TRANSITIONING TO THE CPD VIRTUAL CLASSROOM: FROM THE INSTRUCTORS' PERSPECTIVE

It has become clear that this new way of learning is here to stay, and it is essential that instructors, members, and organizations become knowledgeable and comfortable with the technology. Two of CPA Nova Scotia’s CPD instructors, Jeremy Scott and Michael Kennedy, took the time to speak with us about their transition to online learning and how participants can get the most out of this new approach.

How did you make the transition to online learning?

JS: For me, the transition has been happening for quite some time. When I first became a learning instructor, everything was in person. Over the past several years, with the increased acceptance of technology, I had begun to experiment with online training and webinars. The recent pandemic has undoubtedly escalated the use of online learning tools.

MK: I found the transition relatively easy; I teach at Saint Mary’s in the executive program, and we were in the phase of switching courses online before the pandemic hit. I had also used teleconferencing in my time in the military, so I feel reasonably comfortable with the technology.


How has your teaching style or course content changed?

JS: There are a few things that I have changed about my style. First and foremost, I think it’s a lot easier to read body language and other non-verbal cues when you are in a classroom setting. With online learning, I have had to adjust how I interact with the audience, becoming perhaps a little more engaging with pre-scripted questions and activities, as opposed to being more off-the-cuff. The other thing I have changed is how frequently we take breaks. I think more frequent breaks are required when we are trying to focus on screen time.

MK: The way I teach has not changed a lot. My style has always been to talk about an issue and get a discussion going. The way Zoom is set up, I am still able to facilitate those discussions with the breakout room feature, which is excellent. Where I find the most significant change is in the feedback you get from your audience. When I am in a classroom, I can take things in from body language and get a sense of the atmosphere in the room. You don’t quite get the same sense from an online classroom, especially if participants don’t turn their cameras on.


How can participants adapt to get the most out of online learning?

JS: I think the biggest thing for the participants is to ensure they put as much effort into learning how to use the technology as possible. If the participants do not get comfortable with the technology, they will have a hard time getting the most out of the training session.

MK: Use your video and participate. We still need the face-to-face connection, even online. In my sessions, we learn from discussion. So you need to be participating and interacting, and that is easier with the camera turned on.


What would you say to a CPA who might be apprehensive about online learning?

JS: Be optimistic. There are a lot of positives that can come from this. Accepting online learning means we have access to many more options. No longer are we limited to the courses provided in our communities. Further, with pre-recording and playback sessions, we have an opportunity to make learning more flexible and something we can fit around our existing schedules.

MK: Spend time getting to know the technology. Zoom has a lot of tools and features that can aid in the online learning process, but you need to spend the time to learn it. Download the software before a session and practice with a friend, call a loved one and use the features.


Do you think online learning is here to stay?

JS: Absolutely. I am sure we will return to some in-person sessions, but I think we are all seeing the value in the ease of use that is afforded by online learning.

MK: It is here to stay. Regardless of when we return to the classroom, we are going to see more and more online classes because of the advantages they offer, such as catering to a larger geographical audience, less travel time, and so much more.

Any final thoughts?

JS: I think we are just scratching the surface with respect to how online learning will change the way we view professional development. Online learning should allow for access to a vast array of information in several mediums. I think we will be able to better size the information into bite-sized chunks – perhaps sessions as short as 15 or 20 minutes, as opposed to trying to force online learning into traditional hours or days-long sessions that can sometimes leave participants overwhelmed and exhausted.

MK: Find a place in your home where you are comfortable taking a call or participating in a session. Zoom also offers you options to upload a green screen background. Take the time to learn the technology, and I promise you it will be worth the time.


About the Instructors

Jeremy Scott, LLB has a boutique tax practice focused on assisting clients with their indirect tax needs. He was a partner at one of the largest Professional Services Firms in Canada and also served as the head of tax Empire Company Limited (Sobeys). For over 17 years, Jeremy has been proactively advising clients with respect to the application of tax and representing them during all stages of tax audits, appeals and objections. Jeremy’s practice is focused primarily in the area of indirect tax such as the Federal Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax, and Provincial Sales Tax, Tobacco Taxes, Fuel Taxes, as well as Environmental Stewardship Levies. He has written articles for tax publications and has presented numerous tax conferences, seminars and professional development workshops on the local and national stage.


Michael Kennedy, BSc, CAE, MEd, facilitates numerous seminars on leadership and communication to a wide audience throughout Canada. He presents several seminars through the SMU Executive Professional Development program. A retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the CAF, he served in numerous leadership positions, working with military and civilian staff. Michael has had to navigate many large change initiatives and challenging environments. He brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his seminars.