The convenience of online Continuing Professional Education (CPE) platforms has never been more important than during 2020 when COVID-19 forced most people to stay at home.  The option to attend live, in-person CPE classes has virtually disappeared, making the option of enrolling in an online CPE platform the way to go to meet CPE requirements.  Fortunately, there are a number of CPE platforms available to choose from, with each having strengths and weaknesses.  This guide will break down some of the most important features of the various platforms available, comparing each one as we move into 2021 to help you decide the best one for you. 

Lowest Cost

Whether you are paying for your CPE course or your company is paying for your training, the cost is of utmost importance, especially during the pandemic when many have been furloughed or let go from their positions.  Luckily there are several affordable options for attaining your CPE hours.  When comparing ten of the most popular online platforms (see the CPE Comparison Grid under ‘Compare’ for a list of all ten platforms), package prices range from $149 to $1,118, with one platform offering a la carte course payment only.  Paying for individual courses can add up quickly, however, you do not want to pay for more than you need.  

MasterCPE offers an unlimited package for $149, with 241 on-demand course options and 39 ethics options.  Web CPE is the second most affordable option, with the unlimited package costing $198.  Web CPE offers 130 on-demand options and 28 ethics options.  The third most affordable option is Illumeo, which offers an unlimited package for $299.  For a difference of $100, Illumeo offers almost 1,000 more courses to choose from than Web CPE.  

It is important to note that many of the platforms offer a basic package of classes with additional paid features available.

Extensive Course Catalog

For many users having a wide selection of courses to choose from is the most important factor in selecting an online CPE platform.  Many users specialize in a niche industry and need training to keep up with industry changes.  Other users maintain more than one certification and need a single platform that offers a wide enough selection of classes that will meet more than one certification.  Fortunately, there are several CPE platform options that meet often a large selection of courses that meet the CPE requirements for multiple certifications.  

In addition to being an affordable CPE platform, Illumeo offers the largest number of courses, with 1290 on-demand courses, including 55 ethics course offerings.  Illumeo offers CPE coursework for more than 16 certification programs.  Checkpoint Learning also offers an extensive catalog of 641 courses, including 40 ethics choices.  Checkpoint Learning only supports four certification programs, all of which are finance related.  CCH CPE Link offers a similar volume of courses (610) as Checkpoint Learning but with a lesser selection of ethics courses (24).  The CCH CPELink platform does support six different certifications, which is slightly more than the Checkpoint Learning platform. 

Special Features

As referenced in the above section on low-cost options, several platforms offer additional features; some of the extra components are offered as part of the unlimited package, and some with additional fees charged.  One option offered by many platforms is the availability to attend live webinar classes.  Of the ten platforms highlighted on the Comparison Grid, eight offer live webinar classes.  The two most affordable packages, Master CPE and Web CPE, only offer text courses.  Only one platform, Illumeo, includes the live webinars in its unlimited package at no extra cost.  The remaining seven packages offer live webinars for an additional fee.  Compliance monitoring is also a feature offered by half of the highlighted platforms.  Four of the platforms offer the compliance monitoring service for an additional fee; the Becker program includes compliance monitoring in its unlimited package.  Another bonus offered by three of the platforms is the ability to read the course ratings and reviews before signing up for a class, ensuring the course will meet the attendee’s needs and expectations.  These three platforms, Illumeo, Surgent CPE, and AICPA Express, also allow attendees to rate and review courses. 

The Best All-Around Platform for Any User

Whether you are looking for the most affordable option, a large course catalog, or special features such as live classes and compliance monitoring, one online platform, Illumeo, will meet your needs.  It is affordable at $299, offers a vast number of courses (1290 on-demand classes), and provides users with live classes and compliance monitoring options.  Illumeo is the best overall online CPE platform available. 

Find the One that Works for You

With the stay-at-home requirements of the pandemic ending the ability to attend in-person CPE courses, the best way to earn the required CPE hours is through the purchase of an online learning platform.  There are many unlimited package platforms available, with many different aspects – lower cost, extensive course catalog, special features.  The types of platform offerings available should meet the needs of any user.