For years, we have been focused on building tools to make it easy for leading accounting firms to create online CPE programs and courses for their teams. Since many firms have mandatory work from home for the foreseeable future, we wanted to take a moment to summarize the key information to quickly adapt to offer “remote first training” while also making sure everything is CPE-compliant along the way. In the sections below, we’ll detail a few options to provide more online, remote-friendly training to your team.
Accounting Board Guidance
First off, it’s important to note upfront that while requirements vary State-by-State, most States are allowing for added flexibility for CPE-compliant online training programs due to COVID-19. However, a few States still require that a firm be a registered sponsor with their respective State Board or NASBA in order for internal webinar or self-study courses to qualify for CPE credit. As always, we recommend checking with your State Boards for confirmation. We’re also in frequent communication with the State Boards, particularly at this time, so we’re happy to be a resource for you.
As a helpful reference, NASBA has provided a summary on which States have allowed for flexibility in their standards:
In the sections below, we’ll summarize the key elements you need to include to ensure compliance with the CPE standards. Let’s look at the four common options to build an online CPE training program for your firm.
Option 1: Webinars / Webcasts
Most firms currently make use of an online meeting or webinar platform, so webinars are an accessible option to move your in-person training sessions online. To be CPE-compliant, the main difference relative to in-person training sessions relates to how you demonstrate that a learner was both present and attentive:
- For in-person sessions, a sign-in sheet is typically used to track attendance, and the instructor or coordinator serve as an “attendance monitor” during the session.
- For webinars, a participant needs to demonstrate themselves that they’re attentive throughout the program. There are two basic ways to meet that requirement:
- The most common (and our recommendation) is to launch polling questions throughout the session. Most of the major web meeting platforms allow for polls, which are simple to set up.
- An alternative option is using “code words” throughout the session that the participant needs to write down. After the session is completed, you may send out a survey that asks each participant to enter the code words, which can then be verified to prove attendance. This is usually only done when polling isn’t available, and we don’t recommend it since cheating can be accomplished quite easily. Plus it’s more labor-intensive to verify that attendees answered correctly and doesn’t utilize questions that deepen their learning.
How many polls or code words do I need?
This is one of the most important details about ensuring CPE compliance for webinars. The polls need to be evenly spaced throughout the session, and you must have 3 polling questions for every hour of CPE credit. Fractions of an hour need to be rounded up (e.g. a 1.5 CPE credit course would require 5 polling questions).
Do I need a quiz?
No, you don’t need a quiz. The polling questions satisfy as proof that the learners are attentive during the session, and these do not need to be quizzes. The polls can simply be a prompt that asks “Are you there?”, and the participant can simply answer “Yes.” While the polls are not required to be quizzes, we recommend that you use them thoughtfully as a way to foster engagement with the content and guide the instructor’s discussion based upon how well the concepts are being understood.
What platforms can I use?
We commonly see Zoom, GoToWebinar, or Webex Training used for CPE courses. These platforms all have similar features, including polling and reporting. All three seamlessly integrate with Prolaera, but Zoom and GoToWebinar as the most popular options we’ve seen.
How do I validate polls to issue CPE credit?
This is often the hardest part of running a webinar session. The default process is to download a polling report from the web meeting platform then use filters or formulas to validate credit and issue an appropriate amount of CPE. Within Prolaera, we have built integrations that automatically syncs each learner’s polling responses to then easily validate and issue CPE credits in one place without having to export any reports. There are a number of workflows to explore, and we’re happy to share best practices.
Option 2: On-Demand / Self-Study
Are you intimidated by the idea of creating on-demand content? Many of us feel that way, but we promise it’s not so bad. The main difference is the process of writing the quiz questions. The courses themselves can be easily created by recording narration on each slide in PowerPoint, then exporting the slide show as a video (a feature not many know about). This allows your team’s subject matter experts to easily share their knowledge then roll it out to your team anytime and anywhere.
What types of quizzes do I need to create?
There are two types of quiz questions in a CPE-compliant self-study course:
- “Knowledge check” quizzes throughout the program
- Similar to webinars, you need 3 knowledge check quizzes per CPE credit spaced evenly throughout the program that tests the participant’s comprehension of the content.
- A graded “final quiz” at the end of the course
- For the final quiz at the end of the program, you must have at least 5 final questions per CPE credit and the learner must get 70% or better in order to pass.
If I create a video and quizzes, how do I build an actual course for my team to take?
This is often the biggest obstacle, and there are two primary options:
- Author a “SCORM” course and upload it into a SCORM-Compliant LMS like Prolaera.
- This is harder as it requires knowing how to use a SCORM-compliant authoring tool, which is also fairly expensive.
- Prolaera also offers a built-in authoring tool that allows you to upload video recordings and simply type in your quiz questions.
- Once you publish the course, it’s automatically CPE compliant to the standards of all States and Territories.
Option 3: Blended & Nano Learning
Blended and Nano Learning options are part of the latest standards that approximately 20 States have adopted thus far.
Blended learning courses consist of a self-study pre-work assignment, the live session (either in-person or via webinar), and then a post-work assignment. CPE credit is offered for the pre-work and post-work in addition to the live session.
Nano learning courses are usually 10-20 minute short courses that qualify for credits under one hour. They are essentially shorter, scaled-down versions of self-study programs that are one hour or longer.
Prolaera enables creating blended learning and nano learning programs, as well, but we won’t go into detail on these options in this guide because of their limited applicability at this time. We’re happy to help you understand these options further if you’re interested – feel free to reach out!
Option 4: Build Your Own Catalog from Other Providers
If you have an LMS that supports uploading content from external providers, you can also build your own off-the-shelf library of online learning options.
Prolaera integrates with the AICPA, Becker, Surgent, LinkedIn Learning, and many other top course providers for courses on anything from technical accounting topics to IT/HR compliance training – all in one place. This allows you to create a robust offering for your team to complement your internal training catalog.
Need a Hand?
We’re seeing how challenging this rapid switch to remote-only work has been for HR & training teams across the accounting industry. We’re happy to help you navigate implementing online learning options for your team, whether it’s the first time or if you’re trying to figure out how to efficiently offer more. We’ve been hunkered down in Sunny Seattle for a few weeks now, and it would be our pleasure to get to know more about your goals and find ways to help you meet (and exceed) them.
A few of the resources we can help provide are:
- A State-by-State breakdown to verify all of the requirements you must meet to ensure CPE compliance across all State Boards you track.
- A guided walkthrough of the tools, workflows, and best practices to implement online learning programs and what we’ve learned from leading accounting firms already using online learning heavily.
If you have any questions or roadblocks we can help you tackle, we’d be delighted to lend a hand in these trying times.
Simply reach out via our Contact Us page, email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (877) 288-8881.