Chapter members get a double benefit when joining the USDLA. On the one hand, they have the national—and international—reach of the Association with its expertise and myriad contacts at their disposal. On the other hand, there is the satisfaction of being embraced and engaged by colleagues in one’s home area.
We know that our members regard networking as a key benefit of being affiliated with the USDLA and networking is an important part of our national events. There is something special, though, that comes from bonding with working professional from across town or even those from a few hours away. Indeed, many chapter members speak of the enduring relationships built with DL professionals who, though relatively close by, they would likely never have otherwise met. These professionals—now friends—have at times been instrumental in something as significant as facilitating a career move or as timely as offering a workaround for a flaky LMS.
Chapters have tremendous flexibility within the USDLA structure. Generally, activities will reflect a balance between fostering camaraderie and developing professional interests. These can be complementary—a “cook’s tour” of a distance learning operation can help colleagues find common ground and develop both personal and professional understanding.
As noted elsewhere, some groups have an annual conference, others do not. Some convene at a physical venue while others choose to collaborate virtually. Some associations favor state and national events while two or three other groups may come together for a multi-state activity. The local affiliate chooses what works best for them.
DL practitioners who hold a chapter membership are also members of the USDLA. Thus, local members gain a national forum whereby they can keep current and, on occasion, let their voices be heard. With the Association’s growing global presence, there is also an international component to the relationship.
By virtue of their USDLA affiliation, chapter members directly benefit from
- a subscription to the USDLA’s regular newsletter
- access to the USDLA’s job listing
- member discounts to the USDLA’s national events: National Distance Learning Conference, Policy Forum in Washington, D.C., and International Forum for Women in e-Learning (IFWE)
- opportunities to present as part of National Distance Learning Week
- inclusion in the USDLA News Alerts
- access to the USDLA’s online webinars at no charge
The National Office works with chapters in a number of ways. One of the most visible ways is support with the administrative tasks associated with starting up a new chapter. Part of the assistance is legal and part of it is bred from personal experience at the local level. National can sometimes facilitate speakers for a meeting or conference. A National Board Member in the role of Chair for Chapters, meets with chapter leaders monthly and can be available for consultation.