NYSSCPA Calls for Limits to Nano-Learning CPE

While 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 New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) is cautioning against allowing CPAs to rely on such courses for the bulk of their professional development.

Members of the NYSSCPA’s Foundation of Accounting Education’s Board of Trustees and Curriculum Committee wrote an Oct. 1 comment letter in response to the nano-learning exposure draft released by the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) who intend to update the framework for the development, presentation, measurement and reporting of CPE programs.

“CPAs have an expanding universe of CPE options and the Society, like other providers, is seeking the best new ideas on how to deliver those,” said Joanne S. Barry, executive director of the NYSSCPA which offers more than 80 online and in-person CPE courses and seminars a year.

“We think nano-learning could be a part of making professional development resources more relevant if the knowledge is applied to real-time situations,” she said. While the proposal puts forth many potential changes, chief among them would be the recognition of two new program formats for CPE credit: nano-learning and blended learning.

CPE offered under a nano-learning format would teach a lesson on a particular subject and then test the professional on whether he or she understood the material, all within a 10-minute time frame. Such lessons are meant to be taken independently, without the need for an instructor to facilitate the process, and are usually delivered through electronic media like a video to be consumed on a mobile device like a tablet or smart phone.

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 have to be at least 10 minutes total, including both the lesson itself and the subsequent assessment, and be based on already existing materials explicitly developed for instructional use.

The NYSSCPA, however, expressed some reservations about how effective nano-learning could be in maintaining a CPA’s professional competence, which is the goal of the proposed standards in the first place.

FAE Trustees President Frieda Aboyoun, who was a principal drafter of Society’s letter, said nano-learning certainly has its time and place, such as “when you’re at work and you need to look up something you’re working on and you need that information immediately—you’re not going to attend an eight-hour course to be able to apply it, so you can use nano-learning.”

However, she said, its role should explicitly be seen as supplemental, saying the Society did not feel it would be “an appropriate learning direction” for a CPA to get the majority of their professional development from nano-learning courses.

With this in mind, the Society urged the AICPA and NASBA to consider limiting how many nano-learning credits a CPA can earn each year. Without such limits, Aboyoun was concerned nano-learning programs might come to eventually displace other types of courses. Read the full comment letter here: http://www.nysscpa.org/docs/default-source/commentletter/aicpa_oct15.pdf?sfvrsn=2.