CE in 2010 and Beyond
When it comes to continuing professional education, we are continually seeing future predictions materialize. One of the most notable is that more and more CE is being delivered online. In Florida, a new ruling mandates a required number of credits for new attorneys in the first three years after they are admitted to the Bar. The Florida Bar will allow these attorneys to meet these continuing legal education requirements (CLE) through online and on-demand seminars. In Mississippi, the number of online CLE hours permitted has doubled. This new flexibility varies from state to state and is not limited to the legal sector. In the accounting industry, CPAs are required to invest 120 hours in each three year period to maintain a license. These same CPAs are doing more and more work online, so it only makes sense that they would pressure accounting industry organizations and governing bodies to allow more mandated hours to be handled online.
When we first entered the continuing education business, live events still made up the lion’s share of CE programming. In fact, in most industries, face-to-face events were required for most types of certification. Over the last ten years, there has been a tremendous shift. Driven by a combination of economics, advancements in technology, and the proliferation of new media, online and other self-service CE delivery mechanisms have become more than just an accepted way to maintain professional certification. They are a necessity for busy professionals.
Take banking as an example. The banking industry has been hit hard by the current economic climate. Fewer bankers are handling more responsibility and travel budgets have been slashed—so travelling for live CE events is often out of the question. But in an industry that is changing rapidly and where workers must stay current on regulations--which are being changed and new ones passed at breakneck speed--this creates a huge problem. Consider that every one of those banking professionals has access to a telephone and a computer with Internet access. Most of them own an iPod or other mp3 player. All of them are motivated to stay current and the technology exists to not only deliver the content in a seamless fashion, but also track participation and assure completion of course requirements. So CE online makes perfect sense.
And regulatory compliance is an issue in most industries, not just banking. Ongoing certification is a fact of life for lawyers, bankers, CPAs and medical professionals, among others. The ability to access continuing professional education from home or office or listen to an audiocast while riding the commuter rail will become more and more prevalent. But who provides the online, on-demand content and courses? From what we’ve seen, it has been professional organizations stepping up to find ways to make this possible.
In the legal industry, the State Bar Associations provide CLE for their members. Many of these organizations are managed by a small staff and run on tight budgets, but over the last ten years they have brought thousands of courses to membership via new media. As of 2010, almost all State Bar Associations offer some type of online programming. The interesting thing is that this investment in webcasting, webinars, telephone seminars and on-demand programs has helped both the lawyers and the state bars—by quickly providing a steady revenue stream for the association.
It’s not difficult to predict that this trend will continue across industries. There are already thousands of courses available online for various segments of the medical profession. It won’t take long before industry regulations for CE catch up to non-traditional media—and allow professionals to freely choose online continuing education over traditional delivery mechanisms.