As I'm scheduling continuing education courses to keep my training and certifications up to date for 2020 and beyond, I've had to forgo the usual in-person classes due to lockdown restrictions.
While I'm familiar with and appreciate both in-person and online training, there are distinctions. Here are three things I've learned:
1) Availability. Online training is not always available on-demand. I've reserved seats for scheduled courses but then had to wait for approvals from sponsors or vendors who sometimes label classes as pre-approved, but they actually have different state, sponsor and vendor requirements that take time to process. For one course, I felt obligated to register with two vendors, with the intent of taking the course that was approved first.
Another problem is time zone confusion. An agent in my firm registered for an online course listed as ending at 5 p.m., not realizing that the time zone difference meant it ended at 8 p.m. our time.
2) Advantages. It's often more valuable to take CE and recertification training online. Taking classes on your own schedule allows greater focus on learning—provided that you insulate yourself from the demands of your office, including texts, emails and phone calls.
With online courses, we save travel time and can resume work sooner. For a segment of agents, it's less stressful to learn in place than to take time away from the office. And with this year's unusual circumstances, agents are looking toward new learning methods that will last beyond COVID-19. They are learning how dynamically and broadly we can learn, instead of assuming that education must always be done in a classroom.
It's important to remember that not every teacher can make the transition from live classroom instruction to an effective online style. Many insurance education organizations are helping their instructors and students make the pivot.
Some sponsors are waiving 2020 testing requirements for new or renewal designation candidates. Some may take designation training this year without fulfilling test requirements, while later recertifications will require testing.
3) Technology. When you go for the flexibility of live online training, it's imperative to be ready for the experience, just as you would with in-person training. My colleague with the class that ended at 8 p.m. attempted to continue the course at home but then found out his speakers did not function properly.
Take a few minutes before an online course to check your equipment and ensure everything works—you have the time since you're already saving so much effort by not traveling to an in-person event. If the platform allows users to test microphones and speakers, take advantage of it.
Joyce Sigler is account executive and system administrator at Jones-Wenner Insurance Partners, and is president-elect of the American Insurance Marketing and Sales Society (AIMS), a nonprofit education organization that administers the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) designation.