It has been nearly a year since the coronavirus changed the continuing professional education (CPE) landscape, shifting the courses from live and in-person format to a virtual format.  These changes have presented many challenges, but there have also been some positive outcomes of offering CPE coursework virtually instead of in person.

Greater Participation Numbers

First, virtual CPE courses allow for a greater number of participants.  Larger CPE conferences are usually held in one location, often just once a year.  The number of attendees is limited to the size of the location and the costs to both the organizer and the attendees are substantial.  Offering a conference virtually means that there does not have to be a cap on the number of attendees. 

Reduced Costs

As previously mentioned, the costs associated with organizing and attending an annual conference are substantial.  By hosting a conference virtually many of the costs associated with travel, venue rental and hotel bookings are eliminated.  Organizers save a lot of money and can reallocate some of the savings to hosting more conferences or increasing the number of presenters.  For firms sending attendees to conferences, there are huge cost savings that can be used to provide more training for employees.  Additionally employees can be exposed to a greater variety of CPE by attending industry-specific conferences that were previously attended only by those working in that specific industry (due to the cost of the conference).  An example would be offering for all professionals to attend some governmental CPE courses that would have only been attended by those working in the governmental industry if the firm had to pay for its employees to travel to the conference. 

Change is Hard

It has been noted that many ‘seasoned’ older professionals do not enjoy attending virtual CPE courses.  These professionals are more comfortable attending live conferences and classes that encourage engagement as well as networking with peers.  Engaging with course facilitators happens differently during live online seminars and there are fewer opportunities for networking with others.  There are technology challenges that also make it more frustrating for some to attend virtually.  Firms must ensure that these technology struggles are minimized by designating someone to serve as an administrator who can assist in getting everyone set up to participate in the online classes. 

The Boredom Factor

Course instructors and facilitators face the challenge of making their classes interesting and exciting to ensure that attendees are following along and understanding the information being presented.  Sitting for a long period of time in front of a computer screen can be an obstacle for many, so it is important for speakers to encourage engagement with attendees through question and answer boxes, surveys, and on-the-spot problem solving.  Encouraging attendees to reach out to one another can also increase the level of participation in the course.    

CPE coursework organizers are looking at a hybrid model for offering classes in the future.  A hybrid model would offer a selection of in-person classes and conferences while still allowing virtual attendees.  This model seems like it would satisfy most professionals needing to earn CPE hours as it would combine the pros of virtual CPE and in-person learning.