Are Nano-Learning CPE Programs the Future for CPAs?

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IMGCAP(1)]Each year when the calendar turns to June, I get mixed emotions. On one hand, I am thrilled that summer has arrived but on the other hand, I’m dreading my upcoming June 30 deadline to report 40 new hours of continuing professional education to my state board.

Every year, I tell myself I will find quality CPE to take evenly throughout the reporting period, but I always find myself scrambling to get it all done during that last month. For many busy CPAs this is an all too familiar feeling. It can become a challenge to find quality CPE courses and block off a day or two to attend a live conference or even block off just a couple hours to tune into a webcast or self-study program. CPE can quickly become an obligation instead of a way to help us do our jobs better.

How might we better leverage CPE in our everyday work environment? The answer may be “nano-learning” programs. Earlier this year, the joint National Association of State Boards of Accountancy/American Institute of CPAs CPE Standards Committee issued proposed revisions to the “Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs,” including the addition of “nano-learning” programs. Under the current standards, NASBA-sponsored CPE providers must issue a minimum of 0.5 CPE credits (equal to 25 minutes) for self-study courses.

However, even 25-minute courses are hard to come by; most self-study courses are at least a full hour in duration.

Imagine how many times throughout the week you run into a technical issue and need to do some quick research to find the answer. What if each time you took 10 or 20 minutes to find the answer to a problem, you received CPE credit for it? It could be as simple as taking a 10-minute CPE course on how to filter pivot tables in Excel or as complex as a 20 minute CPE course to brush up on the correct journal entries for unwinding an interest rate swap.

In both scenarios, CPAs need access to the solution quickly to get back to the task at hand. This type of learning would disrupt the traditional CPE model of planning time in advance to sit through a course that in many cases doesn’t have a lot to do with one’s current work. If CPAs had the ability to quickly find thousands of 10- to 20-minute CPE courses on technical issues, they could turn CPE into an “on-the-go” tool integrated into their daily routine.

The downside to taking too many nano courses would be the administration of reporting the CPE credits. In theory, a CPA who had to report 40 credits each year could end up submitting up to 200 nano courses (NASBA is proposing 0.20 credits for a 10-minute course). This could cause headaches for both the CPAs who need to keep track of all of their nano course support as well as the state CPA boards who need to review the CPE submissions. However, most states have restrictions on the amount of self-study credits a CPA can report so this would limit nano courses to some extent.

The NASBA/AICPA CPE Standards Committee is open for a “comment period” on their proposed changes from now until Oct. 1, 2015 and expects to present the new standards for final approval in January 2016.

Would you use nano courses for your CPE credits?

Matthew Briggson is a licensed CPA in the state of Michigan and a co-founder of, a free web application for accounting and finance professionals to find CPE and manage their professional certifications.

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