“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”
– Plutarch, 80 A.D.
Lighting the fire
Strategies to fuel the future of learning
“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”
– Plutarch, 80 A.D.
Case for Change
In a rapidly evolving global marketplace, where savvy upstarts can replace established leaders in an instant, CPAs must be more nimble than ever as they challenge their thinking and build valued solutions. And while workplaces of all sizes and the profession as a whole are adapting to the changes that the marketplace is delivering, professional development often remains stuck in the past.
But it can’t stay there much longer.
Now is the time to reinvent classrooms, rethink development models and embrace the future of learning.
The seats in lecture halls are emptying out. From Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to mobile devices, innovative ways to learn are slowly seeping into mainstream professional development; however, it’s time to pick up the pace and move toward a lifelong, ubiquitous learning environment.
While technology may be the impetus of change, innovations in learning delivery are much bigger than the technologies themselves; they are about how to engage with technology and collaborate using technology.
The shifts for CPA professional development are slower. But in the past few years, there have been massive upticks in those who fulfill their CPE requirements via webcasts or on-demand self-study. This indicates that accounting professionals are ready to embrace change, and the profession needs to respond.
Dr. Lori Breslow, director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory, points out that students learn best when they use both their minds and their hands, and engage in conversation with each other. She also notes that optimal learning takes place in situations of moderate anxiety — too much stress will have a negative impact on the brain’s ability, yet low-stress situations result in procrastination.
With information accessible 24/7, the one-stop shop for learning is a thing of the past. To find the sweet spot of moderate anxiety, learners need their experiences to come from multiple sources, within a range of environments, for varying lengths of time. As a result, myriad opportunities have opened up for CPAs to continue learning.
Like wildfire, change has spread across the business landscape. Global economies have opened up new markets that emphasize service specialization.
Breakthrough technology has led to automation and outsourcing. Rampant competition has brought a rush of entrants into established markets. Increased business complexities require greater depths of knowledge than before. In response, CPAs need to address what they learn and how they will learn it.
With more and more companies entering and exiting the market and startups turning into global powerhouses overnight, the speed of business has risen to a frenzied pace. In fact, it’s estimated the average life span of a Fortune 500 company may now be 15 years.1 Adding to the growing business complexity is the global quantity of financial regulation changes which continue to gain momentum.
The revolution is on, and with the workplace primed for change, the profession needs to be ready to respond.
Not only is globalization impacting the largest companies, but small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are globalizing at an unprecedented rate. According to a report by Oxford Economics the SMBs that generate more than 40 percent of their revenue outside of their home country will increase by 66 percent over the next three years, while those doing business in at least six countries will jump 129 percent. Conversely, the number of companies generating no international revenue is expected to drop by more than 30 percent, and the portion of companies operating only in their headquartered country will shrink by more than 40 percent.3
As “anytime, anywhere” global work becomes the new normal for business, CPAs must build a deep and wide knowledge of the domestic and international marketplaces in order to serve their clients and employers, and focus on technical, people, leadership and business acumen competencies that span borders and cultures worldwide.
Even businesses with no plans for global expansion cannot afford to be complacent. To stay competitive, CPAs must be able to serve their clients and employers who are global. A 2013 AICPA PCPS survey shows that CPA firms, regardless of their size, are finding international services a booming business, with 79 percent of respondents projecting international growth in the next five years, including half of sole practitioners and 71 percent of small firms polled.4
The rise of the CPA specialist
The expectation of instant synthesis and application of knowledge will not be achieved by a profession of generalists. Finance professionals at all levels within an organization must become experts who can support business growth, supply chain analysis, global partnerships and performance management.
The profession must embrace specialization.
“As business continues its rapid evolution, new value areas are being created,” says Lawson Carmichael, senior vice president of strategy, people, and innovation at the AICPA. “Strategy, human resources, risk management and data analysis are just some of the new finance specializations that will gain momentum in the coming years as trends like health care transformation, technology innovation and increased government regulation continue to shift the business landscape.”
The professional development ladder is broken
Historically, the CPA profession has approached professional development as a ladder that learners move up, step by step. For example, first-year staff accountants are expected to master a predetermined body of knowledge for their level before moving up. The same holds true whether in public accounting or corporate finance.
“This model is fundamentally flawed,” says Clar Rosso, AICPA vice president of member learning and competency. “While it may allow for an ease of developing training programs, it won’t hold up under the pressures of a global marketplace.”
Every professional comes to the workplace with a unique set of skills and expertise, Rosso explains. And they are expected to apply different areas of competency and at varying levels of complexity daily. “In one instance, a surface understanding of a topic will get the job done. But the next moment, a deep dive is required to properly analyze and synthesize multiple inputs to solve a complex business issue and exercise the appropriate level of professional judgment.”
Businesses that don’t change will be pushed out
Over the next decade, competition will increase, as game-changing new businesses challenge established players.
“The same forces that disrupted so many businesses, from steel to publishing, are starting to reshape the world of consulting,” writes Clayton Christensen in his Harvard Business Review article, “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption.” As these new competitors bring non-traditional business models to the consulting industry, big firms will have to re-think practices that haven’t changed in more than 100 years.5
As a result, Christensen and his co-authors predict increased transparency, repeatable processes and output-based pricing to become standard practices throughout the consulting industry.
The innovators in our profession are the ones who are willing to take risks.
Simply reacting to this change will not be enough. CPAs will need to embrace the role of disruptors, challenging long-held assumptions, asking provocative questions and finding unexpected solutions.
“You have to be wrong at the start to be right at the end,” explains Luke Williams, executive director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at New York University, who helps global brands develop new products, services and business models.
For CPAs who are trying to keep their businesses competitive, becoming a disruptor means learning how to take risks and innovate—not an easy task for a profession that likes certainty and methodical analysis, says Mark Lewis, a CFO and fellow at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
“I think that as accounting professionals, we are very keen on making things absolutely right and planning them very well,” he says. “Innovation requires more of a feeling-your-way, experimental approach.”
While much about this new business landscape remains unclear, one thing is certain: Nurturing the mind shift will require new approaches to learning and professional development.
The workplace evolves
As business and the profession transform, the global workplace is following suit — more generations than before are working side by side, with flattened hierarchical structures, reduced time spent in formal offices and booming technology. New skills and knowledge are required to move into the future.
The millennial takeover
According to research conducted by Karie Willyerd, vice president of learning and social adoption at Success Factors and co-author of The 2020 Workplace, there will be, for the first time, five generations working side by side in 2020. The learning needs and styles of the millennials and Gen 2020ers who will dominate the profession will be vastly different from their traditionalist, baby boomer and generation X predecessors.
The voices of the millennials, Willyerd says, will be heard loud and clear. “In any organization, whoever is the largest group sets the tone. That’s why it’s different to work at Facebook than at Mary Kay.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:Millennials expect learning and development.
Mobile isn’t just a trend, it’s ubiquitous
By 2020, cloud computing platforms and applications will combine with advanced analytical tools, ever-larger data sets and social and mobile computing to change how and where we work.6 These technologies will enable, and often require, anytime, anyplace work as the mobile workforce becomes ubiquitous.
The revolution is on, and with the workplace primed for change, the profession needs to be ready to respond.
The learning revolution
For centuries, educators of all types have known that the more personalized and purposeful the education delivery, the better the learning results. And in our technology-driven world, customized learning is not a luxury, it’s an imperative.
Knowing is obsolete.
In today’s digital era, it’s no longer enough to memorize facts. The latest tax law changes are just a Google search away, basic auditing processes can be learned on YouTube, and technical accounting questions can be quickly and accurately answered by a LinkedIn group. Every bit of knowledge that’s gained must be immediately synthesized, evaluated and applied. This new paradigm has prompted educational researcher Sugata Mitra, winner of the 2013 TED Prize, to declare that “knowing is obsolete.”7
Learning has changed dramatically.
“It used to be that experts poured information into the heads of novices,” says Dr. Lori Breslow, director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory. “But today’s learning must be a social experience among peers.”
