IFAC & cloudThing's PAO Digital Assessment Tool Part 8: Are Your Learning & Qualifications Processes Digitally-Led?
cloudThing | May 19, 2021
IFAC recently teamed up with cloudThing to offer our members a free Digital Readiness Assessment Tool that would assess an organization's digital readiness ahead of a digital transformation project. The Digital Readiness Assessment Tool has been designed to measure how digitally 'mature' an organization is, or where they already are on their individual digital transformation journey.
IFAC strongly believes in the power of digitalization for PAOs, and digitalization will continue to be a long-term endeavour. IFAC’s main objective presently is to help PAOs complete the Tool and understand, interpret, and prioritize their results. The results, (after being thoroughly anonymized) will allow IFAC, working in conjunction with cloudThing, to assess the digital readiness of the accountancy profession as a whole and strategize future support.
The Digital Readiness Assessment Tool is broken down into 11 different pillars. So far, we have blogs covering the following sections:
- Culture & Capability;
- Vision & Strategy;
- Business Systems & Automation;
- Talent Management;
- Product & Service Developing;
- Sales & Marketing; and
- Driving Digital Engagement with your Members
We recommend reading the previous articles before proceeding to Part 8 on Learning & Qualifications Processes.
Digital-Led Learning & Qualifications
This section analyzes your organization’s ability to offer and support members to complete digitally led Learning and Qualifications.
While most PAOs will have a function or department that focuses on Continuous Professional Development (CPD), there are many approaches to offering CPD. Using digital methods is rapidly becoming the norm. Technology can help PAOs ensure the cost to attend courses, and complete development activities are as low as possible, making members more likely to renew their membership on an ongoing basis.
There are several critical aspects of Learning and Qualifications that can be improved through technology, such as: offering online bookings, automated reporting of CPD or exam marking, and the delivery of training and events. All of which:
- Increases the value of membership, making it be more likely to be renewed/retained.
- Increases the skill base of an organization’s members.
- Increases the accessibility, and potentially the availability, of training materials and events so that participation is greater and from members with diverse needs, locations, and working situations.
Unsupervised Learning with A Learning Catalog
A learning catalogue is a great way to provide unsupervised e-learning to an organization’s membership base by delivering personal development programs tailored and contextualized for individual members in their own offices or homes.
A learning catalogue should ideally present e-learning materials in a single portal, making it easier to search, interact with and complete while allowing the PAO to version control and update all training material as needed.
Getting that right will enable more members to access training in formats that suit them and their individual requirements.
How Mature Is Your Learning Management System?
A Learning Management System (LMS) delivers and tracks learning and e-learning initiatives in one place. It supports several related actions, such as: course administration, course registrations, e-learning course delivery, tracking and analysis of member learning, skills gap analysis assessments, and facilitates communication between an instructor and learner.
Having an efficient and effective LMS will increase your membership’s learning engagement by providing more straightforward access to content digitally while also measuring and analyzing individual learner activity to offer a personalized user experience.
LMS’ are also great at encouraging members to continue their learning through a process of automated alerts and notifications, providing a centralized location for learning materials, measuring membership learning against organizational targets, and most of all, by providing consistency of training. Training and course delivery provided via an LMS is always consistent given that it is centralized.
Running an Efficient & Effective Exam Availability & Management System
An effective exam availability system should be, at a minimum, capable of tracking modifications made to bookings and changes in circumstance.
That information needs to be updated in real-time so that modifications to exam schedules are communicated to all users instantly. Communications can also be sent out ahead of exams to provide reminders and recommend resources to help study and pass the exam.
An exam availability system is most effectively managed through an automated process to represent new information accurately on portals and websites. There should be minimal human action required in the system beyond the creation, modification, and deletion of exam availability.
Exam availability and management systems that are fully integrated provide a better experience for members, can include user-specific interactions at each touchpoint, and provide real-time analytics for management purposes.
Providing a seamless experience for members booking exams for learning and CPD is vital for a positive membership experience. As numbers grow, the operational aspect of managing exams also needs to be scalable.
Other benefits of automated and integrated exam availability and management systems include:
- Allowing staff to focus on other critical aspects of their role.
- Eliminating the possibility of schedule conflicts and related errors.
- Reducing opportunities for data mismatches between systems.
- Increasing booking capacity, reduced wait times, and increased member satisfaction.
- Receiving a real-time understanding of cohorts, allowing management to make more effective use of limited or costly resources.
CPD Through Online Learning Diagnostics
Learning Diagnostics are analysis tools that can provide members with an understanding of their current performance and provide detailed information of members’ needs to a PAO. They can include questionnaires before the targeted learning, tracking time to complete the course and accuracy during learning, and questionnaires after learning. This enables the creation of individual learning paths that meet personal and business goals. Integrating these learning diagnostics means a PAO can capture information throughout the learning experience.
