Digital Badges Continue to Gain Momentum

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CPA Center of Excellence® keeps Indiana on the forefront of alternative credentialing

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

Recent studies have found that digital badges are growing in popularity, particularly among millennials. While most of the growth has happened at educational institutions, professional associations are becoming more and more active in issuing them for the professional education they provide. In addition, the understanding and acceptance of digital badges by employers to signify skill proficiency has also been on an upward trend.

The Indiana CPA Society, through the CPA Center of Excellence®, was among the first associations in the United States to offer digital badges for completion of courses and achievement of competency. As of mid-August, 287 digital badges have been awarded 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 are core competencies of the CPA profession.

"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 to measuring learning for CPAs in 50 minute hours," added Bolinger about the current hours-based professional education model. "The demonstration of competency through earning a digital badge is a much better process for verification of successful completion than confirmation that a professional sat in a seminar for some period of time."

The two courses awarding the most digital badges so far have been critical thinking with 74 and leadership with 59. 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 550 CPAs begin taking the courses, and the feedback we have received so far has been phenomenal."

A new online course on ethics is finished and will be available soon. It was developed to coincide with the rule proposal that was adopted by the Board of Accountancy in July to allow for a competency-based ethics course to count toward the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal. Final approvals should occur by November, and that time it will be the first time in the nation that a competency-based course has been approved for CPA license renewal.

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ABOUT THE CPA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE®

The CPA Center of Excellence, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana CPA Society. It consists of five components: the Insight HR & Career Development Toolkit, the Quick Start Guide, a series of online interactive courses based on vital business skills, a multi-featured online community, and member networks in which CPA colleagues interact with each other in person and online.

For more information about the CPA Center of Excellence®, contact Jess Halverson Bowyer, strategist - CPA Center of Excellence®, at (317) 726-5027 or jess@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(dot)org.

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