Even the most steadfast traditionalists can’t deny that education is experiencing disruptive change. Some futurists predict the demise of traditional classrooms and higher education.
We know that the dynamics of education are changing, but we really don't know where they’re going.
Still, no one can say exactly where this change will take us in the next decade. In the face of this unknown territory, Dr. John Richards, a professor at Harvard University, calls for experimentation with new teaching innovations, methods and technologies, along with thorough measurement and analysis of the results. This approach will require a willingness to take risks, assess results and stay flexible.
Change won't come easy
Dr. Robert Gruber, professor of accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and 2013-14 chair of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs, agrees that education must evolve to survive. But he also asserts that the switch away from traditional, input-based learning to systems that emphasize student output won’t come easy.
“There are many learning styles, but there still aren’t too many teaching styles,” he explains. “As instructors in a rapidly evolving world, we need to be really open to change. But at this point, most of us are more like anchors, because we’re sticking with old methods of teaching and not adapting quickly.”
As learning providers move learners from inputs to outputs, tossing the textbooks will be the next bold move. To foster learning that’s lifelong and life-wide, education researchers at the University of Illinois advocate for what they call a “ubiquitous learning environment” that doesn’t rely solely on formal professional development experiences.
Describing a new reality where digital tools act as instructors, Google answers questions and colleagues offer over-the-shoulder teaching, University of Illinois researchers call for a radical change in education. We will embrace informal learning experiences, teachers will act more like facilitators than lecturers and technology will make learning accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device.8
No more one-size-fits-all CPE
The barriers to change aren’t all driven by classroom pedagogy. Over the five decades that the profession has mandated CPE, providers primarily have used a one-size-fits-all instruction approach. And why not? For employers, educators and regulators alike, it’s the easiest model to implement and maintain. On the surface, it delivers a high ROI—if your measurement is economically based.
Changing this model can feel like moving a glacier. The cost of creating new education delivery methods, and the need to yield bottom-line results from them, are the most obvious obstacles. While larger employers allocate ample resources for experimental research and development, many smaller firms, organizations and CPE providers, including associations, can’t always secure the capital to create programs on the cutting edge of learning.
“It takes a lot of effort and a lot of dollars to create innovative learning,” says Eric Dingler, Director, Audit Chief Learning Officer, Deloitte. “One five-minute learning video can take $30,000 to create.”
Organizations of all sizes will need to experiment with new learning models, including finding ways to innovate without spending much at all to create meaningful and lasting learning experiences.
Rethinking legacy CPE models
Managing information as an asset is like trying to nail jelly to a wall.
Experimentation alone, however, won’t be enough to sustain the professional development business. The bigger challenge will be discovering new ways to monetize educational content when information itself is free and available 24/7. This will require a radical change in the way professional development and CPE providers deliver value.
“The way learning organizations make money will be different than what it has been in the past,” says Ellen Wagner, partner and senior analyst at Sage Road Solutions. “They will not simply package and sell content. They’ll be licensing it to be repurposed and mashed up, or sliced and diced into smaller pieces, or re-aggregated.”
It doesn't reward synthesizing, evaluating, applying and analyzing information.
One solution, says Wagner, is a move toward curated content. “It’s great that information is free and you can find it on the Internet,” she says. “But what about information you need right now for something very specific that’s been curated and pulled together so that it matters to you? Is that worth money? You bet.”
Inspiring action in the profession
A chasm exists between what learners want and need, and what they experience during their formal professional development. Alongside technical expertise, accounting and finance professionals must be adept at anticipating and serving evolving business needs, synthesizing intelligence into insight, and working collaboratively to integrate information for a global audience.
Across nearly every regulated profession — from pharmacy and engineering to law and medicine — there’s a challenge to meet the evolving needs of professional learners. Whether it’s developing educational content to teach emerging workplace skills or creating innovative delivery methods that enable anytime, anywhere learning, the need for new professional development models has never been more apparent.
Changing continuing professional education for CPAs is more arduous than for most professions because CPAs must comply with multiple levels of regulation to maintain their CPA licenses, as well as other professional licenses and credentials. As a result, the compliance-based nature of CPE can feel detached from the experience of building professional competency.
With 55 boards of accountancy, 51 state CPA societies and a host of CPE providers, the profession’s stakeholders will have to come together and embrace change that rewards competency, not just compliance.
Bring compliance and competency together.
And while several state boards of accountancy currently are looking at changes to their CPE requirements, including shorter time increments for reporting and models that measure competency, uniform change will take time and lots of effort.
Supporting competency growth to demonstrate compliance
The AICPA’s joint venture partner, Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA), operates under a competency-driven education model, both leading up to awarding the Chartered Global Management Accounting (CGMA) designation and for demonstrating ongoing development. Unlike in the United States, CIMA doesn't prescribe specific activities or number of units or hours for continuing professional development.
“The CIMA continuing education policy gives its members the freedom to choose how they are going to develop their professional competencies, so they only complete activities that are directly relevant to their current and future roles and their individual development needs,” says Charles Tilley, CIMA chief executive. “This approach reflects the diversity of the CIMA membership and provides the required flexibility to develop the competencies required for their unique positions.”
Supplying the learning that CPAs demand
Alongside regulation barriers are supply and demand gaps in the current learning model. For instance, while CPAs demand and consume learning in short snippets, the current compliance structure does not reward this type of competency development. Although professionals need information delivered instantly, it’s not easy to find the short, on-demand resources they need, when they need them.
We need on-demand content in searchable databases.
And while 92 percent of respondents in a recent AICPA survey ranked on-the-job learning as “very important” or “extremely important” — and professional development experts assert that 70 percent of learning should involve informal, on-the-job, experience-based methods — CPAs still get most of their training from formal, structured courses.9
Taking a lesson from the newspapers
Even as society quickly moves forward, a number of industries have tried desperately to cling to the past. From the music industry’s fight to stop music-sharing to the TV and newspaper industries’ struggle to remain relevant, it’s clear that businesses can’t survive by holding on to old models. To thrive, they must become leaders in a new movement forward. Sharon McCue, chair of CIMA’s Lifelong Learning Committee explains, “rather than asking ‘why change?’ we need to look at what happens if we don’t change.”
Kathy Johnson, a partner at CPA Forensics Plus and an adjunct professor at Cal State San Bernardino, understands this premise all too well. As the former vice president of finance for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, she watched the collapse of the newspaper industry firsthand. “The print model for newspaper was a revenue generator. And no one could comprehend that this revenue-generating business was going to go away.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:The newspaper industry is a cautionary tale.
While the process of learning transformation in the profession will be complex and arduous, the need to embrace it is clear. To fuel the passion for learning in the CPA profession, we must fundamentally change how regulation, professional development and CPE are structured, delivered and measured.
Ellen Wagner, partner and a senior analyst with Sage Road Solutions, says it’s almost impossible to keep people from learning in an environment that’s so rich with possibilities. “The trick is to think about the things that inspire engagement and motivation and interest, and to construct mechanisms so that you channel the enthusiasm for the learning around education or training experiences that push to results.”
Today’s ideal learning is described by Jeff Selingo, College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, as a blended environment with learners still craving face-to-face interactions, collaborations and mentorship alongside technology and innovation.
Sal Khan stumbled into his new method of learning after creating videos to tutor his cousins in algebra. Today, Khan Academy leverages online instructional videos and adaptive learning techniques to engage learners and fuel their passion for learning. Khan believes the success of his system lies in the learners’ ability to master concepts on their own time, at their own pace, before moving on to a new concept.
Ditching lectures for interactions
10% of what we learn comes from classrooms.
Learning through interactions is a bold new reality — the future. Or is it? Babies learn to walk by watching the world around them up on two legs. There is no lecture on how to walk. Teens learn to drive by getting behind the wheel. That’s why driver’s education is not limited to a classroom or online tutorials but provides that white-knuckled, on-road experience. History shows us that an interactive approach works in certain settings, so why isn’t it fully integrated into professional education and training? The shift is happening now.
