CPE standards update accommodates new forms of learning

By Ken Tysiac

CPAs will be able to receive continuing professional education (CPE) credit for instruction received in nano-learning and blended learning platforms under new standards issued Tuesday.

The AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) changed the standards for CPE providers as well as NASBA’s Fields of Study document. The changes enable new learning methods that are popular with students:

  • Nano-learning is delivery of information in short, 10-minute increments, often covering topics specific to a certain task. That could include, for example, videos that may help CPAs master certain specific, technical tasks.
  • Blended learning combines multiple delivery methods, such as live instruction and on-demand self-study.

CPAs should note that not all states accept all delivery methods allowed by the standards. Before claiming credit, CPAs should check to make certain that the new delivery methods are allowed for CPE credit in their states.

Under the updated Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs, an element of participant engagement must be included in group live programs for each CPE credit.

In addition, CPE credit now can be awarded in increments of one-fifth (0.2) of a CPE credit for nano-learning. One-fifth credit also may be awarded for CPE using other delivery methods after a minimum amount of credit has been awarded. (For example, one full credit is the minimum for group programs. The next allowable increment is 1.2 credits.)

The updated standards also revise the definitions of “group live” and “group internet-based” programs. The focus of these classifications now is on how content is received by the participants, rather than on how it is delivered by the instructor.

Changes to the Fields of Study document update categories and descriptions to make them more current and relevant. The most significant change revises the Specialized Knowledge field of study by separating computer science application and information technology into their own categories. This allows Specialized Knowledge to consist of topics that are particular to specialized industries or services.

These changes reflect a desire by the AICPA and NASBA to embrace new ways of learning that students enjoy and instructors find effective—while guarding the public interest to make sure CPAs receive the training they need to provide excellent service.

“The addition of blended learning and nano-learning meets the marketplace demand for greater flexibility and increased CPE options,” said Clar Rosso, AICPA vice president–Member Learning & Competency. “These modernizations to the standards are in line with what we heard from our Future of Learning task force and reflect the current dynamic business environment CPAs operate in.”

The standards take effect Sept. 1, 2016. CPE sponsors will have until Dec. 31, 2016, to comply with the standards for programs that are currently under development. For all other programs, the standards are required to be implemented at the next CPE program review or revision date.

The effective date of the NASBA Fields of Study document is Sept. 1, 2016, but sponsors have until Dec. 31, 2017, to fully implement the revisions it contains.

More information about the standards is available at learningmarket.org.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a JofA editorial director.

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