Accountants use e-learning to prep for certification

Certified Management Accounts of Ontario is putting an e-learning tool to the test in order to help students prepare for exams.

The association, which represents 15,000 CMAs and 4,000 students and candidates in the province, is using an online platform called Thinkpass from Toronto-based Euforea Inc. in preparation for the next round of certification exams next month.

The tool is available to students enrolled in CMA Ontario’s accreditation program and provides them with a series of questions that are similar to those they will face in a real exam-room situation.

There are practice questions for quick sessions or a full four-hour exam mock-up, said Jon Jones, CMA Ontario’s accreditation manager.

The organization provided Euforea all the questions ahead of time and the company designed and built a Web site, which it also hosts, to provide students simulated exams. CMA Ontario also furnished the company with the names and e-mails of students so that they could be contacted directly and provided the URL as well as login and password information.

The system was first tested in pilot mode in June in preparation for an exam round this summer. About 700 students participated. It is now in use again as students prepare for the next set of exams in the coming weeks.

The platform is flexible enough to allow for some changes, said Jones. “We’ve gone through it and increased some of the questions in areas in which students need help.”

Mary Beth Kyer, Euforea’s president, said that her company has built sites for other associations as well as financial institutions and insurance companies, but the CMA Ontario solution is the first real test for the Thinkpass product. The company also makes Roleplay, a learning tool designed to help people mimic and learn from real-life business situations.

The company employs an instruction designer to help translate the material from clients into viable online learning tools, said Kyer, and the platform allows for changes as the users need them.

“We’re not in the business of charging consulting dollars. We want to provide them with a tool they can use that’s flexible, that they can adapt for their future needs,” she said.

The product also includes a reporting tool to measure how people are using the solution – how many people have actually logged on and which areas they have visited the most.

CMA Ontario uses that information to help it gain an understanding of where students may need additional help, said Jones. “We use it as a diagnostic to tell us if students have difficulty with certain questions. It does get improved every year. We might put additional exams on for next year.”

CMA Ontario will continue to offer in-class training for as long as it is needed, said Jones, but may rely on online sessions more heavily in the future.

“This is something new that we’ve done. Since the exam itself is not offered online, it’s a step forward, hopefully anticipating that change,” he said.

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