VIDEO URL: TITLE:We are doing a lot more teaching outside the classroom than we used to.
Formal and informal learning
Formal learning is taking a back seat as informal learning surges to the forefront. Informal learning represents the many educational opportunities that take place outside of an instructor-led program — everything from traditional books to online videos to peer collaborations to mentoring. And as learning evolves, it becomes less about an either-or scenario. It’s not about learning in a formal classroom setting versus a self-directed experience. It’s about a blended or hybrid environment.
Just jump in there and try it, and you’ll learn an awful lot.
Jay Cross has authored four books and more than 100 articles on informal learning in the workplace. He’s made it his business to understand the impact that the informal environment has on the learning process.
“Informal learning matters because it’s the main way that people learn their jobs. Something like 70 percent of the time that people spend learning a new job, they learn by mimicking somebody who’s just done a good job. They learn by watching somebody make a mistake and saying, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ They learn by trial and error. It’s not happening in classrooms.”
“Informal learning means that the learner is making the choice of what’s to be learned. People don’t like to be told what to do.”
— Jay Cross, CEO and Chief Unlearning Officer of the Internet Time Alliance
While classrooms offer an opportunity to discuss, debate and create in-person connections, Cross advocates that since most learning happens through experience, it’s not something you want to leave to chance.
“There are various things we can do to support informal learning. Some of it revolves around creating environments where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes, to experiment, to learn true discovery. Part of it is nurturing a spirit of experimentation. [Pablo] Picasso said, ‘I do the things I don’t know how to do in order to learn how to do them.’ Well, that’s informal learning. Just jump in there and try it, and you’ll learn an awful lot. You may not get it right the first time. But when you do get it right, you remember it.”
Experiential, interaction-based learning, like the baby walking or the teenager driving, provides opportunities for professionals to immerse themselves in the process of gaining and applying knowledge directly to a relevant situation in the workplace. It’s learning by doing — and while it may be a novel concept for professional development, it’s really not that novel after all, considering it’s how we learn 70 percent of the time. But the methods being used and the path for engagement are certainly new and exciting. Redefining the classroom and reinventing the lecture are just a few ways experience is being infused into learning.
In higher education, administrators and professors are seeing the benefit of learning through experience. Nancy Bagranoff, dean of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, has seen firsthand the importance of creating an experience whereby students can learn.
“Now we have loads of programs outside of class that students participate in, and these programs are designed to help them build skills through an experience.” A great example, says Bagranoff, is student competitions, which have grown in the last few years. “Students will spend hours and hours and hours preparing for something like a business pitch competition. They’d never spend that much time doing homework.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:we're going to have to look at experts in instructional design.
Relying on storytelling and problem-solving to deliver skills-based training and scenario-based learning is entertaining and experiential. Often working together in teams, learners use their pre-existing knowledge and also gather more information as they work to solve a real-world problem. The scenario is typically self-guided, with learners watching videos and clicking for more information as needed. At the end of the scenario, students will have both learned new skills and applied them.
“Learners are asking for more control and more interaction,” says Carol Ann Amico, director of learning, design and development at the AICPA. “This brings them deeper into an experience. It’s so much more interactive than your standard PowerPoint presentation.” The potential to learn and understand the material is deeper and richer, too.
VIDEO URL: AICPA Forensic Accounting Certificate
Keeping learners engaged
According to the American Society for Training and Development’s 2013 State of Industry Report,1 54 percent of big companies still engage in instructor-led training. But Amico sees instructor-led experiences for adult education as a work in progress. What’s important to the future of learning is ensuring that, if the lecture is still the method, the lecture experience has evolved. “Classroom instruction may never fully go away,” Amico says. “But good instructional design can ensure that we’re creating engaging experiences that connect directly to learners’ jobs, goals and lives.”
Most forms of learning can be customized to focus on individual interests, abilities and styles. What instructional design offers is a method that aims to create relevant learning experiences to improve retention and build competency. The process seeks to determine learners’ needs and then define and work toward an end goal. It’s not just about creating a curriculum, but about how you design that learning experience.
The objective of instructional design in professional development is simple — to improve from current performance and work toward desired performance. Achieving this objective requires a blend of science and art. Practitioners of instructional design leverage their knowledge of behavioral and cognitive psychology as well as constructivist theories of learning and merge those concepts with creative strategies for presenting material, including the use of infographics, animations, interactive features and graphic storylines.
Inside the walls and halls of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Doug Holyoak, head of learning and development, explains that instructional design is the backbone of their comprehensive learning environment. “From the moment you’re hired in, to the day you resign or retire, we’re here to provide you with what you need to become a high-performing professional. That encompasses all dimensions of a professional, including technical, leadership, global and business acumen, and interpersonal skills.”
It’s common dinner-party knowledge — the best way to start a conversation is by asking someone about himself or herself. MIT’s Breslow believes the same holds true for learning. When the focus is strictly content-centered, you lose your audience, but when the focus is directed toward the learner, the opportunity for conversation opens up. The real magic happens when everyone in the room or around the table becomes interested and engaged.
Under the guidance of Breslow and her team of educational innovators, the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory is tossing out the age-old lesson plan as learning shifts from content-centered to learner-centered. Her “backward design” method focuses on teaching toward learning goals instead of plowing through a predetermined curriculum to ensure the material will be retained and understood.
“If we can think about what we want the students to know or be able to do by the time they finish their course,” explains Breslow, “then we’re much more likely to be able to teach for transfer and retention, which are kind of the holy grails for us.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:If I had a magic wand.
What is it that the student needs to learn?
For professional development educators, embracing the backward design model simply starts by asking, “What do I expect the learners to be able to do after this experience?” It’s a mindset shift that focuses on learning objectives that influence desired outcomes.
Hybrid learning environments
The way students are learning in college has an impact on their expectation for learning in a professional setting. Jeff Selingo, author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, explains that students expect their learning to come from many sources.
Students’ brains work very differently today.
“Students really want to have much more flexibility in how they’re educated,” he says. “It’s not that they don’t like the classroom experience, but they don’t want that all the time. It’s not that they just want online, because actually they don’t want just online. They want a mixture of experiences that, at the end of the day, gives them the end results that really matter, not only to their futures as citizens of the country, but also as workers in an ecosystem.”2
The advent of more online opportunities allows for this hybrid environment. In the higher-education sector, according to a January 2014 survey focusing on online education, 90 percent of academic leaders believe it is likely or very likely that a majority of all higher-education students will be taking at least one online course in five years’ time. Two-thirds of chief academic officers believe there will be substantial use of student-directed, self-paced components in future online courses.3
80% of AICPA Future of Learning survey respondents say they have never taken a class in a flipped classroom.
Khan Academy would like to see their format of teaching incorporated into K-12 classrooms using this flipped environment. “In our minds, we could now let every student learn at their own pace. Class time should be all about human interaction. It should be about people talking to each other, about people tutoring each other. Teachers should use the class time for a project, a discussion, a simulation, whatever else,” says Khan.
Breslow believes that the flipped classroom also flips the role of the teacher. “What it means is that the task of the teacher changes, the relationship between the teacher and the learner changes. With many of these new learning models, the teacher will be much more of a coach, and that means that the student has to take much more responsibility for his or her own learning.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:this idea of flipping the classroom.
Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms are a way for learners to engage with technology while collaborating in the classroom using lectures, simulations and hands-on desktop experiments to create a rich learning experience. MIT pioneered this learning method with experimental TEAL classrooms in its physics department for the university’s two required physics classes. The unique setup features pods that include a table with three laptops. In the middle of the room is a command center for the instructor. The class begins with a mini lecture; then, students collaborate, research and discuss findings with their groups. In this environment, students are doing something immediately with the knowledge imparted to them.
Not to be outdone by its Ivy League neighbor, Yale University has adopted a TEAL classroom format available through Yale IT services to promote collaboration through connectivity. Like MIT, the structure of the classroom is configured to position the instructor at the center of the room to facilitate discussions, experimentation and customized paths of learning. The room is open and available to instructors across the campus.
