Future of Learning III

The final Future of Learning (FoL) task force meeting took place last week.  The next step will be to complete the white paper with recommendations and proposed actions for the profession to take as it look to how continuing education should meet its core purpose of enhancing the skills and competence of CPAs in the future.  One of the benefits of serving on a task force like the FoL is that you get to see what others are doing today to move toward the vision of the future.  At this meeting we got to tour Deloitte University outside of Dallas.

The first of two most important takeaways I had from the visit was that even in the virtual world of today, face-to-face time can have a significant impact on an organizations culture.  The second was that integrating technical and “soft skill” training is critical for our profession as we are required to do that every day in what we do and siloing soft skill training results in lost effectiveness.

While videos, social media and other electronic forms of communication are important ways to develop an ongoing sense of community in an organization that is always out of the office, human to human interaction can have a much more lasting effect on people, even if it is only for a few days every year. This is an important take-away for the committee.  While we need to understand and utilize all of the new technology tools, we can’t forget the importance of face-to-face interaction for at least some of the training.

The second takeaway was that integrating training to include not just the steps to audit cash, but also how handling the follow-up interview on questions that came up during the audit work.  This shows that the soft skills are just as important to being successful in our profession.  It also makes the skill much more applicable when you see how they fit in with what you actually do in your job every day.  This is not easy.  Developing simulations and case studies is much harder than putting together a lecture, but can have a much more lasting impact on the skill and competency of those of us taking the training.

What training has had the most impact on your skill development?

Future of Learning

The Future of Learning Task Force met for the second time in San Francisco last week and this time focused on technology delivery and impacts on learning. We covered many topics from technology platforms to how technology enables different ways of learning, but there are two I want to spend a little more time on here.

The first is the idea of how technology enables a major paradigm shift in the learning process. The traditional learning process is that a topic is covered for a specified amount of time and at the end of that time you take an assessment, but then, no matter what you get on the assessment, you then go on to the next topic. In this paradigm, the topic and time spent are the fixed elements and the assessment percentage (how much you learned) is the variable. If you think about it, that is not a great way to ensure mastery of skills, especially in topics that are the foundation for the future topics covered (like in math or accounting). This paradigm however was the only logical one to choose in the industrial age when all instruction had to be given in person.

Technology now allows instruction to be recorded and reviewed as many times as needed. As a result, we can change the learning paradigm so that the topic and the assessment score are the fixed elements and the time spent by the learner is the variable. This allows the people who know the topic to move on to the next topic while making sure no one is moved along until they meet the mastery requirement of the topic. Technology also takes away the social stigma of asking a person to keep going over a topic. Even in private tutor situations, people do not want to keep asking someone to cover the same thing. On the other hand people have no problem running a video again and again. You don’t believe me – how many times have you watched your favorite movie or that really cute YouTube cat video?

The second topic is what is broadly referred to as gamification of training. We participated in a couple of exercises and it was amazing how much more exciting the training can be – even on topics you might not think of as exciting. Gamification really means including “game elements” in training. This may mean scoring and competition, constucting the training around a “story” or simply monitoring and giving badges for completion. You don’t think the completion monitor makes a difference? How many of you worked to get the LinkedIn completion bar to 100%? If you did then that game element worked on you to get your profile complete.

The best news about technology is there are lots of people and lots of money working in this technology space. As a profession we won’t need to invent the technology, we will only need to figure out how to utilize it to make the training of the future something we all look forward to taking.

The Future of Professional Education

We just finished up the first Future of Education in the Profession task force meeting and I am very excited and very worried at the same time. There is a tremendous opportunity to really improve training for the profession. We have the technology available to do many different things that have been scientifically shown to result in better learning with increased retention over the long haul. We also have a great legacy of requiring ongoing learning to continue to be a CPA, but that is also the scariest part.

That legacy of learning has become compliance focused instead of learning focused with learners seeking the lowest cost (or free) “hours” to meet the 40 hour a year compliance requirement without any regard to actually learning anything. We can change the way courses are designed, moving to a flipped classroom and using an outcomes based design process in a MOOC format (if your interested in what those are, why don’t you do some on demand learning and look them up), but if we, the members of the profession, don’t want to get back to the true meaning of continuing education – LEARNING something – then all the changes in the world to the courses won’t result in a better, more competent profession.

When was the last time you deliberately planned your training for the year? When was the last time you assessed your skills and competencies? When was the last time you actually forced your boss to tell you what you need to learn (not what training course to take) to get that promotion you want? I venture to guess most of you put more time into planning your one week summer vacation than planning your week worth of training for the coming year. Vacations are important, but that certainly seems backwards to me.

So I challenge all of you to take the first step in improving the quality of the continuing education you receive by actually planning the training you will take for the coming year to have a purpose – to make you more competent. If you do that I bet you will find the real quality training that exists and the more people take that quality training, the more it will be offered.