AICPA and NASBA Release Updated CPE Standards Allowing for New Lesson Formats

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Aug 16, 2016
Raise Hand

The AICPA and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy have released new final standards on CPE that, among other things, allows for new lesson formats that are believed to be more suitable for how people learn in today's world. Among these new formats are "nano-learning" and "blended learning." 

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. Under the new standards, nano-learning programs 
must use instructional methods that clearly define a minimum of one learning objective, guide the participant through a program of learning, and provide evidence of a participant’s satisfactory completion of the program. This can be accomplished through completing a qualified assessment, which must consist of at least two questions, none of which are true/false questions. Nano-learning programs must be based on materials specifically developed for instructional use and not on third-party materials. They will not be considered acceptable if they only require the reading of general professional literature, IRS publications, or reference manuals followed by an assessment. 

Blended learning combines multiple delivery methods, such as live instruction and on-demand self-study. This allows for courses that incorporate different educational methods, such as lectures or simulations, delivery methods, such as live groups or self-study, levels of guidance, such as subject matter-led or group/social learning, and scheduling,able to be either synchronous or asynchronous. So, a series of lectures delivered over the Internet paired with quizzes that can be worked on asynchronously would count as blended learning, as would a live workshop supplemented with a self-study program that includes various readings, as would a group discussion on a collection of nano-learning modules guided by a subject matter expert.

The new standards, partially as a result of these new learning formats, will also allow CPE to be rewarded in one-fifth (0.2) increments. While these fractions of a point will generally be applied to nano-learning units, other types of lessons can use them as well, provided a minimum amount of credit has already been awarded. 

The Society commented on the initial proposal in October in a letter. While it acknowledged the growing popularity of nano-learning modules, it warned that CPAs should not be able to rely on such courses for the bulk of their professional development, and so suggested an upper limit for how much nano-learning can account for one's total CPE credit. 

We ask if the Joint Committee has considered limiting the number of nano-credits that may be earned by a participantWe believe that if true education is desired, too many credits earned exclusively through a nano format may not meet the Joint Committee’s ultimate objective, which is to educate and maintain the professional competence of a CPA practitioner," said the Society. 

At the same time, the Society also felt that the criteria for when a nano-learning credit can be earned could be broadened--it felt that requiring that credit only be awarded through lessons delivered through electronic media without any interaction with a real-time instructor was too restrictive. Why not, for example, through conducting research reviewed by a competent professional or subject matter expert, or through a live self-study program? The Society urged the NASBA and AICPA to consider these alternatives.

Neither matters were addressed in the final version. It contains no upper limit for how many nano-learning credits can be taken, and restricts nano-learning to electronic media. 

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