Applying the TEAL environment to professional learning can start simply with instructors reexamining the configuration of the classroom. From there, the challenge is for the instructors to give up some of their control and focus on facilitating learning rather than lecturing — allowing students to pursue answers through discussion, online exploration and collaboration.
Bill Schneider, director of accounting at AT&T, sees this as a necessity in professional education, where the traditional lecture-style teacher is on a path to extinction. “The teacher’s going to have to become much more of a facilitator, much more of a mentor, much more of what I call a course engineer.”
Digital learning environments
Technology is the game changer in 21st-century education. With innovations being introduced at a stunning pace, keeping up and incorporating the technology into education becomes the challenge. Higher education and K-12 are making strides to adapt while trying to discern passing fads from what’s here to stay.
In watching the bust-and-boom cycles that hit the tech world back in the ‘90s, there were predictable patterns of excitement and hype followed by disappointment of unrealized expectations. In response, the Gartner Research Group developed the “Hype Cycle.” The result was a graphing of predictable patterns of excitement or hype that gave way to the realities of the technology, and then finally mapping previously hyped trends that have re-emerged on the “Slope of Enlightenment” and “Plateau of Productivity.”
Ellen Wagner has studied the Hype Cycle as it relates to education. In 2012, MOOCs and gamification were trending up the cycle toward the “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” In 2013, MOOCs were adopted in many learning capacities and met with some criticism. This, says Wagner, is all part of the cycle. “When this new thing does not do all of the things that we say it’s going to, we get disappointed and say, ‘Ah, well, it doesn’t really work very well.’ The fact is that it probably worked fine all along, but when we start inflating our expectations for what it can do, it’s not going to ever be able to meet those expectations.”
Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs) are coming on strong and disrupting education by offering open access to online learning across subjects and fields. The MOOC pioneers, Udacity, Coursera and Edx, have primarily focused on the higher education market, but are now opening up to adult education and professional continuing education with offerings like software training for Yahoo! engineers, and “Tackling Big Data” for corporate professionals. MOOCs offer a central online learning hub filled with videos, live chats and interactive user communities that help learners progress through a course. Coursera Co-founder Andrew Ng describes MOOCs as “an online course that helps fill a skills gap.”4 Rather than provide a replacement for higher education, the intent is to supplement a student’s education through an open online environment.
68 percent of AICPA Future of Learning survey participants have never participated in a MOOC.5
Along with the online classroom, MOOCs offer innovation in assessment of the courses presented. The first MOOC experienced 230 million interactions.6 From those interactions comes the opportunity to interrogate the data: What was the usage? How does it predict persistence and achievement? On top of quantifiable data, educators can see pathways that people took. Maybe some students started with homework and went back to lecture, others vice versa, while some first looked at a 7-8 minute video. As MOOCs evolve, the challenge is to figure out what to look at, what to ask, and what the information tells you.
VIDEO URL: TITLE:we’re going to have to look at experts in instructional design.
During the AICPA 2013 Fall Council meeting, Sal Khan explained MOOCs and how the method, while a highly effective way to learn, can present challenges for those in a professional setting, namely, completing the course.
“MOOCs are still courses,” says Khan. “And by definition, at least in the traditional sense, a course starts on a certain date, moves at a set pace, has problem sets along the way, has exams along the way and then ends on a certain date. And in my mind, because of the structure of that set pace, the course really becomes just a case of who can keep up with it.”
While the low completion rate of MOOCs could be attributed to Khan’s argument of pacing, Wagner sheds some light on the evolution of MOOCs and how they currently are trending down the Hype Cycle. “I think what will happen is that the iteration of MOOCs as we know them right now are going to be tested and found useful in some ways and not very good in other ways.”
Cruise the latest Amazon titles and it’s easy to see that the American attention span is waning. From a four-hour workweek, to a 15-minute workout, to a 60-second shrink, people have less time to spend on almost any given task, including professional development. Microlearning, or nanolearning, reflects this new reality by delivering small, bite-sized segments of learning, sometimes just five- or ten-minute snippets.
The AICPA CPA Horizons 2025 report shows that CPAs aren’t just ready for this type of learning, they’re already doing it. The Internet and the growth of mobile technologies allow CPAs to engage in education whenever and wherever it is needed. Whereas in the past, CPAs often had to schedule classes in advance or order self-study manuals, today a CPA can identify a need and potentially find a webcast, podcast or seminar available and participate without leaving his or her desk. This just-in-time evolution also allows education to be consumed in smaller, more digestible increments — instead of spending hours or days in a class, CPAs can find targeted education when and how they need it.
Taking a cue from our kids, experts in learning have discovered that a gaming environment can create an enhanced learning experience. Consider the Pokèmon generation — where kids interact and learn from a card game, TV shows, movies and video games. Within this virtual world, they communicate with friends, memorize information, self-educate and form relationships all by talking about digital characters. And these kids, some as young as four, learn on their own how to get the most out of the experience by shaping it into exactly what they want it to be — and educators have taken note.
People around the world spend 3 billion hours a week playing video games.7
Justin McDougall, regional training director with Fast Forward Academy, an online organization that provides CPA exam reviews and prep, has discovered that playing games in the workplace can lead to greater learning. He’s a fan of the trivia format where people’s competitive nature kicks in. “I’m seeing a lot these days that students, and even employees out in the workplace, they want a way to learn where they’re having fun. They want to be involved in something where they can actually enjoy themselves while they’re learning. And so we’ve found that video games, specifically in the trivia format, are a really great outlet for this.”
Games are really engaging from a learning perspective.
“We can use game elements in teaching an individual course.”
— Karl Kapp, Assistant Director and Faculty Member, Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies
Inspired by his teenage son’s passion for gaming, Bloomsburg University’s Karl Kapp has made a career out of gamification. In his classes, Kapp has come to understand that games engage students and inspire newfound passion for learning. He has modified and identified easier ways to incorporate gaming principles into learning.
Gamification doesn’t have to be reserved for massive enterprise projects, says Kapp. “We can use game elements in an individual course. We could start with a challenge rather than starting with a learning objective. And because games are really rich in stories, we can add a story to bring the learner along. We know games are really good at moving players from one level to another with cliffhangers, so let’s add cliffhangers in our learning. Those are really basic things that we can do.”
Implementing or incorporating the game into a lesson or curriculum may be daunting for some instructors, but Kapp says that sometimes the best solutions come when turning to an “expert,” like your teenager. In a corporate setting, this could be a co-worker. “Grab people in your organization that play games, and have them put that knowledge to your learning problems. Ask them, ‘So how do we get people engaged in learning this particular policy, accounting policy or procedure?’”
Today’s badges are digital micro-credentials that represent skills, interests and achievements that are earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, courses or other activities. They provide instant gratification and offer a sense of achievement. The broader idea behind badging is to create a learning ecosystem where the badges become powerful and connected credentials.8
Khan Academy has adopted badging as an integral part of its site. Using the principles of game mechanics, the badging motivates users to earn their way up to the next level of learning while also creating mystique and prestige around highly coveted badges not yet attained.
We're in the business of making sure CPAs are competent.
In professional and continuing education, badging aligns nicely with the demonstration of competency. Better than certificates that hang on walls collecting dust, a badge — particularly one that expires — shows evolution in competency development.
As the mobile market has exploded, users are more inclined to go to their mobile devices for all aspects of life — including education and training. In fact, for millennials, 50% would rather lose their wallet or purse than their smartphone.9
Mobile learning focuses on providing accessibility and convenience of learning — it’s an opportunity to learn anywhere or anytime a mobile device is available. And let’s face it, that’s 24/7. Mobile learning also supports collaboration where students and instructors can share feedback on the spot through forums, social media or live chats to boost the learning experience for all involved.
Mobility is a part of our lives that's never going to go away.
With many CPAs spending considerable time out of the office due to the nature of their job, mobile learning opens up new avenues for finding answers, solving problems or building competency on the go.
