Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Nano-learning for CPE is One Step Closer to Reality


Continuing professional education is mind-numbing thanks to the delivery status quo in public accounting. It’s not conducive to real learning because long and boring is how we roll. Until now, there were only a few qualifying learning activities. You’ve got three options:

  • Live CPE classes: Lock a bunch of uncomfortable CPAs in a room and turn on an information fire hose for eight hours. Good luck absorbing any of it.
  • Self-study courses: The faster you can click through the lesson, the better. As long as you can still pass the test, let’s just hope the CPE provider permits an unlimited number of attempts.
  • Webinars: Is it just me or are these always 1-hour marketing pitches that leave a lot to be desired? Occasionally, you can find some interesting courses but you still have to linger around your computer for an hour or more to answer enough of the polling questions at the right time. Too bad if you get distracted and miss a couple, no CPE credit for you.

None of these are optimal. Although, I did enjoy partying with friends from other offices at national training… but I digress. There must be a better way? Cue nano-learning for CPE credit.

Small but mighty CPE

According to the Journal of Accountancy:

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.

Completion of each 10-minute chunk would count for one-fifth credit.

Nano-learning makes a lot of sense. What if all CPE was relevant and timely? Accounting Today set the scene for how nano-learning could change the way CPAs learn:

Imagine how many times throughout the week you run into a technical issue and need to do some quick research to find the answer. What if each time you took 10 or 20 minutes to find the answer to a problem, you received CPE credit for it? It could be as simple as taking a 10-minute CPE course on how to filter pivot tables in Excel or as complex as a 20 minute CPE course to brush up on the correct journal entries for unwinding an interest rate swap.

CPE change is afoot

Earlier this week NASBA issued an exposure draft of the baseline rules for CPE that the State Boards of Accountancy will use to update their state CPE requirements. This comes after the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs were revised last fall to include nano-learning. Now, each state is on the hook to jump on board, especially if NASBA’s exposure draft is well received.

In the meantime, the Journal of Accountancy advised CPAs in August that:

not all states accept all delivery methods allowed by the standards. Before claiming credit, CPAs should check to make certain that the new delivery methods are allowed for CPE credit in their states.

Ohio and Maryland lead the pack and were early adopters of nano-learning. Ohio proclaims it was the first, introducing micro CPE courses in 2014. New York, has been the Debbie Downer of the bunch, and called for limits to the number of nano CPE credits permitted in 2015. The New York State Society wrote that “too many credits earned exclusively through a nano format may not meet the Joint Committee’s [AICPA/NASBA] ultimate objective, which is to educate and maintain the professional competence of a CPA practitioner.”

Beware of a recordkeeping nightmare

There is one catch. Well, maybe two.

First, since nano-learning is intended to cover a single learning objective, you have to score 100 percent on the assessment to be eligible for CPE credit. That’s per S10-01 of the revised standards [pushes up glasses].

Second, it is going to be tough tracking hundreds of 0.2 credit hour courses and certificates. Theoretically, if the state did not limit the number of nano CPE, you could have 200 different courses to keep track of to reach 40 credit hours. Yikes! It takes me long enough to gather up my certificates every year.

But, hey, if anyone were going to have to keep orderly records, why not a CPA? I’m sure as a profession we could handle it. Just throw them in a pivot table after taking a 10 minute brush-up course.

Image: Upsplash/Brandi Redd