Learning diagnostics can also provide pre-study and examination evaluations of current knowledge levels for members undertaking learning and CPD activities.
Increased access to analytics and diagnostics for learning and CPD activities allows a PAO to understand members' individual needs and preferences. This information can then be used to streamline study activities and ensure that learners perform as well as possible, thus improving their membership experience with the PAO.
Empowering Outcome Focused Pathways with Technology
Outcome Focused Pathways are a great way to encourage, empower, and guide students and graduates towards membership with a particular PAO. An Outcome Focused Pathways system will manage membership prospects along a guided development journey and the additional focus on outcomes helps an organization demonstrate to their stakeholders that what they are doing is working.
Specific benefits that can easily be shown from an Outcome Focussed Pathway approach include:
- Increased conversion rate of prospective members from the pool of interested students and graduates.
- Reduced sales cost by managing prospects in one place and applying a defined process to lead them towards full membership.
- Greater data and reporting accuracy through well-defined funnels and an integrated system.
Personalization Through Activity Management
Enabling activity management software means a PAO can track an individual’s behavior and progress throughout their learning path and then use that data to quickly maximize their ability to learn through ongoing personalization.
Learning outcomes can be improved through appropriate activity suggestions, enabling support as and where it is appropriate, and providing a transparent demonstration of commitment, progress, and competence.
A fully automated approach to this tracking and personalization will provide individuals with clear paths to success based on their needs. In turn, this should increase their positive association with an organization that is striving to help them achieve their potential. It grants the PAO the ability to compare performance across groups to identify potential content issues, allowing for more effective time allocation to boost learning outcomes without additional costs.
Digital Coaching & Peer Support
Digital Coaching is how a PAO can empower members to achieve career goals over a digital communications platform. A qualified career coach with experience working in finance and/or extensive knowledge of coaching finance professionals would be available to all organization members, even outside of regular office hours.
Peer Support is the ability for an individual member to have virtual access to a network of their peers, either by locality or subject matter expertise, for professional networking and social support. It also provides a PAO’s staff and members with a safe place outside of public forums for discussions that can easily be moderated by appropriate staff.
Both offerings can help members achieve career goals and further their development within their chosen profession. Should the PAO wish to, the service can also be treated as an upsell opportunity for members to purchase, increasing overall revenue with an attractive new feature.
‘We Do What We See’: Placement & Social Learning
Social learning is the idea that ‘we do what we see’ — the behavior is learned from our environment and observing others doing the same or similar roles. That is precisely why work-based learning placements are offered as an option for so many accounting degrees.
These placements are highly valued by employers and students alike. They prepare students for entry into accountancy roles as a graduate and build upon their academic studies. Placement opportunities should be advertised and visible to as broad and diverse audiences as possible. This also ensure a quality standard/threshold is maintained through the professional vetting of placements offered, giving organizations access to the very best talent with ease.
As a PAO, offering placement advice, vacancy listings, and/or a matching service to students and members means the website will be a regular destination as they take advantage of the help available in one of their earliest career moves. The PAO can also build a membership pipeline by engaging with professionals of the future early on in their careers.
Does Your PAO Offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)?
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online courses available for anyone to enroll, at no cost, usually offered by professors from highly rated universities and colleges. This offers both the learners and the professors worldwide exposure, thus improving pedagogical techniques and knowledge sharing. An MOOC is a valuable tool in a blended learning program as a student can access more information than when solely classroom based.
MOOCs provide learners with an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills or advance/change their careers. They can learn at a pace that suits them and interact with others through forums and the course’s online platform at any time.
MOOCs enable membership organizations to deliver quality educational experiences at scale and in partnership with leading academic institutions worldwide. Additionally, they allow global organizations with a disparate workforce to provide corporate e-Learning and training without incurring travel costs or dealing with time zone challenges.
A PAO offering a range of MOOCs can easily monitor learners’ performance through data captured during the courses to identify knowledge gaps and improve their offerings.
Why Training Courses Should be Bookable Online
Online booking systems typically show the availability of courses/events, allow users to select the course or event and the desired date and time, progress through a secure checkout where payment details are collected, and provide a confirmation payment receipt by email and/or SMS. Members can reserve their place in a training course, conference, or event using an organization’s app or website at their convenience, consistently, and easily.
This data allows a PAO to allocate resources based on course/event uptake while relying on the data through the validation steps members need to go through. Costs are reduced as staff do not need to manage bookings via the phone.
Some online booking systems allow users to self-serve and make amendments themselves through an online account created at registration. There is often also a backend to online booking systems where administrators from the organization can add, amend, and remove events, and amend attendee’s details and bookings if necessary.
