I had just finished delivering an ethics training session in Fort Myers last Thursday night when one of the attendees came up to me to ask a question. He wanted to know what I thought about CFP Board's plans to takeover as exclusive CE provider. I told him that he was mistaken - that CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller had announced at the FPA Retreat that the organization was exploring the idea of offering CE as a way to increase the quality of CE available to CFP® professionals. But, my questioner insisted that on a statewide conference call, the assertion was made that CFP Board was looking to become the sole source of CE.
Since I would be impacted by such a move both as a CE provider and as a certificant, I sent a quick email to Kevin Keller asking for clarification. As a member of CFP Board's Board of Directors I was involved in hiring Kevin in 2007. Kevin sent a quick and emphatic reply, "Categorically False".
CFP Board is concerned about the overall quality of CE and is exploring how to raise the quality of training available to CFP® professionals. This includes the option of creating some training themselves. While I have no argument with the fact that there are too few truly outstanding training sessions available, I question whether CFP Board becoming a CE source is the right solution to the problem.
As a standards setting body, CFP Board determines which courses meet their CE requirements. That means that CFP Board is at least partially accountable for today's low level of quality. They approved the courses and the instructors. There are lots of both. Tens of thousands of courses offered by thousands of providers using thousands of instructors. The problem is not that CE courses are hard to find (except perhaps for ethics, where CFP Board sets higher entry barriers) but that there are simply too many courses and too many ineffective instructors. CFP Board becoming one more CE provider would not make a significant difference especially since it will take a while for CFP Board to create content.
I propose a couple of things that CFP Board can do that would make a difference.
First, create an online evaluation tool for use by CFP® certificants. Give every approved course a unique code and require that this be included in all course descriptions and handouts. Attendees would be able to go to CFP Board's website to rate any course they attend. After a minimum numbers of evaluations, courses with strong evaluations are eligible for renewal and those with low scores run the risk of losing their "CE Eligible" status. Scores should be searchable on CFP Board's website so those looking for content could select highly rated courses that meet their needs. Instructors could be rated the same way with each instructor carrying a unique identifying code.
Second, register instructors and courses separately from the CE provider. Currently, the same course is often registered multiple times by different organizations offering it at different times and in different venues. A course should be submitted once and receive a unique code indicating acceptance by CFP Board. Likewise, instructors should be required to demonstrate certain qualifications and perhaps complete some level of on-line training before being listed by CFP Board as a qualified instructor. Sponsors wanting to offer CE to certificants could choose an existing course and instructor with no further approval needed; or, they could propose new courses using approved instructors or new instructors, or both. Once approved, the course and instructor are added to CFP Board's database and become searchable after receiving a minimum number of ratings.
Since sponsors submit credits to CFP Board, it is a simple matter to identify which courses are not generating sufficient level of responses. This also allows CFP Board an opportunity to audit submissions remotely by sending surveys to attendees asking them to rate both the course and the instructor. The lack of an existing audit process is another possible reason for the dearth of good training and the continuation of lower quality courses.
The technology exists to do this today. It would attract more attendees to higher rated courses and act as a drag on those that are poorly designed or delivered. If I can easily provide feedback on a burrito at my local taqueria, how much more important is it to evaluate contininuing education?