Indiana Leads Way in Digital Badges for CPAs

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Indianapolis-Based CPA Center of Excellence® offered first in 2014

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The demonstration of competency through earning a digital badge is a much better process than verification that a professional sat in a seminar for some period of time.

The awarding of digital badges to demonstrate mastery of subject material is gaining in reach and popularity for CPAs and other business professionals. Leading the way in this movement is the CPA Center of Excellence®, which began awarding digital badges for competency-based courses two years ago. The CPA Center of Excellence® was among the first CPA organizations in the United States to offer digital badges for completion of courses.

As of mid-May, the CPA Center of Excellence® has awarded 271 digital badges for seven courses that cover the topic areas of leadership, communications, critical thinking, decision making, entrepreneurship, collaboration and networking, and social media. All but the last two were identified as core competencies of the CPA profession, and are also widely accepted as vital business skills needed by all business professionals.

"Digital badges are not only true badges of accomplishment that validate completion and competency of a skill, but they symbolically represent the future of learning," said Indiana CPA Society President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE. "The usage of digital badges will continue to increase in professional education as demand for online learning grows and expands in today's digital learning environment.

"The concept of the digital badge is a viable alternative for measuring learning for CPAs in 50 minute hours," added Bolinger. "The demonstration of competency through earning a digital badge is a much better process than verification that a professional sat in a seminar for some period of time."

The two courses offering the most digital badges so far have been critical thinking with 72 and leadership with 54. The courses are online and interactive in format, with course participants learning as much or more from collaboration with others than they do from the course material itself. They can be accessed from any type of device and started and stopped at multiple points to give flexibility for when and where the courses can be worked on. Currently, through a pilot program with the Indiana Board of Accountancy, up to two courses may count for a waiver of up to 16 hours of continuing professional education credit.

"In addition to the digital badges they offer, the online courses themselves are unique and the first-of-their-kind for the CPA profession in the United States," said Jess Halverson Bowyer, strategist for the CPA Center of Excellence®. "Their format, the platform that is used, the elements that are part of it, and the overall concept of using a competency-based approach has never before been available to CPAs. We've had more than 500 CPAs begin taking the courses, and the feedback we have received so far has been phenomenal."

A new online course on ethics is almost ready. It was developed to coincide with a rule proposal being considered by the Board of Accountancy that would allow this competency-based ethics course to count toward the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal. When that happens, likely this summer, it will be the first time in the nation that a competency-based course has been approved for CPA continuing professional education. An example of the popularity and success of the digital badge movement can be seen in the CPA Center of Excellence®'s course on social media, in which 227 individuals have registered for the course, and 95 have already completed it and received digital badges.

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ABOUT THE CPA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE®

The CPA Center of Excellence® was established in 2014 and has quickly become a national and international leader in the areas of competency development and skill assessment. It provides leadership, best practices, research, support and training for critical business skills. It has five main components. The Insight HR & Career Development Toolkit, the handbook CPA Excellence A Quick Start Guide to Defining and Mastering Vital Skills for Success, a series of online interactive courses, a multi-featured online community, and member networks in which CPA colleagues interact with each other in person and online.

In 2014, it received a STAR Award from the Indiana Society of Association Executives as the Outstanding Individual Program. In 2015, the CPA Excellence handbook was named to Accounting Today's Summer Reading List for Accountants. And in 2016, the Insight toolkit was named as a Top New Product, by Accounting Today, one of the top trade publications for the CPA profession in the United States.

The components of the CPA Center of Excellence® complement each other but are also beneficial when used separately. The toolkit is just the starting point. The book is a planning guide and framework for human resource strategies that contribute to talent development in non-technical skills such as communications and critical thinking. The online interactive courses have elements of social, competency-based, interactive and on-demand learning, and the knowledge they develop supports the rest of system. The online community and member networks enable CPAs to share knowledge and further develop skills.

The CPA Center of Excellence, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana CPA Society. Its products and services are relevant to CPAs not only in Indiana, but throughout the United States, as well as to accounting professionals globally.

For more information about the CPA Center of Excellence®, contact Jess Halverson Bowyer, strategist - CPA Center of Excellence®, at (317) 726-5027 or jess(at)cpacoe.com, or go to cpacoe.com. Indiana CPA Society President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE, is also available for interviews by contacting Dave Shatkowski at (317) 726-5022 or dshatkowski(at)incpas.org.

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Elise May

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