Online Learning: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Online portals support the lifelong learning needs of associations

These are often backed by grants from the industry, especially when there is a growing number of learners enjoying education on demand. It is a win-win solution: organisations reach their audience no matter the location, including low- and middle-income members, and popularise their latest content; while the professionals have access to high-quality training delivered by a reputable source, available 24/7.

" Consider all the hurdles and external factors before embarking on this online education journey. "

When it comes to creating educational portals, the truth is that there are many hurdles to go through:

  • Minimising the development process – the tendency is for short educational videos that break information into small, easy-to-consume parts. This type of material require less of the learner’s time and energy and may seem more achievable than other training formats.
  • Maintaining courses over time – this is another reason why microlearning may prove more successful. Short chunks of educational content take less planning and development time and are therefore easier to maintain and keep updated over time.
  • Offering training in various languages – in order to reach a global audience, it is important to offer educational materials in various languages, especially when targeting underserved regions of the world.
  • Retaining relevance in a fastmoving context – continually improving and enhancing the portals in line with user feedback is critical. It is important to undertake regular needs assessments to guide the topics and formats of resources and materials provided.
  • Working within platform limitations – make sure that you have a depth of understanding of the potential of each tool you choose in order to make the most of it and balance with the realisation that there is just no such thing as a perfect online education platform.
  • Establishing new programmes and the associated risks – there is always a risk embarking on a new programme, so spend the time to make sure that they are set up with the greatest likelihood of success.

The portals are always guided by the field: they must address gaps and reflect needs in order to be considered credible sources that professionals return to regularly. However, there are external challenges that will be ongoing throughout the process:

  • Governance: the true challenge is navigating the different kinds of structures and processes in place for each organisation.
  • Funding: it is difficult to create a compelling case for a fledgling programme, so gaining that first supporter is always a challenge. Once a portal’s user numbers increase, it begins to mature and develop a reputation, things start to get easier.
  • Audience generation: create a comprehensive marketing and promotions strategy to ensure the education and resources reach the right audience. And certainly, adjust often to keep that share of mind.


By Pamela Funes (Online Education Specialist) & Katy Barbier-Greenland (Grants Manager – Education & Health)

This article was written for IAPCO The PCO, Q4 2020.


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