COVID-19 has certainly changed the world of continuing professional education (CPE) indefinitely.  There are no more conferences or in-person seminars; they have been replaced with virtual meetings conducted over Zoom and online learning courses offered through CPE portals.  At first glance it seems impossible to think that this adapted model of learning could be better than the established methods of earning CPE credits.  But there are some real benefits to earning CPE credits through virtual methods – benefits to course attendees, CPA firms or other employers, and CPE hosts/providers.

Cost Savings

The reduction in travel costs for attendees and employers is a significant benefit for all parties.  In addition to the cost of attending the seminar or conference, there are travel costs such as airfare and multi-day lodging that can total as much or more than the conference fees themselves. 

There are multi-day food costs for each attendee to calculate into the cost as well.  For the seminar-providing organization, notable savings come from not having to locate and book conference rooms for several days, not having to provide meals and snacks for attendees and presenters, and not having to pay for travel arrangements for their own staff as well as the presenters who may be traveling a significant distance.

Increase in Participation Numbers

Attending conferences and seminars located in just a few locations across the country limits the number of attendees who can travel at the same time to a conference or seminar.  CPA firms have to select the employees who would benefit the most from a specific conference and send those employees only. 

CPA firms anticipate that the attendees will bring back their newly-gained knowledge to share with their coworkers.  However, when a conference is offered virtually, at a much lower cost, then many, if not all, employees can attend the conference and glean their knowledge firsthand.  While the per person fee is less, then the number of attendees is much higher than at an in-person conference. 

The maximum number of attendees increases dramatically when the course provider is no longer faced with space and time restraints.  Also, there is a reduced need for the course to be taught multiple times throughout a year, which is the formula followed by in-person providers due to the above restraints.  Because the number of attendees can be much higher, there is less need to teach the class as frequently. 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

Teaching a topic virtually versus in-person can be a major shift for some presenters.  No doubt it is much easier for an experienced presenter to update their information slightly and then repeat the information in the same format for years.  For long-time presenters, a detailed review of their presentation materials may assist in identifying topics and areas that need to be updated or eliminated, expanded or rearranged.  Teaching virtually forces presenters to engage with the attendees in different ways. 

Presenters can no longer count on making eye contact with attendees and speaking with them in person.  Instead, they have to develop innovative methods to capture the attention of their on-line attendees..They also need to keep them interested in the topic being taught.  This change is quite a challenge for presenters but it allows for improvements in the information being taught, how the information is being delivered to attendees and how it is being retained for future use.