IREM Certification Courses

The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®) is an international trade organization for property and asset managers, providing complete knowledge to take on real estate management’s most dynamic challenges. Their tagline says quite a lot about their commitment to the industry:

For those who manage to make a difference.

Their commitment to their members is strongly evidenced in their learning and certification programs. Their onsite, on-demand and self-paced courses help professionals build their property management skills and get up-to-speed on emerging topics such as asset management, ethics, finance, risk management, technology, etc.

IREM offers three certification courses for members, one for organizations, and one for properties:  

  • IREM Certified Property Manager
  • Accredited Residential Manager
  • Accredited Commercial Manager
  • Accredited Management Organization
  • Certified Sustainable Property

Their accelerator courses and webinars cover topics such as:

  • How to boost efficiency, trim waste, and sustain value
  • The economics of real estate investments
  • Leading edge marketing and leasing strategies
  • Risk management

To quote IREM:

For over 85 years, our members have made us the world’s strongest voice for all things real estate management. Today, almost 20,000 leaders in commercial and residential management call this home for learning, certifications, and networking.

Looking for the path to increased enrollment and revenue

Suzanne Hill, IREM’s Director, Knowledge Services has been our guide in telling their story. She provides the landscape:

Several years ago our learning was primarily live classroom delivery, with over 100 courses and 60 instructors worldwide. We were serving our members well, but we knew that with new tools and new ideas we could serve them even better, and so we began to look for ways to improve our user experience, grow our online capabilities, and, at the same time, make life easier for our authors, admins, and instructors. Agility and efficiency were requirements.

IREM was also looking to increase both enrollment and revenue.

There was an LMS in place but it was apparent that a change was necessary. The technology, and the commitment of the parent company, simply were not keeping pace with IREM’s needs and aspirations. Here’s a small incident, but it illustrates why they began to look for a new technology partner.

Taking attendance was a manual process. The information had to be scanned into the system, which their developers never seemed to find a remedy for. IREM’s courses are delivered by the chapters, and this was a sore point for all. When they moved to Web Courseworks and CourseStage attendance became automated. The relatively minor efficiency gains were seen by chapters as a huge win.

IREM began to experiment and expand by introducing ViLT, or virtual instructor-led training, taking their proven courses and experienced lecturers and moving it all online. It was very well-received and was growing quickly. They knew the urgency of finding the right LMS platform and the right LMS technology company to partner with for the future.

We don’t need a vendor, we need a partner

IREM formed a cross-functional team, led by Knowledge Services, to develop and prioritize their requirements, put together the RFP, and identify potential LMS vendors. The RFP was distributed to eight companies. After a thorough review of their responses the field was narrowed to three highly-qualified competitors.

Key to the evaluation process was a series of focused demos for core constituencies within IREM, which was essential for the credibility of the process and the unanimity of going forward with the eventual choice.

The demos narrowed the field to two. The pricing was similar and both had the required functionality. It was the references and discussions with current users that convinced IREM - the glowing reviews of CourseWorks and CourseStage cast the deciding vote.

What these references provided was confirmation that there would be a good cultural fit between Web CourseWorks and IREM, which was deemed an essential requirement and which has become the backbone of their collaboration.

Web CourseWorks has been very responsive and very open, and they have been acutely sensitive to our need to brand and whitelabel the entire learning experience. They have been very receptive to customizations, delving deeply into why we need this, how should it work, and what we really need to accomplish. An easy one was to plug into Zoom. A much more difficult task was to accommodate our complex exams.

It took several months of discovery and 11 iterations of the use cases comprising all courses and all exams before they had an onboarding and implementation plan that met the requirements for going live.

The planning paid off. Suzanne’s boss has been through several LMS implementations in her career and remarked, ‘that was the smoothest I’ve ever seen.’

Fortune in the face of chaos

IREM made the switch to CourseStage and was expanding their online presence, growing ViLT and self-paced learning. Then came COVID. Per Ms. Hill:

When COVID hit, ViLT became the only game in town. We were fortunate that we already had this capability. We were also fortunate that our members were embracing the technology and the new way of learning. More and more students were signing up.

The handwriting was on the wall - online learning, and likely self-paced learning were clearly going to be very important to our members and our future.” Which brought up another stumbling block, how technology could accommodate IREM’s complex certification exams.

It is axiomatic for IREM, and logical, that in times of economic slowdown the demand for education increases. This provided IREM with many opportunities to hone their ViLT classes and delivery. Here’s what they realized:

  • It’s all about the user experience – accessing information, the learning experience, interaction. Members must have a  clean, easy, intuitive, enriching experience.
  • Integrating with their internal systems is not always easy.
  • Open lines of communication, and regular reviews, are essential. (N.B. They’ve found that Basecamp works well for discussions and file sharing.)

Easy, intuitive, and inclusive

Self-paced learning is now up a full 30% for IREM, and this is a harbinger for the future. ViLT continues to grow in breadth and depth. IREM will return to offering live classroom instruction, which is at the discretion of the individual chapter.

Of particular value has been CourseStage’s ability to collect both quantitative and qualitative data and provide robust analytics. And …  it’s no longer necessary to take attendance manually.

Here’s what else is happening:

The entire learning experience is white labeled and fully branded. All content is in CourseStage as are all exams, evaluations, and resources. Exam proctoring is now online. The interface is seamless. All wording and nomenclature are IREM’s. “You don’t even feel like you left our website.”

IREM and Web CourseWorks are now designing a customized dashboard for each student, which is an important undertaking that will take the user experience to a new level. It will show the start and end date for courses a learner is enrolled in, what has an expiration date, what the student needs next to complete a certification, what is due and when is it due (e.g., coursework). Students can even access transcripts (stored in the AMS) through the dashboard.

Together, they have developed an LMS app, which allows learners to access almost anything from anywhere, on any device. Download a course and work on the airplane.    

They are using technology in some new and innovative ways. For instance, one of their certification exams is case-based: here’s this property, now please write a business plan addressing maintenance, risk management, identifying construction issues, etc. CourseStage will soon serve-up a VR walk-through of the property to make this real and immersive.

Ms. Hill sums it all up,

We see Web CourseWorks as a continuing partner and CourseStage as our platform for the future. They are thinking ahead and exploring how to achieve our goals, one of which is to grow our accessibility, to have inclusivity as a core value. They are very responsive and really try to understand and improve our business.

By Scott Hornstein for ReviewMyLMS