Selecting CPE Courses
Earning continuing professional education (CPE) credits is intended to keep skills fresh, but of course, CPAs working in different areas need different skills to be successful. Those new to the profession may require basic courses, while seasoned professionals are in search of very specific expert-level topics.
Fortunately, advances in technology have made it possible to offer a wide variety of credit opportunities to the entire population of CPAs. Online providers such as Surgent support formats such as self-study and live webinars, so that professionals can participate in a selection of courses uniquely tailored to individual interests and learning styles.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) have partnered to create a set of standards to ensure that CPE credits are only applied to training courses and activities that effectively enhance skills. Effective Sept. 1, 2016, standards were revised to make it easier for CPAs to count non-classroom activities and learning experiences in their CPE credits.
The following formats are approved for credit, as long as they meet quality metrics:
Group Live Programs
This is the traditional format for CPE, encompassing classroom programs, workshops, teleconferences, webinars, and cpe seminars. Participants must attend as a group for the program to fall under the "Group Live" category.
Group Internet Programs
Though similar to Group Live Programs, Group Internet Programs have one important nuance. Instead of participating in a live broadcast as part of a group, participants attend individually. To qualify in this category, there must be a live presenter that participants can interact with in real-time.
Many different formats qualify under self-study, but there are two distinguishing factors that differentiate this category from others. First, participants attend as an individual, rather than as part of a group. Second, there is no live instructor. Materials are pre-recorded or otherwise prepared in advance. Self-study programs must have a feature to test for understanding of the material in order to qualify for CPE credit.
Nano Learning Programs
This format is new in the 2016 revision of CPE standards, and it is rapidly gaining popularity among busy professionals. Nano learning offers bite-size discussions of a single point in mini-courses lasting as little as two minutes. There is still a requirement that nano learning programs test for participant understanding to qualify for credit. This method of instruction makes it possible to earn credits without committing large, uninterrupted chunks of time.
Some professionals have an interest in specific areas of research and study that require a highly customized learning plan. In these cases, CPAs can enter into an independent study learning contract with a CPE program sponsor as long as there are specific learning objectives that otherwise meet CPE standards.