Insurance Journal Associate Publisher Dena Kaplan interviews Brad Nevins, president and co-founder of online continuing education service FastrackCE about the benefits of online education and the advantages over traditional CE methods.
Dena Kaplan: Tell me about FastrackCE and how you got into continuing education.
Brad Nevins: Well, when we started FastrackCE back in 2000, we had been having numerous conversations with agents and brokers and found that many of them were frusturated with their current CE providers and/or the whole process of meeting the requirements of continuing education.
Kaplan: What are those requirements?
Nevins: Well, it varies by state, but on average most states are looking for about 30 hours of continuing education per renewal period. There are a few states that are 25, but it’s all in that 25-30 hour range.
Many of these agents and brokers felt that the process was cumbersome, slow, and probably foremost, it took time away from their regular duties, which in most cases is selling and so we felt that we could put together a system using the advantages of the Internet that would make the process more time effective and cost effective.
Kaplan: Why online CE? Traditionally, as a retail agent, I can accomplish getting my CE credits at a trade show or a local educator.
Nevins: Well, there are several advantages. First and foremost moving everything online is going to make the course material and the exam available to the students 24/7. So at any point in time, somebody can log onto the Web site, choose the course they wish to complete and start the process immediately.
We’ve eliminated the need for ordering materials and having to ship them to the students, we’ve been able to automate the final exam process. So we’ve taken a process that previously included somebody having to make a phone call, order a book, have the book shipped to them, complete a written final exam, and then either fax it or mail it back, and then wait for the results of the exam, and made it available to them, as I said, 24/7.
In doing so, we’ve also eliminated some costs—we’ve eliminated the cost of having to print a book, we’ve eliminated shipping costs, so it’s become much more time effective and cost effective. So we feel that we’ve given licensed agents and brokers a separate means of going about and completing the requirements.
Now while attending a conference where there are CE classes going on is still a viable alternative for some producers, we’ve had many people tell us that they feel that they’re most productive at a conference when they’re out on the conference floor talking to other markets, carriers they do business with, and other vendors and networking with people out on the floor rather than having to spend their time sitting in a classroom environment where you can have some conversations but certainly not like when you stand out on the conference room floor. So a lot of our customers are pleased that they can accomplish their continuing education requirements by being able to work on it during breaks in the day, lunch hours, or in the evenings or mornings before work starts.
Kaplan: And not only is that incredibly time efficient, but if people do things like I do and procrastinate, at the last minute I’m realizing that I have to have so many hours and I have an expiration obviously.
Nevins: There’s no doubt that the bulk of our customers are people that are probably within the 90-day period of the expiration of their license and it’s those people that open up that renewal notice they get from the Department of Insurance and they say “Uh oh, I better get on this quick.” And again, in many cases these renewal notices are coming to them at their home address.
With FastrackCE they can simply walk over to the computer, choose the course they want, and start it immediately. Then they can access that same course material from a computer in their office or anywhere they happen to be traveling, as long as they have an Internet connection.
We’re delivering the course material in a fashion so that they have the choice of either viewing it online or downloading it to the hard drive of the computer they’re working on, so they can view it without being online, and that’s very important for producers that are still on a dial up connection either at their office or at home, or if they choose to, they can also print the material for reference until they are ready to take the final exam.
Kaplan: What, in your opinion, is the future of online continuing education?
Nevins: As far as the future goes, we are looking at different means of delivering the course material. There’s some attraction to creating a truly interactive course material, with some Flash technology that has video and voiceover and that sort of delivery method.
However, when we talk to our customers who have been using our current system, hands down one of the most appealing aspects is that it’s still simple for the user to use. So before we spend the tremendous amount of expense that’s involved in creating these interactive courses, we want to make sure that we can still maintain it at a level that’s user friendly and our customers won’t look at it as cumbersome and burdensome to get through the process of completing the course.
I think there’s a fine line there and we are currently looking at some of the options that are available and think that some time in the near future we’ll start developing that type of course material.
To hear the interview with Brad Nevins in its entirety, please visit Insurance Journal Online at www.insurancejournal.com, look to the left of your page, scroll down to “Features” and click on “Audio Interviews.”
For more information on FastrackCE, visit www.fastrackce.com.
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