I just returned from the annual AICPA Interchange conference, a three day event held for executives and directors of state CPA Societies.  I attended a few sessions on the theme, “what the future of CPE has in store.” Jeff Cobb from Tagoras Consulting led a great session where he shared examples of organizations (not necessarily CPA Associations) doing innovative things on the education front such as virtual conferences, cohort based education and training, and taking a page out the social media book, virtual badges, to certify competency.
It seems as though everyone is trying to figure out the next big breakthrough in continuing education–the necessary programs combined with a real desire to learn.  It’s not an easy recipe to concoct.  Most of the attendees had some form of online education offerings, although most said they knew they needed more if they were to offset the decline in their in-person events.  So what’s the magic combo?  What’s the right mix of course offerings and at what price?
Jeff introduced a concept called “the accelerant curve.” He challenged the folks in his session to sit down with peers in their organizations to plot out the array of educational content offerings against two axes–one for price, one for differentiated value.  Now intuition would tell you that successful organizations have high priced, high value (and unique) content, and in fact, many do.  But, the most successful organizations have content all up and down that curve. A strong variety of options seems to be a greater predictor of success in education program delivery.  Organizations that were able to offer some free assets along with higher valued, higher priced content had the ability to bring people under the tent, so to speak.  The trick is not to offer your high value content for free, or in the same channel.  So things like free white papers,  2 minute videos on YouTube, or 5 minute podcasts used as “teasers” worked well because they weren’t competing with higher priced assets.  They served to get people’s attention.
I talked to a woman whose organization had gone through the exercise of plotting content on the curve and she said while the “answer” was valuable, just going through the exercise with others in her organization was incredibly valuable—what seemed low value to her seemed high value to others, and vice versa.  She thought that getting everybody on the same page regarding the definition of words like value, differentiation, and uniqueness may have been more valuable than the outcome itself.
So how does your organization stack up?  Do you have a good program mix?  The right variety of topics and prices?  Do you have “the right stuff” to create a successful education program?