Our connected society has created an environment where access to information is available all the time, in real time. Even a simple question among friends sends everyone reaching for a smartphone. Just-in-time (JIT) learning has been developed in response to this new paradigm.
JIT learning allows a learner to gain access to the exact information they need, without having to wade through textbooks or sit through long lectures. Instead, the content they need is available anywhere and at anytime.
VIDEO URL: TITLE:We’re dividing our curriculum into smaller pieces.
The instructional design team at PricewaterhouseCoopers also aims for a just-in-time learning environment. “We want to make learning possible everywhere, every day, at every opportunity,” explains Doug Holyoak, head of learning and development at PwC. “Performance support is something we have done for a long time, but the challenge is the enterprise-wide search function. This is something we’re working on now. To have access to the information in the moment when someone needs it, in a way that they can find it. As it stands right now, you really need to know how to ask the right question to get to the information you’re searching for.”
Open communication for shared ideas
Open source curriculum provides access to online instructional resources that can be used freely and provides educators with a forum for exchanging ideas, and improving best practices. Based on the open source practice in the software industry and the collaborative virtual workspaces found in many businesses, open source curriculum is designed to be freely distributed and openly modified.
In education, this process invites feedback and participation from developers, educators, students and parents and empowers them to exchange ideas, improve best practices and create world-class curricula. These “development” communities can form ad hoc, within the same subject area or around a common student need, and allow for a variety of editing and workflow structures.
More than 40 percent of college professors use social media as a teaching tool, according to a study of more than 8,000 higher education faculty, released in October 2013 by Pearson Learning Solutions and the Babson Survey Research Group.10 More than just a tool to develop personal connections, professors are using Twitter to connect with subject-matter experts. Nicole Kraft, an assistant professor at Ohio State University, says tweets that she and her class sent to journalists at Esquire, Time and CNN eventually led to guest lectures and in-class video conferences.11
More than 40% of college professors use social media as a teaching tool.
Harvard’s John Richards sees social networking as a unique opportunity to create a community of professional learners. “Instead of simply creating educational materials and conferences and pushing them out to members, think of the members as part of a dynamic community,” he says. “Info comes in, bounces out, is shared in the community, and is being created by members. Members are empowered to do more. The expertise is outside of the association.”
The ability to take advantage of that expertise already exists through social media channels. Users are proving that sharing organically via LinkedIn groups, Twitter posts and Facebook connections are, in fact, new methods of learning. The trick is for learning organizations to learn how to use social media to tap into the collective knowledge of their learners.
With CPA associations connecting through social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, a range of opportunities exists for learning through the exchange of information and educational sound bites. While the first step of building the social community is complete, next and concurrently, is to give those within the community the ability to not only consume, but deliver content as well.
Learner-generated content provides a real-time opportunity for sharing information between peers, within areas of expertise, or throughout an organization. Many millennials have been creating and sharing content since they were kids — so doing it in the workplace is just a natural extension of who they are and how they think.
I can learn from your experiences when we share them in a collaborative environment.
“The average millennial believes they can be famous by the time they’re 30.”
– Karie Willyerd, Vice President of Learning and Social Adoption, Success Factors
“Millennials believe that all they have to do is post the right video on YouTube to become famous. So why not let them be famous inside work?” Willyerd asks. “If you are brilliant on a particular subject, why not make it possible for you to share that brilliance with everybody in the organization? Why would we limit that? And yet we do. ‘No,’ we say, ‘it’s got to go through the marketing department first,’ or ‘no, it’s got to go through the training department, because we want to authorize that all content is good.’ Let the crowd decide whether the content is good or not.”
VIDEO URL: TITLE:how can we be equipping the managers and meant-to-be mentors.
Professionals who have benefitted from informal mentoring relationships are apostles of mentoring in the workplace. Unfortunately many businesses and associations get tripped up when they try to formalize mentoring relationships, which arguably work best when formed organically.
Informal mentoring can be as simple as peers sharing ideas of how to manage a difficult client over lunch, or a CFO allowing a junior staff member to observe at key committee or board meetings. When combined with informal debrief sessions, both can be more powerful than any eight-hour CPE course.
As the Millennial generation becomes a larger part of the workforce, mentoring is becoming a hot topic regarding developing and retaining younger talent. Millennials are more accustomed to continual and active feedback instead of formal semi-annual or annual reviews. They are demanding more interaction, and informal mentoring can be an effective way of addressing their development and knowledge concerns.
The desire for mentoring, however, is not limited to the younger members of the workforce. Reverse mentoring can be used to accelerate knowledge transfer and increase employee engagement among the more seasoned members of the workforce — helping shape open communication and informal learning while building bridges between the generations.
With the ever-changing global business environment becoming increasingly complex, learning, compliance and competency development must adapt and evolve to support high-performing professionals who serve the public, employers and clients with unequaled rigor and expertise.
The learning revolution is on — and the CPA profession must join in to protect the public interest and to remain relevant to stakeholders.
It’s time to move ahead with the future of learning.
Leverage technology to enhance learning experiences
While no one knows what technologies will awe and amaze in a decade or two, the lesson learned from current technology development is to be agile and take an incremental approach. When using technology to deliver learning, start small; pilot iterative releases that leverage learning analytics and learner needs to ensure you are delivering experiences that create success.
To yield the optimum learning experiences, incorporate plug-and-play, best-of-breed learning solutions. Getting out of the build-it-yourself mentality allows learning providers to focus on what they do best, creating and delivering learning, as well as allows for more frequent adoption of new technologies.
Implement small changes for a huge impact
The rapid evolution of learning technologies can make the decision about which technologies to adopt, and how often, a difficult one. Find a sweet spot that balances investment and risk in a way that feels comfortable. Allow for experimentation to find your ideal balance.
Small, incremental changes should be used to evolve learning methods. Pilot programs such as blending live classroom instruction and discussion with prework so that time in the classroom is focused on applying the learning, not just memorizing facts. Or, to create more authentic learning experiences, incorporate case studies, simulations and scenario-based learning.
Ignite a passion for learning
Nothing motivates and engages learners like meaningful, purposeful experiences. Whether you create regulation, develop employees or deliver learning, challenge yourself to answer the following: Education for what purpose? If you keep this in mind you will help professionals make the most out of each learning experience.
Start with the learner
In today’s workplace, where professionals are expected to do more, faster, a key way to engage learners is to create a connection between professional development and career growth. Newer generations of workers, however, prefer to look at their careers as a lattice, not a ladder; therefore, employers should use flexible competency models and related tools to support a clear vision for the path forward.
Empowering students to be facilitators of the learning experience often creates a passion for learning and will enhance job performance. Since 20 percent of our learning comes from peer-to-peer interactions, learning facilitators (including employee supervisors) should engage students to be teachers as often as is practical. Additionally, employers and CPE providers should purposefully invest in social media as a learning channel. Through a social community or practice, you can provide an excellent path to relevant content created specifically for and by individual learners.
Most learners are motivated when clarity is provided related to how a professional development experience will build their competency and ultimately enhance their job performance. Learning providers should use tools such as case studies, simulations and scenario-based learning to provide direct links to learners’ performance. The problem-solving nature of these methods create learning that is both entertaining and experiential.
In addition to ongoing competency building in technical areas, it is critical that employers and regulators allow and encourage the development of success skills such as people, leadership and business acumen. Not only are they core to ensuring we have professionals who can make sense of complex issues and exercise professional judgment, but they also serve as powerful motivators to learners.
Make learning engaging and relevant
When learning is goal-driven, for example, through the achievement of a certification or by closely aligning with an opportunity to enhance performance, learners are more engaged and results follow.
Keep content relevant. If every educator—from a college professor to a CPE provider to an internal expert facilitating a discussion with peers—planned their learning experiences by answering the question, Education for what purpose?, and then shared that purpose with the learners, the relevancy of learning experiences would skyrocket.
