NASBA CPE Providers and Customers: Best Practices for Managing Credit Worthy Courses

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business man in office using computer
A headshot of Victoria Zoccali.

Victoria Zoccali

Victoria (Vicky) Zoccali is a Manager at Educe working in the Software practice and is the Product Owner for…

Operating in a highly regulated industry, the learning and development departments of public accounting firms have a challenging objective – to build, develop, and maintain a library of NASBA CPE credit worthy content for their billable CPA staff.

Some choose to meet this objective by purchasing CPE credit worthy learning content from third-party providers, others become NASBA CPE providers themselves, building and maintaining their own course content, and still others take a hybrid approach by building some content and buying others. Regardless of the chosen strategy, all public accounting firms and their course content providers should understand best practices for managing credit worthy courses from both sides of the fence.

Best Practices for NASBA CPE Providers

Organizations approved as NASBA CPE providers for credit worthy content bear the responsibility to not only meet the standards set forth by the regulatory association, but also to stay up-to-date for the consumers of their content.

Content is not static, particularly in the accounting industry that often has regulatory rule changes several times a year. NASBA CPE providers must ensure that their course content is accurate and consistent with current laws and codes, and also meets acceptable standards for learning and development, in conformity with CPE standards. Additionally, providers must communicate several key details when publishing CPE worthy programs so that potential registrants can assess the relevancy of the content to their line of work, professional objectives, and license requirements. These details include:

  • Program description
  • Learning objectives
  • Delivery methods
  • Estimated CPE credit and field(s) of study
  • Prerequisites
  • Advanced preparation
  • Program knowledge level
  • Registration and attendance requirements
  • Refund or cancellation policy
  • Complaint resolution policy
  • NASBA sponsor statement explaining final authority of acceptance of CPE credits

Not only must NASBA CPE providers respond quickly to update their content when there are changes, but they also should communicate these changes to those customers that have purchased or are delivering their content to avoid inaccurately presenting information to learners. In order to mitigate the risks of communication gaps, NASBA CPE providers should ensure they have a process in place to support courses throughout their lifecycle. An example of such a process includes:

  • Empowering content developers to maintain ownership and responsibility for content they author even after it is deployed. As subject matter experts, they should follow the legislation and codes that are published and determine the impact to their courseware.
  • If it is determined that a change needs to be made to published content, then a communication should be sent to customers that have purchased the content informing them of the upcoming change(s) and the timeline for deployment.
  • As the new deployment date approaches, scheduled reminders should be sent to impacted customers.
  • When the new content is deployed, any new content files or links should be sent to the impacted customers, and old content files or links should be decommissioned.
  • Published content should state when it was last updated.

Following the above steps will ensure that all relevant stakeholders are kept in sync, learning programs are presented as advertised, and CPAs take the correct learning to meet their objectives.

Considerations for NASBA CPE Training Customers

As a customer who has purchased credit worthy content from a NASBA CPE provider, there is an expectation that the provider is doing their duty to adhere to the NASBA standards and to stay apprised of regulatory changes to maintain accurate, quality content. The organization that has developed the content and issues the certificate of completion is responsible for ensuring that it meets the standards for compliance. That being said, it is prudent for organizations that have purchased learning content to take steps to ensure they understand the status of the content:

  • Ask the provider how often they review their content
  • Ask the provider how they notify customers that content will be/has been updated
  • Follow up with the provider when a program has been active for a year and there has not been any communication from the vendor of any updates

The last thing anyone wants is to have to inform learners that their time spent consuming content was wasted and the credit they received was not valid.

When your vendor communicates that there is a change coming, you should have a process in place to support updating the content on your side. Registered learners should be informed of the amount of time they have to complete the content before it is decommissioned and their progress reset. Once your vendor sends the new content, there are various options for how it could be handled depending on the situation and possible LMS constraints:

  • If there is a minor change that does not impact the course definition, then the content could be replaced on the existing course in your LMS.
  • If there is a minor change that does impact the course definition, then the course could be versioned so that there is a clear distinction between the existing completions and new completions going forward.
  • If there is a significant change to the content, then a new course should be created in your LMS. You can then determine how to handle completions on both courses. If the updated course content is similar enough that learners who completed the initial course are not entitled to credit for completing the new course, then you could set the courses as equivalents, otherwise the courses should not be linked together.

For NASBA CPE provider or customer organizations that need help with this process, we’re here to help. Educe’s Calculo application works with your existing LMS to ensure credit worthy courses are deployed and maintained properly throughout their lifecycle to stay in compliance with NASBA standards. Contact us to learn more.

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