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NYSSCPA Calls for Limits to Nano-Learning in Response to Proposed Changes to CPE Standards

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Oct 6, 2015

ELearningWhile acknowledging the growing popularity and use of a new continuing professional education (CPE) format called “nano-learning,” which awards a fraction of a credit through a 10-minute lesson and evaluation, the NYSSCPA, in a recent comment letter, none the less cautioned against allowing CPAs to rely on such courses for the bulk of their professional development.

The Oct. 1 letter, authored by a task force composed of members of the Foundation of Accounting Education’s Board of Trustees and Curriculum Committee, was written in response to an exposure draft released jointly in May by the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy intended to update the framework for the development, presentation, measurement and reporting of CPE programs.

Under the proposal, these nano-learning courses—which are already recognized as valid for CPE credit in Maryland and Ohio—would count for one fifth of a credit hour, or .20 credits, provided the participant then manages to complete a qualified assessment afterward. The program as a whole would need to be at least 10 minutes total, including both the lesson itself and the subsequent assessment. The NYSSCPA, however, had some reservations about the concept and how effective such lessons could be in maintaining a CPA’s professional competence, which is the goal of the proposed standards in the first place.

With this in mind, the Society asked that the AICPA and NASBA consider “limiting the number of nano-credits that may be earned by a participant,” as “we 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.”

At the same time, it also asked that the NASBA and AICPA broaden the criteria for when a nano-learning credit can be earned—as it is now, credit can only be earned through the use of electronic media without any interaction from a real-time instructor. The Society wondered why credit should only be awarded through this strict format. 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.

Not that a live instructor is necessary in all cases—while the proposed standards state that a subject matter expert be available to facilitate and take questions during recorded presentations for the lesson to count for CPE credit, the Society wondered why this was the case. It suggested, perhaps, that instead of having to have someone around in real time, perhaps the expert could be available via email instead, which the Society felt accomplished the same goal.

 “As written, it appears the objective is to be certain that the participant understands the subject matter presented in a recorded presentation and has any questions answered. Therefore, whether a question is answered immediately (live) or at a reasonable future time through email prior to issuance of a certificate of completion, using email should not make a difference in the ultimate outcome of the presentation,” said the Society.

These nano-learning courses can be consumed by themselves, or through another format recognized in the proposal, called “blended learning.” Blended learning 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 and 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 Society felt that certain terms that are used when describing blended learning, such as “social learning,” however, could stand to be clearer, as could a number of other terms used throughout the document. While the exposure draft did have a glossary at the beginning, the Society felt that some of the terms were “unclear and may be interpreted or applied differently by different individuals.”

The Society overall, though, expressed support for the overall objective of keeping the continuing professional education standards relevant, as these are the bedrock on which the CPA’s competence rests.

“We believe that education and the maintenance of professional competence by CPAs are critical to upholding the trust we have duly earned and enjoy in the public domain. We believe that continuing education is a lifelong process essential to remaining competent and relevant in our ever-changing world, and that such education be obtained in the most appropriate manner,” said the Society

Upon board approval of the final standards, the AICPA aims to assist state CPAs societies in working with their respective boards of accountancy on implementing the changes, according to the AICPA.  

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