To increase engagement, take a lesson from gaming. While utilizing game mechanics is not a silver bullet, gamification taps deeply into the human psyche, and triggers intrinsic motivation. This does not mean that all learning should feel like a video game, only that gaming components such as rewards, competition and feedback based on achievement can be incorporated into successful learning programs.
Make learning personal
For the pursuit of learning to be lifelong, it has to be personal and meaningful. This is achieved by providing relevant learning opportunities that address the knowledge and competency needs of individual learners.
Filter content and focus resources
The profession rightly takes satisfaction from a body of knowledge that is as deep as it is wide. But no one can, nor should, be an expert in everything. Instead, develop meaningful learning experiences by offering content in small modules such as micro/nanolearning, just-in-time learning and self-paced learning. And ensure you’re delivering content that is relevant and contextualized for the learner at the current point in his or her career, at the appropriate level of complexity.
Stop thinking only about what the learner needs to know and start focusing on what the learner needs to do.
Choose your educators wisely; sometimes you need a subject-matter expert to deliver a deep dive, and other times you need a learning facilitator. Expertise is invaluable, but the ability to go beyond learners parroting back facts is critical.
Place value on interactions and collaborations. Hybrid learning approaches are here to stay, and in this complex world, problems can’t be solved with a linear, one-way learning format.
When you design for a desired outcome, remember that you also need to assess whether you’ve hit the mark. With learning analytics that measure individual outcome, you can optimize learning programs, making them personal to the learner, and better ensure the learner has truly learned what you want them to know. Finally, building feedback into learning programs and assessments allows the learner to understand the purpose of the learning, on what they are being assessed, and what the path forward is.
Deliver any topic, anywhere, any way
Increasing levels of complexity and change result in the need for specialization, making scaled and focused learning objectives even more important. In response to this need is anytime, anywhere and on-any-device learning in multiple formats with new methods and approaches.
To target learning preference, content must be delivered to accommodate how the individual learns best. Customization not only includes offering a variety of formats and delivery mechanisms, but also tailoring experiences to different learning styles, and giving learners the opportunity to choose.
Measure what matters
Learning happens everywhere, and the greatest moments that advance thinking generally strike like a lightning bolt; therefore, the demonstration of competency and professional development can’t always be quantified in a test result or measured in hours. There must be a shift in compliance so that it is authentic and relevant, and measures learner competency, development or performance.
Create and leverage a unified, global competency framework
For as long as there have been workplaces, the ability to demonstrate competency has been a differentiator. For the public, employers and other stakeholders to have confidence in the competency of CPAs, the profession must embrace one, unified global competency framework.
Professionals should not only master technical competencies, but also competencies related to people, leadership and business acumen. These success skill competencies not only enhance performance in current positions, but also provide meaningful development opportunities that span a career.
Competency measurement should include both inputs and outputs and be both quantitative and qualitative. Just as there are multiple ways to learn, there are multiple ways to demonstrate the achievement of a competency. This models how the workplace, the profession and business already operate — with multiple paths to a correct answer.
Develop one uniform, global compliance standard
Business is global, workplaces are global and the public interest is global. Our compliance standard must be global. Such a standard must be dynamic and multi-faceted to allow for development plans that are competency driven, and therefore personal and flexible.
Compliance models should recognize all learning that can be tied to the development of professional competency, whether input- or output-based, qualitative or quantitative, formal, informal, or experiential.
When a professional writes his first business plan or negotiates her first major contract, competency is being developed. Subsequently, when the scope of projects grows due to global expansion or intellectual property rights, competencies continue to develop, and the public, employers and stakeholders benefit from such competency development.
Similarly, the discussion of those same plans and negotiations with more senior professionals or experts in other fields creates learning opportunities that further competency development. None of these valuable experiences can be easily or consistently measured in a time-bound way, but nonetheless, they should count.
The profession and its regulators must develop a compliance model that accepts non-time-bound measurements of competency development based on outputs. It won’t be easy, so stakeholders should engage in pilot programs, measuring and challenging results prior to making recommendations for how to implement this profession-wide change.
When the time comes to make specific recommendations, the profession must embrace a compliance model that is evolutionary and principles-based to allow for new processes, flexible inputs and targeted outputs.
Rethink how CPE is measured
While the optimal end game is a multi-faceted professional development model, some time-bound measurements might remain during transition or evolutionary periods. However even while they do remain, the compliance model must allow smaller increments of time to count toward recognized learning. The unit of time measured should be such that a learning objective can be met and a competency measured.
Additionally, as the profession moves to output-based compliance, creating discrete units to quantify learning may provide a way to satisfy the need to measure that which generally is considered qualitative.
The future of learning in our profession won’t be created by a single
institution, firm, company or organization. It will take all of us, together,
building community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It starts
right here, right now.
And it starts with you.
Here are four ways you can start today:
Add your ideas to Lighting the Fire
Join the conversation by commenting on any area of the site.
Focus on building your competency and owning your learning – not
just for now, but for life. Do it for yourself, your employer, your customers
and the public you serve.
Invest in the competency of your people, experiment with new learning
strategies, and provide both formal and informal learning opportunities
– so you can better serve your customers, the profession and the public.
Design your programming in a way that puts the learners’ needs
first. Adapt to new teaching and facilitating methods, so you can meet
the needs of the profession and global workplace while building the
competency of your learners.
Explore new ways of measuring competency that ensure the profession
delivers quality services that protect the public and support CPAs
in gaining new skills and capabilities. Be flexible and iterative,
piloting new models with state boards and associations.
Promote lifelong learning, competency development and development of new technical and non-technical competencies. Explore new, incremental ways to enhance learning experiences for your members and engage them in their learning and development. Work with the regulators to drive meaningful CPE requirement changes.
In 2013, the AICPA brought together a diverse task force to explore the subject
of professional development and lifelong learning in the accounting profession.
Task force members include professionals from public accounting, business and
industry, education, state societies, international associations, and regulatory
Working together over the course of nearly a year, the task force has developed
a profession-wide global learning vision, which will bring new strategies for
lifelong learning and competency to the accounting profession.
click each task force member to expand
Lawson CarmichaelSVP – Strategy, People and InnovationCo-chair Future of Learning Task Forcelcarmichael@aicpa.org
Anthony Pugliese, CPA, CGMA, CITPSVP & Chief Operating OfficerCo-chair Future of Learning Task Forceapugliese@aicpa.org
Cindy Adams, CPA, CMGA, CPCUCEO, Iowa Society of CPAs
Carol Ann AmicoDirector, Learning Design and Development, AICPAcamico@aicpa.org
Will AvgerakisDirector, Creative Services, AICPAwavgerakis@aicpa.org
Nancy A. Bagranoff, DBA, CPADean, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond
Jeannine P. Birmingham, CPA, CAE, CGMAPresident & CEO, Alabama Society of CPAs
Jennifer Briggs, CAESVP, Indiana CPA Society
Jackie BrownCOO, Maryland Association of CPAs and The Business Learning Institute (BLI)
Sharon H. Bryson, M.Ed.COO, North Carolina Association of CPAs
Maria-Lisa Caldwell, Esq.Chief Legal Officer and Director, Compliance Services, NASBA
Michael D. Colgan, CAECEO & Executive Director, Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs
Eric DinglerDirector, Audit Chief Learning Officer, Deloitte
Allison Forrest, CPA, CGMAAssistant Director, Financial Analysis, Harvard Business School
Robert Gruber, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, CMAAccounting professor, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Eric Hansen, CPA, CGMAPartner & Chief Operating Officer, BKD
Kathy Johnson, CPA, CGMA, CFFPartner, CPA Forensics Plus
Lawson leads the AICPA’s longer- and shorter-term strategy efforts, human capital and resource team, market and competitive intelligence, product and services innovation, and governance related activities including working with the Board of Directors and Council. Prior to joining the AICPA, Lawson worked for Deloitte as director, corporate strategy. He previously held a number of strategy and innovation leadership positions. In these roles, he was responsible for leading business unit growth strategies, developing long-term corporate strategic positioning and maximizing profit opportunities, as well as building and sustaining talent.
