The Changing CPE Landscape

by James Hardenberg, CPA, CGMA, CAE, NJCPA Chief Learning Officer – March 15, 2022
The Changing CPE Landscape

As we look back on where we’ve been — and how accounting professionals not only survived but succeeded in the tumultuous COVID-19 cyclone that made landfall and never left — it’s a good time to stop and think about what the changing face of continuing professional education (CPE) is and what it could be going forward. 

Throughout the pandemic, CPAs were called upon to advise everyone from mother/daughter bakery owners to biopharma­ceutical firms that collect revenue in five different currencies. And while those discussions centered on tax savings, bud­geting and year-end reporting challenges, almost overnight CPAs were called upon to help with loan applications, recovery relief funding, improving cloud services, and enhancing distribution channels, business strategies and operational efficiencies.

Where We've Been

As a membership organization, we sought how to address those changing job functions as well as remain relevant for traditional CPE learning. By cancelling all in-person events and moving to 100- percent virtual CPE courses and seminars, we provided CPAs with the necessary free­dom to learn when they wanted and where they wanted. At the start of the pandemic, the NJCPA created the Virtual CPE Pass to provide CPAs with a convenient and affordable way to meet their annual CPE requirement and stay abreast of timely topics. 

Throughout 2021, we continued to combine flexibility with a wide depth of CPE offerings. We launched robust application programming interfaces (APIs) with our CPE alliance partners, such as Surgent, ACPEN, the American Institute of CPAs and CPA Crossings. We also held a successful all-virtual Annual Convention in 2021, which had a record number of first-time attendees. CPAs were able to attend as much of the Convention as they wanted from the safety of their own homes as well as network and interact via Zoom amid fun entertainment and games with colleagues, informative speakers and NJCPA staff. 

We created Membership+, which provided those who joined our organization with 20 free CPE credits that exceeded the cost of NJCPA membership. Those who were already members were able to access a slate of free programs. As a result, we saw record patronage and margins, offered lower retail prices and unequaled convenience, and had high member satisfaction ratings.

Where We Are Now 

Today, in recognizing how the delivery of CPE has changed forever, we continually re-evaluate member needs and our pandemic response — rebalancing all CPE offerings as the market dictates. At the time of this writing, we are hopeful that the many benefits of in-person learning will be reestablished on a permanent basis — eventually in-person chapter meetings as well as our 2022 NJCPA Convention & Expo, which is slated to be held June 14-17 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, will return. But, until that time, we stand ready with a virtual-first mentality to everything we offer. We are incorporating a phase-in approach to select in-person events as the market dictates.

Where We Go From Here

With nano learning, or the ability to learn about a subject in a 10-minute timeframe, gaining ground in the accounting profes­sion, we launched our first CPE credits for this kind of learning, and more courses are on the horizon along with on-demand offerings. CPE in smaller segments will only grow going forward, and the NJCPA stands ready to assist members who want to participate in these valuable offerings. 

We are excited about the future of learning and are enhancing our alliances with other training entities and CPA societies to expand virtual training opportunities for our members. In these pandemic times, we learned it certainly takes a village. New CPE course offerings will focus on personal health and wellness, staffing retention issues, succession planning, cryptocurren­cies, effective networking and how to stand out from the competition. Of course, the usual tax, auditing and accounting courses will be there, too! 

James L. Hardenberg

James L. Hardenberg

Jim Hardenberg, CPA, CAE, CGMA, is chief learning officer for NJCPA. He oversees all aspects of learning and education opportunities that NJCPA provides for members. He also oversees the AICPA Peer Review program, is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives (MASAE) and served as president of the New Jersey Society of Association Executives (NJSAE) in 2008. In addition, he's a member of the NYSSCPA and the AICPA, participating in AICPA's committees and task forces.

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.