Why LEAD went digital

LEAD Myths & Misconceptions – Part 12

This post is part of a larger series to address the most common myths, misconceptions, and excuses that chapters and members have regarding the LEAD Program.  Follow the entire conversation and get caught up on each of the issues we are addressing by clicking here.

Myth 12.      Hard copy LEAD manuals are better than the new online sessions.

We hear this one a lot.  Chapters miss having something to give their Candidates that they can hold onto and carry around.  Some even think that having the book makes it easier to review the material.  We did not make the decision to convert from hard copy materials to an online experience quickly or lightly.  The truth is we had three years of responses from undergraduate chapter members that were telling us to: make sessions more interactive and discussion-based, make access to the program easier, and to drastically update the manuals and materials.  We believe the program redesign did just that.  Click the appropriate links to read more about the redesign or our scientific assessments of the LEAD Program.

The fact of the matter is that hard copy LEAD materials create a number of issues.

  • They are expensive to print, stock, and ship to chapters.  This means that the Fraternity has to order them in bulk and in quantities that would last for 2-4 years.

Which leads to the next few problems…

  • Hard copy materials quickly go out of date.  The LEAD materials include a lot of time sensitive information – active chapter listing, members of the High Council – and include resources and references to materials that are ever changing – websites, real life examples – that need regular updating.  Hard copy books don’t allow for much editing and updating year-to-year, especially if the Fraternity has to order books in bulk to keep costs down. 
  • Editing material and adding content to books is a very slow process.  What if we print the books and find a major misprint, like omitting a letter from the Greek Alphabet (it’s happened before), or we want to add a whole new session (something we just did last January)?  Hard copy books make the LEAD Program very slow to addressing mistakes and adding new content.  The new online LEAD materials can be updated and expanded in a matter of days as compared to months or years for books.
  • Workbooks make LEAD feel like a class.  Who wants another workbook with tear-out handouts and assignments or chapters assigned as homework?
  • The online content allows chapters to start LEAD at any point of the year and provides members with 24/7 access to the program.  There’s no more waiting 1-3 weeks, or more, to start LEAD with new candidates.  They can get started as soon as they register and are approved as candidates in the Members Area.  Books required a chapter to order and have them shipped and distributed to candidates before LEAD could begin.
  • Books make chapters lazy.  Rather than using the facilitated sessions – chock full of real life examples, stories, discussions, team builders, and other activities – some chapters were simply having candidates go around in a circle and read from the books.  We can’t think of something more boring or off-base from how the program was designed for chapter use.

The online LEAD materials have some other key benefits over hard copy books.

  • The online materials allowed us to create a user experience and introductory materials for Phases II, III, and IV where none previously existed.  That’s right, prior to the LEAD redesign only candidates were provided with any kind of individual materials.  For everyone else that meant that if your chapter wasn’t offering a specific phase or if you missed the facilitated session that you were completely out of luck for experiencing that content or learning about the material.  Now anyone with a Members Area account (candidate, initiate, or alumnus) has full access to the materials and interactive experience offered by the online content for Phases I-IV.
  • With the online content it’s so much easier to show off the program during recruitment, to parents, and guest facilitators.  Preview accounts can be set up on request to give access to potential members, faculty, non-Sigma Nu advisors, guest facilitators, parents, you name it.  Think about the selling points of being one of the first and only fraternity groups to offer such a comprehensive and cutting-edge online program.
  • The online content provides videos, audio voice-overs, links to additional information, quizzes, as well as read/write/save journals and worksheets – something a hard copy book could never do.
  • The online content is much more comprehensive than the books ever were or could reasonably be.  Not only did we add individual content and a user experience for Phases II, III, and IV, but the online content includes everything and more than the Phase I books did. 
  • Local chapters are able to review user records, track chapter participation, view trend data, and grade the embedded quizzes with an administrative tracking tool (learn more here).
  • Breaking sessions into an individual self-paced, interactive, online experience and group facilitation requires less time per-sitting of members.  We essentially broke each session in half and removed the lecture and training components out of facilitated workshops.  Now group sessions are able to be much more interactive, hands-on, and activity and discussion-based than before.  LEAD participants that have reviewed the online material prior to attending the facilitated session are already primed with the concepts and information to approach the session’s topic in a meaningful and interactive way.  These shortened facilitations mean not only less of a time commitment from your members but also less of a burden on facilitators.

Put simply, the benefits of the online materials far outweighed any benefits from printing hard copy workbooks.  Log in to the Members Area and give the online materials a fresh look if you’re still not convinced.

3 thoughts on “Why LEAD went digital

  1. Kyle McGuire says:

    I completely understand all the reasons you guys have for the conversion. On the other hand doing it digitally means that the LEAD experience becomes more “individual”……candidates and brothers are asked to read LEAD sections on their own before a LEAD meeting and then convene as a group. Even once that group is together unless everybody has a laptop with them it’s hard to keep up. Any ways to solve this issue? Most people like the material in front of them during sessions.

  2. Steven Kidd says:

    I am the LEAD Chairman for my chapter currently (Kappa Gamma, California State Polytechnic Pomona), and my advice to Kyle is that there are ways to make the online section more interactive as a group. I agree that the current system does have draw backs, namely that it is very difficult to get everyone on the same page when you expect all the participating members in the phase to read on their own. At our university, we can request to reserve an individual classroom for private functions. I use these classrooms for LEAD sessions, and all of our classrooms come equipped with overhead projectors and drop down screens. I don’t have the participants read on their own, I essentially will read over the material before hand and present the material that is most relevant to the lesson in the classroom with all eyes on the projection screen. This allows everyone to learn at the same rate and pace, without relying on each individual brother to take time out of their own busy schedules to learn the material…. I feel my chapter probably isn’t the only one that would have trouble motivating its members to spend an hour of their free time to read LEAD on their own each week, so coming up with the idea of using classroom technology to do group study has been incredibly effective.

  3. Kevin Taylor says:

    I’m the chapter adviser for Mu Tau. While I can see the wisdom in HQ’s decision, I also question whether there is some middle ground between having a 100% up-to-date LEAD manual and having absolutely nothing tangible at all.

    I believe that there is and that we used to have such a thing. Remember The Way of Honor? If HQ or the Foundation would offer The Way of Honor for sale and strongly suggest it be included in a chapter’s LEAD process, how could that be anything but a good thing? Maybe I’m too old school, but I like to have something tangible to highlight in, underline in and dogear important pages. Also, studies have shown that reading comprehension and retention is superior using printed materials as compared to online materials.

    While I support HQ’s decision, there is still some middle ground. I don’t care about LEAD books, but something, anything printed is better than nothing.

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