Another year, another successful LERN Conference in the books! Each year members of the Learning Resource Network (LERN) convene from across the globe to learn about continuing education trends, engage in professional development and network with similar programs. This year I got the pleasure of attending “the most exciting week of the year in lifelong learning!” in the incredibly hip Portland, Oregon.
Throughout the week I attended various seminars on topics like New Growth Markets, Optimizing Your Customers’ Journey and Value Creation. NCE’s catalog was even featured in the Best Brochure Ideas for 2018 session due to our use of real – not stock – class photos taken by Sam Angel! I also attended a session discussing how continuing education can foster community development and learned about a particularly exciting program in Omaha, Nebraska.
I also got to meet exhibitors like our online registration system, ASAP Connected. When we were setting up ASAP a few years ago I emailed CEO Joel Meyer several times a day – it was great to finally meet him in person!
And finally, I had the honor of speaking in one of the final panel sessions, Best Practices in Community Programming, alongside two other leaders from Washington and Montana. I shared the importance of having a well-trained, customer-oriented staff along with the significance of reacting to changing audience needs through programming like Spanish for Educators. I also discussed the importance of remembering why we do this work – to give people the tools to improve their lives, to bring people from diverse backgrounds together in a comfortable environment, and to bring some joy into our participants’ lives. I think often people in our field lose sight of this mission by focusing on bottom lines, ROIs, and revenue streams – especially at conferences like this where those topics are prevalent! But, hopefully, we all work in enrichment because we like helping people. We need to ensure this is the first intent of every action we take. I believe when we truly care about the people we are serving, those other “important” things will fall in place.
I look forward to implementing all of the things I learned at the conference and we’ll be sure to return next Fall!
Mary Beth Harding