in your industry? Complete a micro-credential, and ta-da! Achievement unlocked. 

So let’s make this easy. Here’s a checklist (a real one – not just a list of nice-to-have’s or general industry advice that you download, skim over, and say, “Ugh, there’s nothing here, I’m taking an early lunch”). Now you’ll have an exact set of tasks to set up any micro-credential. 

Stuff you’ll need: 

  • LMS or eLearning platform 
  • Outline for your course or credential (things like the skill/task to complete, a relevant video or screenshots, maybe some quiz questions) 
  • Brand materials (think logo files, brand colors, and maybe a cool badge icon for when people finish your micro-credential) 
  • Trust that this is not just another checklist with literally no action items to act on by the end (there totally will be) 

Ok, here comes the checklist!  

1. Define your skill/task/ability (AKA your micro-credential). 

This is the strategy portion of any project that sounds exciting when you’re chatting with colleagues and then becomes an absolute bear when you sit down to firm up plans. But it’s important – whether you’re parsing out smaller wins in an existing certificate program or building a new course from scratch. Take time to make sure you’ve outlined the objective and materials (hopefully you gathered most of this based on the stuff you needed list above – look at that!) Another big one: who will take this micro-credential?

2. Know your learners. 

Are they recertifying and need this micro-credential to keep momentum going? Are they new members and hoping to get a leg up in the industry with a quick win? Are they balancing a profession and home life and burgeoning side gig in badminton and need to learn on-the-go? Answer a few of these questions and include it in your definition (that was step 1 above).

3. Pick your platform, pick your people. 

Here’s the part where you might have to talk to other people – don’t worry, they will be helpful. You’ll need a platform to launch and host your micro-credential (most LMS or eLearning platforms do the trick- bonus if you already have one) and colleagues who can keep things moving along (content creation, communications, analytics, verification – maybe all those roles are on your plate – if so, we get it. And you’ve got this).

4. Check your work.  

We know – this one feels a little soft, but all the great teachers/editors out there are shouting “Yasss” right now. Collect all your great materials, cross-check with your original outline, review with your colleagues (and maybe an industry expert), then ask the ultimate question: does this still serve our learners?

5. Roll it out. 

It’s prime time! Perhaps you load everything up and start sharing the micro-credential with the whole (applicable) world. Another idea: include in your communications a few different learning pathways. This means your leaners can take the course standalone, or perhaps bundle or roll it into another program, or even pause and come back to it. Options.

6. Badge bragging galore. 

Give your learners plenty of display options for when they complete the micro-credential and want to show off their new badge with pride. Integrate with a certification engine, like Credly or Badgr, and provide your own in-house badge they can share on social platforms. Hot tip: not all good things last forever. If this is something that expires or needs to be renewed, build that into your micro-credential and badge as well.

7. Rinse and repeat. 

For the micro-credential, that is (and maybe take a shower – you’ve been working really hard). Iteration is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to freshen up the course with different materials, communications, or targeted learners. Meaning…back to step 1 (we love a nice lifecycle checklist). 

Wanting a bit more info? 

Good for you! See below for some of our go-to resources: 

Designing for a new future

Designing New Future blog post

After spending over a year relatively sequestered in my house, like so many people, I’ve decided it’s time for a few renovations. As I work through what to do and how best to approach it, I’ve been a voracious consumer of blogs, articles, podcasts, and Pinterest images. A piece of advice I stumbled across in this process – and my apologies that I don’t remember who gave it – was “Don’t design for things you don’t need.” 

In other words, one of the first steps of your project should be evaluating what you own and how you use it –   and ruthlessly purging things you don’t use. Does it make sense to invest thousands of dollars designing a solution to house Grandma’s china set when you have no intention of ever using it? 

Balancing tradition and innovation

Associations are often at a crossroads when it comes to innovation. Many are steeped in tradition and serve as the bedrock for the field they serve. But as industries grow and evolve, members also rely on their associations to keep pace. (Arguably, the association should be – and keep members – at the forefront.) It’s a tricky spot to be in, right? How do we honor Grandma’s china, while still allowing ourselves the space and flexibility to meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) needs?

The recent pandemic provided a unique opportunity to move forward exponentially, rather than the incremental change associations tend toward, so as not to rock the boat of tradition. Dad’s hand-me-down 15-volume set of encyclopedias? In the past, we likely would have moved them to the basement to see if anyone noticed they were gone. They would have languished there, gathering dust for a few years before a brave soul would be so bold as to donate them; but most of us would leave them there and continue to pile up more relics around them.

Adapt, test, repeat

With the challenges COVID-19 presented, we didn’t have time to worry about hurt feelings. Our focus was getting staff up and running remotely and continuing to deliver the programs and services for which our members counted on us in new, virtual environments. Adaptation became de rigeur. We experimented. We iterated. We evolved at a record pace. Members accepted that there might be hiccups; they appreciated we were trying new things to best meet their needs.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) recently conducted a survey regarding the impact that COVID-19 had on certifying organizations and their programs. The lessons learned in shifting to more remote solutions is clear: flexible tech will help us and help our members.  

Survey respondent takeaways included: 

  • Frequent and clear communication with a focus on empathy, flexibility and value 
  •  Embracing new technology tools and providing training to support their use 
  • Collaborative relationships and information sharing 

It is important to remember this was a forced entry into change and flexibility – we often adapt quickest when it’s our only option. However, certifying organizations still had positive outcomes from this shift and plan to stay agile for the long run. About one third of surveyed organizations added live remote proctoring as a test administration method, and over half of respondents plan to keep remote services. This is groundbreaking in a field that has largely upheld the sanctity of in-person exams.

56% of surveyed organizations plan to continue the use of virtual/remote meetings, and 43% plan to continue the use of remote proctoring.

As the world starts to return to “normal,” not everything has to go back to how it was before. Associations are experimenting with hybrid events – incorporating the best of their virtual offerings developed over the last year+ with the in-person interactions we all miss.  

Many certification bodies increased their communications during the pandemic, which can only serve members better. Ramping up communications, promotions, and outreach will provide a steady flow of info for members, as well as collect valuable data on their feedback and evolving needs. The ICE survey found over one third of respondents increased the amount of marketing and communications related to promoting certification and/or recertification. In turn, 20% of respondents increased customer service capacity to address applicant/certificant needs.  

“In the long term, organizations will benefit from the adoption of new technology, increases in automation and improved communication channels. These rapid reactions to the pandemic provide increased flexibility for responding to future crisis events.” – COVID-19 Impact Credentialing Survey

Flexing your flexibility

The last couple of decades, as we’ve converted our processes and data from piles of paper to digital solutions, we’ve built complex, large-scale databases and integrations meant to keep our organization running like a well-oiled machine. We set out with the best intentions but have ended up with behemoth builds that hamstring us with less flexibility, less accessibility, and less time to experiment lest something break or disappear. 

We’ve ended up with a basement full of old encyclopedias, Grandma’s china, and other relics of bygone days, when once we had dreamed of a rec room that would make the whole neighborhood jealous.

Today, we’re presented with an opportunity to start fresh. Look at things in a new light. Get rid of programs and processes that have outlived their relevancy to make room for new and exciting things. A “return to normal” doesn’t mean we can’t continue to experiment. Iterate. Advance.

Members are far more accepting – and expecting – of progress than we might have given them credit. Staff is more resilient and capable of change. And sometimes it’s ok to let time-honored traditions go with gratitude (kudos to Marie Kondo!) so that we can focus on what is really important.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.”