Alan Nelson of Nelson Croom, providers of e-learning support for professionals and one of our PARN sponsors, shares his thoughts on the importance of CPD courses and qualifications. Is there a middle ground where tailored courses and accredited qualifications are of equal professional importance?
As online educational publishers, we normally characterise our work at Nelson Croom as either “CPD” or “qualifications”. I had always thought they were quite different:
- In qualifications, we prepare students for their professional exams. The syllabus is set by the awarding body. The students are motivated primarily by the desire to become qualified: they intend to use their success to unlock new career options.
- In CPD, learners are motivated by the need to find out about a new development or to learn a new skill. They are not so accepting of someone else’s syllabus and will decide for themselves whether a course meets their needs. Success is measured positively by the ability to provide a new service or negatively by avoiding professional negligence.
Reinforcing this is the fact that for a qualification to be respectable it has to be accredited by an appropriate awarding body.
But recently, a number of initiatives have made me question whether the distinction was so clear-cut. Several projects we have worked on are CPD in style but involve more prolonged courses of study. Furthermore, I have encountered several certificated programmes that are considered by the profession in question to be the badge of respectability but which aren’t accredited in the traditional way. The most obvious of these is Microsoft Certification, which IT professionals see as critical, but there are many others.
With this in mind, I have started to consider a different question: will the learner put it on their CV? For a core qualification the answer is clearly yes, and for short CPD courses, the answer is clearly no, but it’s the group in the middle that I find interesting. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the future of these courses at the PARN CPD Conference next month.