Lawson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Towson University and a certification in Financial Management from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.
Anthony Pugliese, CPA, CGMA, CITP
SVP & Chief Operating Officer
Co-chair Future of Learning Task Force
As the AICPA’s Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Anthony’s responsibilities encompass Finance and Accounting, Membership, Member Service and Operations, Information Technology, Member Specialization & Credentialing, Member Learning & Competency, Business Process Reengineering, Internal Audit, Risk & Compliance and other areas. Prior to joining AICPA Anthony served as Audit Manager at Deloitte & Touche, LLP, from 1989-1997, where he participated in the firm's Management Development program at its national headquarters in Wilton, CT, assisting in the design and execution of the firm's international audit methodology software.
Anthony has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Florida. He is a current member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the past chair of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, and he served on the Board of Directors for both the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.
Cindy Adams, CPA, CGMA, CPCU
CEO, Iowa Society of CPAs
Cindy has served the ISCPA in many capacities including President from 2004-2005. She has also chaired and volunteered on numerous committees and served two terms on the Board of Directors. Prior to her work with ISCPA, Cindy worked at Holmes Murphy & Associates, West Des Moines, where she served in various leadership roles including Accounting Manager, Controller, VP of Technology, and finally as VP of Strategic Outsourcing Partners.
Jeannine P. Birmingham, CPA, CAE, CGMA
President & CEO, Alabama Society of CPAs
Jeannine has been with the ASCPA for sixteen years, serving in several capacities before becoming president and CEO in 2007. She currently serves as a Board Member of Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and Chair of the BCA State Taxation Committee. She is a task force member of several CPA/SEA efforts including Diversity and Inclusiveness, New Member Orientation and Marketplace Trends, and serves on the Accounting Advisory Boards at both the University of Alabama and Troy University. She spent five years in public accounting following graduation.
Nancy A. Bagranoff, DBA, CPA
Dean, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond
Nancy is Professor of Accounting and Dean of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond. She has taught at several universities, including American University, Miami University, and Old Dominion University, where she was Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of CPAs and is a former President of the American Accounting Association. She began her career at General Electric Company, where she graduated from the Financial Management Training Program.
Jennifer Briggs, CAE
SVP, Indiana CPA Society
Jennifer is responsible for coordinating membership and professional development activities of the Indiana CPA Society; she also works closely with the CEO and Board of Directors on strategic planning. She has served in a variety of roles at the Society before being named Senior Vice President in January 2013. Before joining the Society, Jennifer spent three years at KWK Management Group, where she served as Executive Director of five state-wide associations overseeing all activities of the organizations. She began her association career serving in numerous roles with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos.
COO, Maryland Association of CPAs and The Business Learning Institute (BLI)
Jackie leads teams and operations for MACPA and BLI, serving as liaison to the Board of Directors and several of its appointed task forces. Her role is to develop staff and enrich the experience and value of every member and customer. Since 1980, Jackie has provided management oversight in almost every functional area of the Association. She has served on planning committees for several AICPA national conferences and chaired the AICPA and CPA/SEA conference, Interchange.
Sharon H. Bryson, M.Ed.
COO, North Carolina Association of CPAs
As Chief Operating Officer, Sharon is responsible for overall NCACPA operations, including oversight of the Communications, Finance & Administration, and Professional Development areas of the organization. She also works closely with the NCACPA Board of Directors to bring association goals to fruition. Sharon is a former chair of the AICPA & CPA/SEA sponsored conference known as Interchange, and is the current president-elect of the Association Executives of North Carolina.
Maria-Lisa Caldwell, Esq.
Chief Legal Officer and Director, Compliance Services, NASBA
As Director of Compliance Services, Maria oversees several of NASBA’s services, including the National Registry of CPE Sponsors, the Accountancy Licensing Library, the Accountancy Licensee Database and CPE Audit Service. Maria was asked to lead the Compliance Services department in 2011 as Director, and assumed the new position of Chief Legal Officer in 2012. Prior to joining NASBA, Maria served as General Counsel of Sirrom Capital Corporation. She also worked as an associate with the law firms of Bass, Berry & Sims in Nashville and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles, CA.
Michael D. Colgan, CAE
CEO & Executive Director, Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs
As CEO and Executive Director, Mike’s key goal is to enhance the PICPA’s reputation as the premiere CPA association in Pennsylvania. He works closely with PICPA leadership to propose new and challenging programs to the state and chapter officers, and takes a lead role in developing strategic plans and objectives with the senior management team. Mike also serves as CEO of the PICPA Foundation for Education & Research, which provides continuing professional education to more than 20,000 CPAs annually.
Director, Audit Chief Learning Officer, Deloitte
Eric is a talent development professional with 25 years of experience leading organizations through complex, large-scale changes. He joined Deloitte in 2008 as Chief Learning Officer for Deloitte Consulting. After five years, he became Director and Chief Learning Officer for Deloitte & Touche Audit. Prior to joining Deloitte, Eric held various leadership roles at Gap Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb and The Coca-Cola Company. Eric started out as an auditor/CPA at Arthur Andersen.
Allison Forrest, CPA, CGMA
Assistant Director, Financial Analysis, Harvard Business School
Allison has worked at Harvard University for over nine years and is also an alum, earning her Master’s Degree in Psychology at Harvard in 2009. Allison served for three years on the AICPA CPE Advisory Committee. She is currently the VP of Education on the Board of the Crimson Toastmasters Club.
Robert Gruber, Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, CMA
Accounting professor, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
In addition to his role as an accounting professor at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Robert serves as the university’s Master of Professional Accountancy Program Coordinator. He is chair of WICPA Board of Directors and a past president of the WICPA Educational Foundation. He also serves on the WICPA Accounting Careers Committee. Robert recently served as a member of the Disney College Program’s National Advisory Board and was a member of the Mukwonago Area School Board for two terms.
Eric Hansen, CPA, CGMA
Partner & Chief Operating Officer, BKD
Eric is a partner at BKD with 29 years of experience providing audit, tax and consulting services. He oversees firmwide operations and acts as a liaison between the national office and BKD’s four regions. Eric is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and serves on the AICPA Board of Directors. He previously served on the AICPA Governing Council. Eric also has participated in numerous continuing education programs, including business and leadership training at the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Education program and a dynamic leadership development program sponsored by Harvard University.
Kathy Johnson, CPA, CGMA, CFF
Partner, CPA Forensics Plus
In addition to her role as partner at the investigative accounting firm CPA Forensics Plus, Kathy is an adjunct professor at California State University, San Bernardino. Previously, Kathy served as the VP of finance for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group where she sharpened her professional experience in financial reporting, operating and capital budgets, corporate governance and financial forecasting. She is a current member of AICPA’s Forensic Services Section and additionally serves as a Council Member. She also serves as a vice chair for Cal Society of CPAs.
Mark Lewis, FCMA, CGMA
CFO, IRIS Software Group
Mark has performed a series of CFO roles in different business sectors, most recently for IRIS Software Group, which he joined in December 2013. He is a Non Executive Director of CIMA’s CGMA joint venture with American Institute of CPAs and also served as a CIMA Council Member for over six years. Mark's early career was as an engineer in electronics and software, before moving into strategy consulting for 12 years. He qualified with CIMA in his mid-thirties, and has had finance leadership roles in motoring services, synthetic diamond manufacturing, oil exploration and production, and software.
Sharon McCue FCMA, CGMA, MA, MCIM
Director, Finance and ICT, Health Service – Northern Ireland
Sharon is an elected member on the global governing body of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). She has been appointed as Chair of CIMA’s Lifelong Learning Committee and is currently a member of Executive Committee. She also serves as a member of an all-Ireland CIMA Board and is a former President of CIMA in Ireland. Sharon is a Fellow of CIMA has held a number of senior finance positions in both the private and public sector. In her current position as Executive Director of Finance and ICT at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, she has full board level accountability and responsibility for Corporate Strategy, Governance and Accountability.
