Online CPE courses can keep career on track

As the clock continues ticking toward the December 31 CPE deadline, some accountants are turning to online education to meet their requirements without disrupting their work routines.

In fact, the convenience and flexibility of online CPE is one of its strongest attractions. Learning can be done during lunch, at night, or on weekends. It's generally less expensive than live CPE, and online courses have become fairly sophisticated, offering immediate feedback and strong interaction, says Apex CPE, which offers online CPE for CPAs.

The down side is that no matter how advanced the technology, it's still difficult to duplicate the sharing and energy created by students who are talking face-to-face. Many observers say that a good mix of both live and online CPE can be best.

Online classes work well for employees looking to move up within their firm but who find it difficult to attend classes on campus.

Tom Evans, chief learning officer for PricewaterhouseCoopers, recommends accountants consider executive education programs because many competitive schools are building distance learning programs, he said in Also, the AICPA or state accounting societies offer extensive continuing education programs. These sources are excellent if you need to learn more about Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or Financial Accounting Standards Board statements, Evans said.

In any case, training should lead immediately to on-the-job improvements, he said. "If I can leave that program and take it to my day-to-day work routine and it enables me to do something better, or in a different way, or it provides a different perspective, then it's truly valuable," says Evans.

Industry observers say that workers yearn for training opportunities, and employees who offer excellent training programs may be able to better retain their talented professionals. One strategy, called re-recruiting, involves tailoring programs for each highly valued employee. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that these initiatives include "mentoring, training and ongoing education programs; offering formal career planning assistance; aligning your recognition and reward systems with the things that actually motivate these employees; and practicing open-door and open-book management."

Professionals can make themselves even more valuable by taking the initiative to get online learning themselves. For example, International Financial Reporting Standards is a hot topic, as big public companies are going to have to transition from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles to IFRS soon.

"They're the largest employers in the country, so it makes sense to get up to speed on this," says Mark Viego, vice president for Robert Half Management Resources' Western U.S. division in Las Vegas. Many online offerings are available.

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