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Changing the What, When, Where and How of Learning

Do you remember when there was one basic kind of accounting and all accountants did pretty much the same thing?

CompetencyNeither do I. But I do know that the demand for broad business knowledge is increasing exponentially. Finance and management disciplines – such as strategy, human resources, risk management and data analysis, to name just a few – are converging, and in today’s business environment, companies expect employees to demonstrate their competence in these areas. This means that CPAs and CGMA® designation holders who want to support their organizations’ growth must develop new competencies.

The need for flexibility

New challenges facing the accounting profession require an agile approach to learning. Accounting and finance professionals expect a learning experience that is personalized and accommodates when and how they want to learn – not just what they learn. We’ve become a society where customization and just-in-time delivery is the norm – from building your own salad and same-day dry cleaning to programs that let you visualize the paint color in your home before you buy. Professional education has to keep up.

A recent development in support of this trend is the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Exposure Draft. These standards, issued jointly by the AICPA and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, are out for comment until Oct. 1, 2015. The newly proposed revisions would allow CPAs to receive credit for instruction in short segments (nano-learning) and blended learning, which combines aspects of face-to-face and online instruction. This is encouraging.

Environments that offer learners flexibility have a clear advantage, but that only addresses the when, where and how of learning. The most critical aspect of learning is the ability to successfully apply skills and knowledge to accomplish tasks at hand. This is where competency-based learning comes in, and it’s key to career advancement.

Enter competency-based learning

Simply put, competency-based learning is learning that is designed to achieve a desired outcome. Instead of focusing on what you need to know, competency-based learning focuses on what you need to do with what you know, such as apply, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information.


Competency-based learning is not new. For decades – possibly centuries – educators have known that the more personalized and relevant the education delivery, the better the learning results.

What is different today is that the digital age has enabled competency-based learning to begin to achieve its full potential through the delivery of personalized and adaptive resources.

Professional Development – Your Way

Competency-based learning is brought to life through the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website that empowers members to take control of their professional development. Currently focused on management accounting and employee benefit plan auditing, the site brings together a variety of learning resources, featuring more than 1,500 articles, publications, videos, webcasts and self-study courses. Over the next several months, content is being added to meet the learning needs of AICPA members in other areas of public accounting.

The website also offers self-assessments and knowledge checks to help members identify learning opportunities and provides recommended resources to address their needs. Logging into the site enables users to save assessment results and re-assess as new skills and knowledge are developed, plus save learning recommendations to a comprehensive profile.

You can visit the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Be sure to check back often as we are continually adding new resources.

Clar Rosso, Vice President, Member Learning and Competency, American Institute of CPAs.



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