3 Ways to Diagnose Your Dying AIA Continuing Education Course

Posted On: 
Mar 5, 2018
3 Ways to Diagnose Your Dying AIA Continuing Education Course

Over 90,000 AIA professionals are required to take AIA continuing education annually. Each AIA member must complete 18 hours of AIA courses to maintain their membership. That’s over 1.6 million CE hours needed by architects, specifiers, and other design professionals! Building product manufacturers have significant opportunities to reach decision makers via free AIA courses.

Building product manufacturers need to invest their dollars where they get the highest ROI. Poor branding, bad AIA courses, and lousy customer service can sink a product manufacturer even if they sell a great product. AIA continuing education is the strongest tool a manufacturer has in their arsenal to educate architects. Let’s review how to diagnose a dying AIA continuing education course and what to do about it.

Course participation is crucial for an AIA course to be successful. We can break down course participation into the three common delivery formats: online AIA courses, webinars, and lunch and learns. Each delivery format has a different baseline for success.

AIA Online Courses

A typical AIA HSW online course should receive 80-100 participants minimum per month. If a product manufacturer is receiving only 20-30 participants monthly, something is wrong. Either the course is old, boring, has a poor title, or delivered in an antiquated format like PDF. As we noted in another blog , PDF courses in the AEC industry have the lowest participation rates. Video courses and narrated PowerPoint presentations have the highest participation rates and highest ROI for product manufacturers.

Some online AIA HSW courses with CE credit designations that include: GBCI hour, LEED specific hour, and IDCEC receive 150-300 participants per month. We’ll discuss how to reach those numbers later in the discussion. Bottom line: PDF courses are a waste of money and any sales person advocating this approach should be fired.

AIA webinars

Your AIA course might be dying if your webinar participation rates are under 100. That’s correct! Most AIA webinars should have between 150-300 participants. Hitting 200 is a good participation rate and provides great ROI for the manufacturer. Low webinar participation rates can be attributed to using a platform with too few subscribers. When selecting a platform, always choose an education provider that has at least 100,000 subscribers.

A successful webinar is built around three key strategies: traffic, participation, and follow-up. A great AIA Education Provider will have the means to drive traffic to the registration page for the webinar. The webinar should receive ample participation as we noted: 150-300 participants. And the Education Provider and building product manufacturer should coordinate on follow-up to ensure a successful outcome and specification opportunities.

3 Ways to Diagnose Your Dying AIA Continuing Education Course

AIA Lunch and Learns

The lunch and learn format was the first delivery format for design professional education. Before the advent of the computer, internet, webinars, etc., face-to-face presentations were the only means of reaching the decision makers. Lunch and learns are still very popular but they are more expensive than ever.

Most building product manufacturers allocate part of their budget for product reps to deliver lunch and learns across the country. Your lunch and learn program can take a big hit if you are not following common sense and industry protocol. Lunch and learn programs can be judged on participation rates, costs of putting on the event, and the outcome from the event several months later.

Local AIA chapter meetings, CSI monthly meetings, USGBC chapter meetings, and CE Academy events are excellent forums to reach decision makers. A lunch and learn with only 5 people in the room could be considered a success if those 5 people were decision makers for a significant project and your product was in the running for specification. On the other hand, delivering an interior design focused course on sustainable fabrics to a room of 50 electrical engineers would be deemed a failure. It’s crucial to know your targeted audience, what they want to learn, and how to deliver the best presentation.

If you’re product rep is delivering a 5-year-old CE course to the same group of architects every year, then it’s bound to fail. Architects and specifiers want new education that responds to market changes, not a dusty old dog and pony show that’s been beat to death a million times. Local AIA chapter meetings, CSI monthly meetings, USGBC chapter meetings, and CE Academy events are excellent forums to reach decision makers.

Follow-up is crucial for lunch and learns just as it is with webinars and AIA online anytime courses. You can educate a room of 100 architects but unless you answer their emails, telephone messages, and sample requests after an event, you have wasted everyone’s time.

AIA Course Update

A building product manufacturer can diagnose a dying AIA course by the age of the presentation. AIA recommends that courses be updated and re-registered every 3 years. Technology, building codes, industry changes, etc. can make a 3-year-old course look like a fossil. It’s crucial that product manufacturers update their courses every 2-3 years to keep them fresh, engaging, and maintain participation.

The only exception to the rule are LEED specific hour courses. They have the highest participation rates in the AEC industry and a typical LEED specific course may have 200-300 participants monthly even four or five years later. Free LEED specific courses are rarer than a unicorn sliding down a rainbow and manufacturers who invest in these courses see the highest ROI out of any courses in North America.

AIA Course Upgrade

Finally, your AIA course could be suffering from long term use and no love. Related to a course update, your course might need to be upgraded. An upgrade could fall into several categories for a course such as: new videos and photography, new case studies, a different delivery format (PDF to Video), and even adding more CE credits to the course to increase your audience.

The most effective and least expensive upgrades for an AIA course are to register it with the GBCI for LEED APs and LEED Green Associates to take. There are over 200,000 LEED professionals in the marketplace. LEED APs must take 30 GBCI hours very 2 years. LEED GA’s must take 15 hours every 2 years. By registering your course with the GBCI, you increase your audience significantly. The USGBC has been expanding their education program over the past several years and it’s not too late to leverage your product expertise here.

Overall, there are several ways to diagnose a dying or low performing AIA course. Course participation rates, the age of the course, and course upgrades and CE credit designations all have a significant effect on the success of your course. How does your team decide to retire an AIA course or update it for a new generation of architects?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank