[IMGCAP(1)] My summer school tax students just finished their midterm exam. During the semester, students are graded on core course components, including homework, a research paper, and exams. Every now and then I will also offer additional bonus points. And it never ceases to amaze me what students will do for two extra points.

Given a spectrum of options, they tend to engage with great excitement—from reading and reporting on new tax laws to evaluating leading accounting blogs. There is something about the notion of “free points” that really gets them excited.

As an educator to the profession as well, I often think of how I can apply the “two point” method. That is, what is the equivalent of bonus points to the less-than-engaged accounting professional sitting in an all day CPE seminar?

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen it or experienced it personally. Sometimes it’s more exciting to think about what’s for lunch or check our email than to listen. In a world where people have come to expect instant gratification and reward, the Two Point theory holds water. If you want learners to engage, you have to offer an incentive—one that can be applied and “felt” immediately. Instant gratification, baby!

I always seem to hear the same story from many of my colleagues. They tell me that they have to get in more CPE because their license is about to expire. How does this happen with so many CPE programs available? I certainly don’t think it’s because CPA’s don’t want to learn. More often it’s because some of the CPE education offered is not engaging and possibly overwhelming. Most CPE has too much information and a non-practical application. These issues combined lead to disengagement. The bottom line is: if learners aren’t engaged, they don’t participate. Period.

So, how does a CPE educator get that same “two point” engagement from CPA’s? It’s the million-dollar question. In an era where change is so rapid—including technology, tax laws, mandates, etc.—as a profession we need to figure out how to apply the Two Point theory to keep professionals engaged and on track with life-long learning. I’m open to suggestions. There are two bonus points in it for you!

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. Reach her at jody@matousekconsulting.com.