Mar 302011

Meeting the Challenge of Online CPE Content for Professionals


By Brian Giuffrida, March 29, 2011, via Learning Solutions Magazine

“Professional associations are one of the major sources of online continuing education. This includes being the creators of high-quality content.”

We are all familiar with the real estate saying “location, location, location.” It holds more than a fair amount of truth, but location isn’t the only factor we weigh when it comes to purchasing our home. The same holds true for continuing professional education (CPE). The right content is critical, and it’s the first consideration when purchasing CPE, but a number of other critical factors must come together to create a successful learning experience.

Content, content, content

Any CPE program, online or off, begins with quality content. Lawyers, medical professionals, engineers, and financial professionals all require specific kinds of knowledge in order to perform their jobs properly. Many of them must also meet stringent continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain a license or accreditation. As such, the first job of educational content is to address the specialized knowledge needs and legal requirements of the professionals to be trained. Professional educational content must also be accurate, up-to-date, and well presented by knowledgeable subject matter experts.

And, although online continuing education requires technology and services to deliver and manage online courses properly, it is no different from in-person courses when it comes to content. Participants should expect the same level of education and the same knowledge gain online as in-person. Great educational content delivered in a face-to-face setting is also great content online. This is also true for accredited content. The difference here is that participation in the online course and understanding of the material is tracked closely and verified by technology, according to the standards set forth by the industry or the courts. It is automatic, efficient, and becoming standard procedure in many industries.

Where does great CE content come from?

Professional associations are one of the major sources of online continuing education. This includes being the creators of high-quality content. Bar associations, for example, not only have a deep understanding of their members’ needs, they also have access to key subject matter experts including law professors, regulators, judges, and attorneys in a wide variety of practice areas.

The State Bar of Arizona and the Oklahoma Bar Association each create diverse and high-quality educational content for bar members—within their state and nationally. Over ninety percent of the programs in the State Bar of Arizona’s online continuing legal education (CLE) catalog were created by the Arizona Bar. Their online programming covers practice areas from business law and criminal litigation to tax law. Up to eighty percent of the courses in the Oklahoma Bar’s online catalog were created by the Oklahoma Bar Association, other courses in the catalog are created by professional legal content developers and other state bar associations that have access to subject matter experts in areas of interest to Oklahoma attorneys.

Professional content developers also create educational programming for industries like legal, finance, and healthcare. PESI Educational Solutions, a well-known content provider, develops hundreds of accredited courses for physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals. Associations that do not have the in-house resources to create all of the course material required by their members purchase much of their content. PESI will be the first to tell you that when shopping for online educational content, it is important to look for content providers who develop courses using experts in the field and who have a rigorous process for ensuring that content is up-to-date and accurate. It goes without saying that courses should also meet the standards for accreditation. In addition, if a provider can create courses that are engaging—and possibly even entertaining—they will not only be well received by adult learners, but will also help them get the most out of the course material.

Beyond content

Developing or purchasing the right content is critical to a professional online continuing education program, but there is more to it. Delivering educational content in a way that makes it easy for adult learners to register and participate as well as obtain the accreditation or certification they need is key. In addition to providing high-quality course material, organizations must ensure a seamless and satisfying interaction with the online programming. This is where technology comes in. The complicated technology and infrastructure needed to deliver content online was once a sticking point for organizations looking to move CE online, but that is no longer the case. Technology is now readily available, and combined with quality content the result is cost-effective, convenient CE for the professionals who need it.


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