Director, Training and Development, Eide Bailly
As Eide Bailly's Director of Training and Development, Jason's goal is to find innovative, creative ways to grow the competency of the firm. He is a learning professional with more than 15 years of experience connecting strategy and performance. He successfully bridges the needs of audiences of all levels providing leading edge, engaging programs that enhance competency and culture. He leads a team that provides a variety of educational programs, including team building, project management, successful presentation skills, business etiquette, and change management through a variety of means.
Erin P. Pate, CAE
CEO, South Carolina Association of CPAs
In her role as CEO, Erin leads efforts to develop organizational strategy, foster new initiatives to enhance the professional success of CPAs, and advocate for the profession with business, government and the public. For 10 years prior, she owned and operated her own association management firm. While serving a variety of clients, she helped found and lead the S.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations, a statewide membership organization for charitable organizations. Early in her career she held various management positions with the S.C. School Boards Association and the S.C. School Administrators Association. Erin is immediate past president of CPA SEA, a national association of state CPA society executives. She has served on AICPA’s Horizons 2025 Advisory Committee and as a member of AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee.
Bill Schneider, CPA, CGMA
Director, Accounting, AT&T
As Director of Accounting at AT&T, Bill oversees Corporate Accounting Policy, Executive Compensation Accounting and Benefits Finance. Bill joined BellSouth in 1992, which later became part of AT&T. Prior to joining BellSouth, Bill worked at Deloitte & Touche. Bill’s service to the Georgia Society of CPAs culminated in being elected President for the 2006-2007 year. He has continued to serve the CPA profession in a variety of roles at the AICPA, including serving on the AICPA Business and Industry Executive Committee, the AICPA Risk Management and Internal Control Advisory council, and the AICPA Board of Directors.
President and CEO, Illinois CPA Society
Todd currently serves the Illinois CPA Society as CEO and previously held the position of CFO. Prior to joining the Illinois CPA Society in 1998, he was Director of Finance for Unilever, a multi-national consumer package goods company. Todd has 20 years of financial and managerial experience with Helene Curtis, Quaker Oats, Zenith Electronics and Continental Bank.
Alicia Sweeney, CPA
Accounting & Strategic Planning, Kellory & Co
Since September 2013, Alicia has worked for Kellory & Co. Inc, a family-owned residential framing construction company. She assists with accounting, process improvement, and strategic planning while also doing individual leadership, transition and financial coaching. Prior to joining Kellory & Co., she served clients in the health care, life sciences and technology-related industries as a part of Ernst & Young’s audit practice. She has taught management accounting classes at the University of Denver’s Women’s College. She also serves as VP of the Board of Trustees of the Educational Foundation of the Colorado Society of CPAs. Alicia is also a member of the 20/20 visioning committee and a member of the planning task force for the LeadFit Leadership Program for Young Professionals.
Scott D. Wiley, CAE
CEO, Ohio Society of CPAs
In his role at the Ohio Society of CPAs, Scott leads the strategic direction of the Society, guiding staff in developing and delivering innovative products and services that engage CPAs and support their professional development. He also serves as President of The Ohio CPA Foundation, the Society’s philanthropic arm. Prior to joining The Ohio Society in 2013, Scott was Executive Director for Delta Sigma Phi, an international membership organization. He is a Fellow and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and formerly served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Indiana Society of Association Executives.
Jack Wilkerson, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean, Accountancy Programs, School of Business, Wake Forest University
In addition to serving as senior associate dean, accountancy programs, Jack is a professor of accountancy in the Wake Forest University School of Business. He joined Wake Forest’s Wayne Calloway School of Business and Accountancy in 1989 as an accounting professor specializing in corporate financial reporting and served as dean of the School from 1997 to 2008. During 2008, Jack was a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, working on the Foundation’s Preparing for the Professions research project as well as its Business, Entrepreneurship, and Liberal Learning project. Jack has been involved in the work of the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education since 2010.
Jeffrey J. White, CPA, CGMA
CEO/CFO, J&B Equipment Company
Jeff has been with J&B Equipment Company for almost 15 years, serving in several capacities before becoming CEO/CFO. He is a board member of the Minnesota Society of CPAs. Since October of 2012, he has served as chair of the AICPA CPE Advisory Committee. He also serves on the planning task force for the Annual MNCPA Management & Business Advisors Conference, and he served as chair of the same conference in 2008.
VP – Member Learning & Competency, AICPA
Clar is Vice President of Member Learning and Competency at AICPA and is responsible for growing existing AICPA product lines, identifying and creating new products and delivery platforms to advance the CPA profession and increase the competitiveness of CPA members, firms and employers. In her role leading the Publications, Conferences and Web Events, and Professional Development teams, she works closely with the Communications, Marketing, Strategy, People and Innovation teams, and CPA2Biz, to enhance member value, while maintaining the AICPA’s commitment to group study products. Prior to joining AICPA, Clar worked as COO of the California Society of CPAs (CalCPA) and the CalCPA Education Foundation. She had previously served as CalCPA’s division director, programs and communications.
Clar holds a master's degree from San Francisco State University and a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Davis.
Carol Ann Amico
Director, Learning Design and Development, AICPA
Carol Ann is the Director of Learning Design and Development for the AICPA, where she leads the strategic direction of the design and development of traditional and technology-enabled learning and competency products. Prior to her current role, she served the AICPA as Director of CPE Operations and Senior Manager of Instructional Systems Design. With 22 years in the learning and development profession, Carol Ann has worked in a variety of learning, professional development and instructional design leadership roles for organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, AT&T, and the Florida Collegiate University system.
Carol Ann holds a master’s degree in History from the University of Central Florida and a BA in History from Florida State University.
Director, Creative Services, AICPA
Will serves the AICPA as Director of Creative Services, where he leads an award-winning creative design and multimedia production facility. His team produces more than 400 multimedia programs per year, including everything from webcasts to interactive games, in addition to providing in-house creative development for print, photography, and web design projects. Prior to joining the AICPA, Will worked as a Senior Writer and Producer for M.E.D. Communications and Creative Director for Applied Data Research.
Will holds a BA in Communications and Social Services from Marylhurst University as well as degrees in English and Psychology from Rutgers.
Erin McCormack, MBA
Director, Innovation, AICPA
As Director of Innovation at AICPA, Erin is responsible for driving revenue growth and enhancing member value by identifying and evaluating new business opportunities in core and adjacent portfolio areas in the US and internationally. In this role, Erin is focused upon developing and creating an innovation strategy and driving organization culture change to support innovative thought and new products and services implementation. Prior to AICPA, Erin served as Senior Product Developer / Product Manager and Owner at Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina. Earlier in her career, Erin brought her marketing and product innovation expertise to Genworth Financial, General Electric, and Sara Lee Branded Apparel.
Erin holds a BA from Ripon College in Philosophy, Politics and Government. She received her MBA, Marketing/General Management from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business.
Alfonso Olaiz, MBA
Manager, Strategy, AICPA
In his role as strategy manager, Alfonso helps drive AICPA strategic initiatives. He served as project manager of the Future of Learning initiative, and has been involved in projects on revenue growth, globalizing specializations and the CPA candidate pipeline. Prior to AICPA, Alfonso worked as a consultant in a technology management boutique consulting firm in Mexico. He also has experience in business development and sales.
Alfonso earned his Bachelor’s degree from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, and received his MBA, with concentrations in Strategy & Decision Sciences from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business.
Senior Manager, Social Business & Member Engagement, Communications, AICPA
Stacie leads the AICPA’s social media strategy and has oversight of the Institute’s social networking properties. She serves as key contact for all social media initiatives; manages main AICPA LinkedIn groups and Facebook page; and leads staff and member education and training on social media. Prior to AICPA, Stacie worked in the television news industry. A 10 year television production veteran, Stacie took her marketing efforts into the social media space in 2009.
She pursued graduate studies in digital media at East Tennessee State University and earned a BS in Graphic Communications from Clemson University.