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Michigan Credit Union League Home » Information Services » Publications » Contact » 2006 » 1st Quarter » Cover Story: Learning Education's New Frontier  

In Today’s Hectic, Rapidly Changing Environment, Continuing Education and Training are Absolutely Vital to Success. Fortunately, They’re Easier than Ever to Access, too.

Consider what the average credit union spends each year on education and training. Now, consider how much of that sizeable sum is not spent on tuition and learning materials — but on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, gasoline or airline flights.

Now, consider how much more cost-effective education and training expenditures would be if those extraneous costs could be cut to a minimum, freeing up limited dollars for the actual learning experience or other pressing needs.

Welcome to education’s new frontiers — the Webcast, the Internet session, the audio conference and the Online Learning Center. In 2005, an estimated 38 percent of the nearly 4,800 credit union people accessing MCUL education programs did so at their desks or at home, without ever setting foot in a classroom. In fact, the actual number of uncounted remote-access users is undoubtedly even more impressive than that, notes MCUL Education and Events Vice President Ann Jones.

“We do the best we can to get accurate data on how many people are participating,” Jones said. “But we know there are instances when a credit union will set up a data projector and show the session to a room full of people. Plus, there are people who watch the session after the fact in archive or on CD-ROM.

“Yet, even without factoring in those numbers, we can say that nearly two in five people who access League education programs are doing so remotely. That’s a pretty impressive statistic, given that the technology is still fairly new.”

Technology’s ability to provide quick and easy access to education could not have arrived at a better time, as the need for training has never been more acute. New products and services, such as home mortgages and commercial lending, create a need for new skills and expertise. Intensified competition and escalating member expectations have heightened the need for new disciplines — such as marketing and information systems — that scarcely existed in credit unions 25 years ago. Regulatory compliance is making more demands on credit union staff time than ever before. And technology itself requires credit union staff members to be hands-on experts working with equipment and software unheard of just a decade or so ago.

“The training requirements of most credit union positions used to be pretty simple and straightforward,” Jones said. “Today, a new employee typically requires some training just to learn how to use the phone. Every office is operating in a very different and far more complex business environment than that of just a few short years ago.

“And, Michigan is a big state. From Copper Harbor in the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula to Temperance near the Ohio border is a 12-hour drive of more than 600 miles. No matter where we schedule an education session, attending is going to be a major expense and inconvenience for someone.”

Striking a Balance

Technology and remote access, for all their advantages, have not rendered traditional live classroom sessions obsolete, however.

“We know many credit unions would like to have nothing but live education events all year, but the reality is that remote sessions give everyone equal access to professional development,” Jones said. “On the other hand, we recognize that some of our members still prefer a live, hands-on learning experience, and that remote sessions aren’t always an adequate substitute.”

Selecting the delivery method is often driven by the subject matter. “We’re frequently asked how we select the topics and determine our event lineup,” Jones said. “It’s a combination of several things — input from the annual Education survey we send out to credit unions in the fall, feedback from League consultants based on their contacts, suggestions from event attendees and just keeping our eyes and ears open for new topics and issues coming down the road.”

Once a good mix of timely topics has been selected, MCUL Education staff looks at each event to determine the best way to reach its target audience, a process that Jones describes as “a difficult balancing act.”

“We know we can’t be all things to all people, much less please everyone,” she said. “But our goal is to get as close as we can to meeting all the education and training needs of our member credit unions — and based on the survey responses and feedback we get, credit unions are pleased with our efforts.

“Remote access through Webcasts, Internet sessions, the MCUL Online Learning Center and the new cooperative audio conferences not only save time, they save money, too. Another advantage of remote events is that they’re easy for us to set up and present, making it possible to add events to the education program quickly whenever a new hot topic arises unexpectedly. That’s why the 2006 Education Calendar features more distance learning opportunities than ever before.”

Remote Access Choices

Unveiled at the 2005 MCUL Annual Convention and Exposition in Grand Rapids, the MCUL’s Online Learning Center is a perfect fit for self-directed learners, offering “selfpaced, on-line courses, available on demand.” “There are literally thousands of on-line courses available 24/7 on a broad range of subjects,” Jones said. “The Online Learning Center is an ideal and reasonably priced alternative for those who prefer to study and test at their own pace.”

Audio conferences are lively one-hour telephone presentations meant to spark discussions and help credit union staff share experiences and ideas. “Handouts are provided to make it easy to follow along and take notes, and the topics we’ll cover by audio conference in 2006 include payday lending, branch security, plastic card fraud, community marketing and youth services.”

Internet sessions are perfect for topics that require more depth and a more visual communication style. Generally two to three hours in length, the sessions allow attendees to use a phone line to listen to the session presenter, while viewing a detailed PowerPoint presentation on their computer. Questions and comments can be submitted at any time during the session. “Subjects we’ll cover in this format include a primer on FICO credit scores, an update on last year’s Bankruptcy Reform Act, and how to read and sell from a credit report,” Jones said.

Streaming Webcasts are the most popular form of remote session. “This format allows participants to explore issues in nearly as much depth as a live conference,” Jones said. “Most Webcasts last two to three hours, and you can attend either in person here at the Michigan Credit Union Center or watch and listen to the presenter live on your computer from the comfort of your office.

“Many credit union trainers choose to broadcast the session on a screen in their training room so several employees can train at the same time. There’s often an audio-only option for those without an Internet connection. And, as with other remote events, materials are sent out prior to the session so you can easily follow along, and you have the ability to ask questions or make comments at any time during the presentation.”

This year’s Webcast topics include ways to use lending to serve the community, an update of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act,and the annual regulatory update.

“What makes the Webcast format unique is that we record each session, and every Webcast or on-line participant receives a complimentary copy,” Jones said. “So, even if you can’t attend the actual Webcast, you can purchase a CD-ROM of the session. This is a great way to build up your credit union’s training library — many credit unions purchase CDROMs and use them as training tools for their volunteers at board meetings each month.”

World-Class Events on Tap

“We can cover a wide variety of topics remotely, but there are some events clearly tailored for an interactive, on-site format,” Jones said. “And we’ve included plenty of these live events on our 2006 schedule, events led by world-class presenters and filled with timely and useful information.”

Two of the most anticipated events are the Spring and Fall Leadership Development Conferences, which are geared to volunteers and CEOs. The topical Executive Speaker Series and CUNA Volunteer Achievement Program (VAP) modules are always popular, Jones noted.

Other live 2006 events include the Lending Conference in Frankenmuth, the MCUL Governmental Affairs Conference in Lansing, the popular Call Center Conference, Collector’s Training School and the 2006 MCUL Annual Convention and Exposition (AC&E) May 18-20 in Grand Rapids. “This year’s AC&E theme is ‘Expect the Extreme,’ and we’ll kick it off with a keynote speech by actor, author and economist Ben Stein,” Jones said.

“And that’s only the first half of the year. We’ll round out 2006 with the Youth Summit, Executive Summit, a new Telephone Collections Seminar and a new session called ALM 201. As always, the 2006 Education Calendar offers plenty of opportunities for education, networking and even a good bit of fun, too.”

Check out the Calendar

For a complete listing of MCUL education and training programs scheduled thus far in 2006, turn to the Education Calendar on Page 8 or visit under Complete

Calendar and Online Education Event Registration. There credit union people can find links to the Online Learning Center and CUNA’s own CPD Online education program.

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