Automating Your Training & Events Delivery
A training and events delivery system ensures events are well attended, organized, managed, and, perhaps most importantly, compliant with all relevant health and safety legislation.
Training and events are critical to a PAO’s value to members. Many PAOs require mandatory CPD and passing exams to maintain membership. These events also represent an opportunity for members to network, meet like-minded individuals, and form relationships with other firms at an individual and organizational level.
Upgrading your Training & Events Delivery System as part of a digital transformation should:
- Facilitate networking.
- Improve skills of members.
- Ensure a significant cohort of members will pass their exams.
- Offer career development opportunities for members.
- Demonstrate the value of membership with your PAO.
Improved Marking & Results Automation
When automated processes are developed for marking and results distribution, the entire examination process is made more efficient. This provides a better experience for members by reducing the time from examination to result and reducing operational cost to the organization. Automation of examination marking also reduces the scope of errors.
Supporting Your Staff with Moderation Tooling
Moderation Tooling offers additional moderation support to a PAO’s staff, helping them to regulate and mediate content shared either within or outside the organization’s membership systems. The organization's policies must be consistently applied for sensitive treatment of potentially offensive content without bias or human error.
Moderation can be applied to text, image, or video to ensure that potentially offensive content is checked before it is shared. This reduces costs to the organization by eliminating the overhead of having staff review large amounts of user-generated content and addressing any safeguarding concerns that may exist around minors.
Removing Pain Points from Career & Professional Development for Your Members
Career and Professional Development Capture is an essential part of a PAO member’s journey. Removing any pain points and making this as easy as possible is usually welcomed by a membership base.
There are several ways where technology can assist – for example, through app-based CPD logs or the automatic recording of attendance/event completions when booked or hosted by the PAO or a partner.
Career and Professional Development Capture can also automate prompts to members to complete their CPD recording in time to meet deadlines, gently remind them if they are falling behind with their CPD requirements, record informal interactions that would not be trackable otherwise, save time for a PAO’s members when uploading and recording their activities, and save PAO’s administrators’ time on verification activities.
Why Automating Your CPD Reporting Is Key
CPD Reporting Automation is the capability that will allow a PAO’s members to be able to log their CPD activities online and then instantly upload/provide supporting evidence at their convenience.
The automation part of this means that the CPD record and evidence can be checked without human input through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Using machines that have been trained to assess and verify the submissions and types of data expected means that the manual processing effort and time can be markedly less while also ensuring a consistent user experience.
The CPD Reporting Automation system should also link with the online account area within the PAO’s website, meaning that users are advised of the outcome – i.e., they can accept/decline their CPD claims and evidence, and see their certification/recognition of their logged hours for that year.
The Gamification of Your PAO’s Learning & Qualification Goals
Gamification is the application of game principles in a non-game context. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements. Gamification can be applied to learning settings in which learners are presented with game-based learning scenarios or activities.
Gamification in e-Learning provides a practical, informal learning environment. It helps learners practice real-life situations and challenges in a safe environment, improving the productivity and motivation of both members and staff. It often encourages creativity and engagement while strengthening communication processes as it also facilitates better knowledge retention among learners. Further benefits include that gamification can be tailored to focus on the development of specific skills or skill sets.
Enabling A Robust Global Mobility Support
Global Mobility Support is a Human Resources (HR) function that refers to a multinational corporation's ability to move its people to offices in different countries. Global Mobility Management (GMM) is a business application that manages the complete set of processes and data required to identify, justify, and manage the movement of an existing employee or the hiring of an employee who requires relocation. For organizations defined and reliant on their talent, global mobility helps get the right people to wherever that job needs to be and deliver the best service to their clients.
As a PAO, it is beneficial to offer GMM to members as increasingly skilled professionals seek and take opportunities abroad who will require compliance with both home and host country regulations.
Automating Exam Analytics Processes
Analysis of a learner's exam behavior and results can be achieved through automated processes that track the time to commence answering a question once asked, the time taken to complete a question, and the accuracy of their approach in responding. Once an exam is complete, a comparative analysis can be conducted between members of the same exam group and other historical groups.
Exam analytics ensures consistency of complexity and difficulty over time through comparisons of individual and group performance by providing insight into performance characteristics. This enables future customized development to maximize the efficacy of individual and organization development.
Complete Your Assessment!
Locate the email sent on behalf of IFAC Membership, with the subject line, "IFAC PAO Digital Readiness Assessment Tool Launch." Your organization's unique access link will be located within.
Check out IFAC’s PAO Digital Transformation Series webpage which houses helpful resources, articles and videos on Digital Transformation and is regularly updated!
cloudThing, based in the UK, is a technology company that help organizations such as the British Red Cross, The South African Institute of Accountants, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England & Wales) to name but a few, digitally transform by taking advantage of the automation technology available to them on the cloud.