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CPD information services

In January 2001 the Continuing Professional Development Committee, on behalf of the Education and CPD Board of the profession, carried out a survey of members’ use of and attitude to the various CPD information services publications produced by the profession. These include the annual CPD Handbook, the quarterly CPD Diary of Events, the CPD Alerting Service (available on subscription), and the CPD Update (sent quarterly to the CPD co-ordinators and others who have requested it).

Objectives
The objectives of the research were to ascertain attitudes to the current range of CPD information services provided by the profession, to market test support for putting more of this information online via the profession’s website, and to gauge support for a range of other options for online provision of CPD services.
All UK and overseas fellows, associates, and affiliates were asked to complete a questionnaire covering these topics. A total of 675 questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of around 10%. The number of forms returned, and the profile of respondents compared with that of the main membership, is sufficient to give a good picture of attitudes to CPD across the profession. However, it seems likely that those choosing to respond are, overall, likely to have a higher-than-average interest in and awareness of CPD, and the results should be viewed in this light.

Main messages
The survey results revealed a low awareness of the CPD information services that the profession currently produces. In particular, few respondents were aware that most of this material is already available online. However, once made aware that this material can be found on the profession’s website, the vast majority of respondents said that they would now consider accessing the material in this way. They would wish to be notified of changes and updates by email.
The CPD Committee’s plans to develop further online services were broadly welcomed, but respondents want the emphasis for these to be on CPD modules and online conference booking, rather than CPD record-keeping and planning or online transmission of events.
There is confusion about the purpose of the current CPD Handbook and it is not valued as a planning tool, being widely considered as too cumbersome and complex. In commenting on whether they planned CPD, respondents indicated that they were very reactive about obtaining CPD and had little time to plan. Many found the concept of CPD uninteresting and overly bureaucratic. Some indicated that they were too busy to engage in CPD at all, let alone to plan it.
These responses are broadly in line with responses across a wide range of professions revealed in recent research carried out by PARN and the Interprofessional CPD Forum funded by the DfEE.

Plans for review
This survey has provided the CPD Committee with a useful overview of attitudes to the CPD information services that we provide. There is a lack of awareness about what is currently produced by the profession to support CPD, and not the least of the benefits of having carried out the survey has been to raise awareness of the range of CPD information services that we publish. However, not all of what is currently produced is valued in it present format and the CPD Committee will be developing plans to review these publications over the coming session.
There is overwhelming support for increasing use of the website to publish information, providing that it is linked to email notification when things are added or changed. The profession is developing new arrangements for e-despatch to facilitate this. While some actuaries do not have access to the Internet or email, or are resistant to using them, the vast majority accepts that this is increasingly the way that information is going to be handled.

The way ahead
The current format of the CPD Handbook will be reviewed and the paper version of the CPD Alerting Service will be phased out from the end of the year. Consideration will be given to producing some form of this material electronically.
The CPD Diary of Events will continue, as those who use it find it to be a valuable resource. It is already available on the profession’s website and could be promoted more by email notification. There are plans for the profession’s website to become database-driven in the near future; the diary could then be linked to an interactive search facility to help people to identify CPD needs online.
Little use is being made of the reading guides for pensions and general insurance, and the CPD Committee would wish to acknowledge that there are difficulties in keeping them up to date. Practice boards’ ECPD committees will be asked to review the validity and usefulness of producing such guides over the next session.
There is strong support for CPD modules and conference booking to be made available online, and the CPD Committee will follow this up over the next session. The committee is grateful to all of those who took part in the survey and for the highly useful information they have provided to the profession.

CPD survey results in detail
Who sent the form back?
There were 675 questionnaires returned (a response rate of about 10%), mainly fellows (96%) living in the UK (82%). They were fairly evenly split between those who were under 40 (50.9%) or 40 and above (49.1%). The split across practice areas was about the same as the main membership, with a few more pensions actuaries. 37 said they were CPD co-ordinators. There wasn’t much difference in the answers by age, practice area, or UK or overseas.

Current information services
1 CPD Handbook
Almost everyone knew about the CPD Handbook, which is sent to all fellows. 73% found it useful in some way, but 91% of these said it was only occasionally useful. 17% a substantial minority said that it was never useful. The most interesting comments on the handbook relate to planning. Only a quarter said that they used the handbook for planning CPD. Many people do not plan their CPD in any formal way. The comment ‘Don’t plan’ appears several times. Other comments include:
– ‘didn’t realise that is what it (the Handbook) is for’;
– ‘no planning needed I easily meet requirements’;
– ‘never read it’;
– ‘not familiar with it’.
Many people find that their CPD is event- or employer-driven and that they are too busy to do any active planning of their CPD. More basic comments include:
– ‘I have a very low regard for the whole CPD concept’;
– ‘I find it hard to take CPD too seriously’.

2 CPD Alerting Service
33% of respondents previously knew about the existence of the alerting service, which is available by paid subscription. 83 respondents (12%, including 10 based overseas) actually used it; only 35% of these find it more than occasionally useful. Comments included that it was never useful because it was out of date by the time it arrived, that more up-to-date information was available through employers, and that other sources, such as The Actuary and newspapers, were more useful.

3 CPD Diary of Events
Of the 125 people (18.5%) who currently use the diary, over 98% find it occasionally, often, or extremely useful. Some of those who did not use it said that the information was always available from other sources.

4 CPD Update
The update is mainly about generic CPD issues. It is really intended for, and sent mainly to, CPD co-ordinators. So it’s no surprise that only 19% were aware of it and only 13% used it. Most of the people who did thought it was occasionally or often useful.

5 Reading Guides
These have been published for pensions and general insurance. Awareness was low; 80% hadn’t previously heard of them. Only 33 people said they had a copy of either; 23 people said that they were occasionally or often useful.

Future plans
We asked what people thought about online CPD information and services. Only 58 people (less than 10%) got any CPD information from the profession’s website, but 533 (79%) said they would now try it this way. Interestingly, older actuaries were as likely to do so as younger ones. Most (377) wanted to be told about changes by email.

New services
When the survey was sent out, new services were being planned. We asked about the interest in these. All of these services are now available:
– Conference proceedings on the website
– The Annual Research Report on the website
– A database of current research working parties on the website
– Distance learning modules in business and management skills (paper version only)

Future online services
We asked about five ideas for the future development of online services:
– Live transmission of meetings
– Multiple choice tests
– CPD Modules
– Planning and record-keeping
– Conference booking
There was some interest in all of these but the strongest support was for CPD modules (283 respondents were keen or very keen) and for online conference booking (230 keen or very keen).

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