3 Ways to Track the ROI of Online Education

How to track the ROI of online education and events — for organizations that are content-driven, revenue-focused, or both.

Computer Monitor screen Graph,  ROI. Return on investment

As a 55-year-old global organization dedicated to using information technology to improve health care, it’s no surprise that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Media is well ahead of the pack when it comes to online educational content. HIMSS began offering webinars in 2001 and launched a virtual conference in 2007.

“One of the wonderful things about this organization is that they’ve really invested in resources for the digital component,” said Mary Beth Micucci, DES, HIMSS’s director of digital events. Micucci’s team records educational content at face-to-face programs, including more than 250 sessions at HIMSS’s Annual Conference — but that only accounts for about 25 percent of the organization’s digital portfolio. “The thing with virtual,” Micucci said, “is that it’s year-round for us.”

HIMSS produces “virtual briefings” — deep dives that last from 30 minutes to two hours — along with webinars and online prep courses for the two accreditations its offers. As far as calculating ROI on online content, there are no set formulas, according to Micucci, and it varies depending on the organization. “Some are purely content-driven,” she said. “And that’s what’s important, to diversify and be able to get content out to whomever they need to, because that’s the value. It’s mission-critical, and they’re not worried about revenue. Others are revenue-focused.”

Micucci shared three ways she calculates ROI — and how she balances them against one another:

SPONSORSHIPSThe growth in revenue from sponsors of online content is a metric that can be measured in hard numbers, but it ties back to education and content distribution. “One of the things I think is great about our vendors is that they’re very much focused on education,” Micucci said. “We can help our clients reach their audience by showing how they can be thought leaders in this field.”

USER GROWTHAnother key metric is growth in the number of people who register as unique subscribers in HIMSS’s centralized Learning Center, where its online content is located. “These are not audited numbers,” Micucci said, “but we’ve gone from having maybe 12,000 unique visitors over a year — and that would be very high — to over 50,000. Our goal is to continue to increase those numbers.”

ENGAGEMENTBut it’s not all about growing the numbers, Micucci said. “Engagement to me is the tricky one, because it will tell us everything.”

Bringing all of its educational content under one digital roof in the Learning Center has allowed HIMSS to aggregate and better mine its data. “We can see who’s attending what,” Micucci said. “It not only allows HIMSS to build individual profiles, but it also tells us what people are seeking across the board.”

That’s crucial, allowing HIMSS not only to provide the kind of information that people are looking for but also to make sure it’s organized so they can find it. “We continually try to improve on our search capabilities,” Micucci said, “and how people are accessing that content.”

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.