AICPA task force advocates for new strategies in professional development

BY KEN TYSIAC
May 19, 2014

A task force convened to spark innovation in professional development for CPAs unveiled recommendations Monday in four areas.
 
The AICPA Task Force on the Future of Learning, a broad group of public accounting firm leaders, industry CPAs, leaders from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, regulators, association leaders, and educators, spent the past year discussing major trends in education, reviewing promising innovations, and determining which changes might best apply to CPA professional development.

The task force’s recommendations are centered around these main themes:

  • Innovate and Experiment. Leverage technology to enhance learning experiences. Implement small changes for a huge impact.
  • Ignite a Passion for Learning. Start with the learner’s needs. Make learning engaging and relevant.
  • Make Learning Personal. Filter content and focus resources that address individuals’ knowledge and competency needs. Deliver any topic, anywhere, any way.
  • Measure What Matters. Rethink compliance to measure learning competency, development, or performance. Create and leverage a unified, global competency framework. Develop one uniform, global compliance standard.


“To help CPAs thrive in this fast-paced, changing environment, the profession needs to evolve the way we provide learning and development,” said task force co-chair Anthony Pugliese, CPA/CITP, CGMA, who is the AICPA’s senior vice president and COO. “At the AICPA, we are integrating new learning models into our offerings to help CPAs stay on the forefront of the profession.”

An interactive AICPA website set to launch this summer explores some strategies for professionals, such as:

  • Just-in-time learning, which provides information quickly to enable specific solutions on demand.
  • Gamification, which inserts gaming components such as rewards, competition, and feedback into learning to increase learners’ engagement.
  • Nano-learning, which is personalized, subject-specific information supplied in small doses.
  • Blended learning, which combines classroom work and homework. An example is the “flipped classroom,” where learners may watch videos or read information before class, and then spend class time in a lively discussion of the material.


“When it comes to lifelong learning, one size does not fit all anymore,” said Lawson Carmichael, AICPA senior vice president—Strategy, People & Innovation and co-chair of the task force. “As the profession evolves, CPAs must develop new skills and employ new learning methods. We need to leverage technology, embrace new approaches, and think creatively to accommodate these changes.”

The recommendations of the task force were presented at the AICPA governing Council meeting on Monday by task force members Scott Wiley, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs; Jennifer Briggs, senior vice president of the Indiana CPA Society; Kathy Johnson, a partner at CPA Forensics Plus and an adjunct professor at California State University, San Bernardino; and Eric Dingler, a talent director with Deloitte Services LLP who also serves as chief learning officer of Deloitte & Touche LLP’s audit practice.

In making the case for change, the panel examined the changing business landscape, the rise of specialization within the profession, the shifting dynamics of the workplace, and the differing expectations that Millennial CPAs bring to their careers and learning.

The task force report is designed as a starting point to foster learning innovation and experimentation in the profession. The AICPA plans to organize idea exchange groups and other collaborations around this topic in the weeks ahead. The Future of Learning microsite will present opportunities for readers to comment on the initiative, add their names to show support, and share the information and ideas.

“The AICPA is taking the lead on this vital initiative, but this has to be a collective undertaking for the profession,” Pugliese said. “It’s time for us to join together to create the future of learning.”

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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