Here at the CPA Center of Excellence and Indiana CPA Society, the driver behind our organization, we have been talking a lot about a competency-based approach to professional development, advocating for change to the CPE regulations and effective learning for CPAs, and the future of learning in a larger sense. Below is our quick guide to the future of professional development and learning.
In 2012 an Indiana CPA Society Board-level task force produced a white paper on the Future of Competency. In this paper we sought to look at the very broad world of education (K-12, higher education and continuing professional education) and consider trends and changes. As an association we need to ensure we’re meeting our members’ needs, and since CPE is such a big part of CPAs professional commitment, we wanted to know more about how education is evolving. After the work we did, we concluded that, well, there’s a lot more work to do.
Education is changing everywhere you go. In just a few minutes of conversation with any K-12 grade student you learn that online learning is so prevalent that some schools don’t even have snow days anymore — if it’s snowing, they just learn from home online. First-graders are being issued iPads. Hard copies of text books are a bit outdated. Smart boards are prevalent and flipped classrooms are the norm at one Indianapolis school. In the area of professional education, simulation and scenario-based learning is becoming more valuable. Some firms like Deloitte have gone to extensive measures creating entire campuses, like Deloitte University, with its enhanced learning and simulations that provide immediate feedback.
I had the privilege to be a member of the AICPA Future of Learning Task Force in 2013-14. I visited Harvard University and heard from their education experts, some from MIT and other nationally-recognized education innovators. I grew to understand our road to change was going to be hard, but that if we don’t start experimenting now, it will be even harder to catch up later. Even at these elite institutions, changing behaviors about learning wasn’t necessarily simple, but an ongoing process of trial and error. Despite that, it was evident the world isn’t going to become less complex anytime soon. With the chance to hear Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, speak about his mission to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere,” I better understood how technology is changing how we learn. It’s not about webinars. It’s about the accessibility of education — to anyone, anywhere. What does this mean for how we value and measure education as an organization at large, and for the CPA profession?
WHY CPAS SHOULD CARE:
1. THE YOUNG PEOPLE YOU HIRE WILL BE INCREASINGLY DISINTERESTED IN SITTING in a classroom for eight hours at a time to earn CPE. And it’s not about moving it online. Sitting at a computer and staring at a screen with little interaction might be even less tolerable. The type of education you offer may be a differentiator for young people when choosing an employer. They are going to look for hands-on learning and real life scenarios in a way we haven’t seen before.
2. THE WAY YOU UNDERSTAND SOMEONE’S EDUCATION IS GOING TO CHANGE. Learning is accessible in so many ways, and with the complexity of our day-to-day workloads, we’ll be looking for people who can get the job done — not necessarily people with a specific GPA or a degree that took X number of years to attain. What do they know and how will you know they know it? We will begin to look to things like digital badges to tell us where someone has an expertise. Or, which MOOC’s did someone participate in and finish?
3. YOU, OR YOUR ORGANIZATION, SPEND A LOT OF TIME AND MONEY ON CONTINUING EDUCATION per regulatory requirements to meet an arbitrary number of hours to say you’ve maintained your competency as a CPA. Are you always getting bang for your buck in the current hours-based system? Does learning really only happen if it’s done in 50-minute increments? Or, is learning continuous and can it be earned and documented in different ways? Education is a critical area for the CPA profession. For the reasons stated, and many others, the CPA Center of Excellence and the Indiana CPA Society continue to ask questions and study the future of learning and competency.
Massive Open Online Courses are generally free and provide online, interactive learning. Courses typically have unlimited participation. EdX is one of the more prominent providers with universities like UC Berkeley, Harvard and MIT offering courses this way. Generally no official credit is offered; the learner is recognized for completing the course and learning the content.
A form of learning where the “lecture” part is typically viewed online before a class and class time is used for collaboration, in-depth discussion or working on actual problems. It’s basically flipping the lecture and homework. The homework is done with the instructor so the student can ask specific questions or talk with others as needed to gain better insight and a better understanding of the content.
Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to validate learning, and hold the potential to transform where and how learning is valued. They help demonstrate skills learned either online or in person. They are characterized by a symbol of some kind (a badge) that is digital and is coded to show whomever clicks on it, the skills, experiences, etc., achieved by the learner.
Launched in 1998, Mozilla is a community of technologists working to make the Internet accessible to all and to promote innovation. One of the group’s project is Mozilla Backpack. Available at backpack.openbadges.org, the backpack is like a locker you had in school or a network drive on your computer. It’s simply a place you can store your digital badges, making it easier to share them online via social media or your LinkedIn profile. Read the last page in our online courses guide for a brief tutorial on uploading your digital badges to Mozilla Backpack.
Sal Khan/Khan Academy
Through Khan Academy, students can make use of a library of content, including interactive challenges, assessments, and videos from any computer with access to the web. Sal Khan’s speech about his mission received a standing ovation at the October 2013 AICPA Council meeting in Los Angeles.
Future of Competency
A 2012-13 INCPAS task force that focused on the identification (plan), acquisition (education), and demonstration (experience) of behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for successful performance as a professional. Learning is one part of the future of competency. Read their report.
Future of Learning Task Force
A 2013-14 AICPA task force explored a new vision, developed by the task force, to reinvent lifelong learning and competency in the CPA profession. The task force research resulted in an extensive report.
Learning formats that allow students flexibility to learn where and when they want to and to demonstrate mastery of content vs. completing a specific semester, or hours-based system. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education had several experimental sites allowing universities to try this approach without losing federal-aid eligibility. This is the type of education we advocate at the CPA Center of Excellence.