Many CEU courses fail the quality test

Focus on learning, not CEU credits.
When I design or present a course offering Continuing Education Units (CEU), I strive to meet
educational objectives that will be valuable for architects and engineers and to provide authoritative content in an engaging format. If a course is presented online or in print, I also prepare a quiz to measure whether the student has gained competency in the subject matter. Writing the quiz is often more challenging than writing the courses. I try to write questions that reinforce the main concepts of the class and require a modicum of critical thinking about their application.

Too often, however, CEU courses have questions that only measure the student's ability to find trivial facts in an article. Some quizzes are written so that students can pass a course without reading the text.

For example, a commercial testing service recently mailed me a booklet, Continuing Education for Professional Architects, containing "3 Approved Courses and Exams" and offering "12 hours of Continuing Education for only $149."  The company's website say, "Our mission is to provide hassle free, cost-effective continuing education." Note that hassle-free and cost effective come before education in their priorities.

AIA Continuing Education System and state licensing boards require an hour of contact with the training material for each hour of credit.  I doubt that most individuals would invest even 1/10th of that time in these courses. That's because the courses are designed for students to pass without reading the material.

The test forms are at the front of the book and contain questions that direct student to answer.  Consider the blatant hints in the following questions, with my interpretation:
  • "According to Table 224.4..." In other words, go to table and read indicated number.
  • "As a defined term, __________ is a..." In other words, go to list of definitions and find wording used in question.
  • "As per the executive summary..." In other words, go to executive summary and find wording used in question. 
  • "A green roof is a continuous layer of __________ that covers a roof's surface (technology). In other words, go to the section of course titled, "Technology" and read answer.
  • "Regarding airflow models, which..." (The italic is in the test, it is not added for emphasis.) In other words, go to the section titled "airflow models" and read answer.
Here is the most difficult question
  • The results of the study showed..."  (The italic is in the test, it is not added for emphasis.) This is tricky, because the answer was in section titled "Discussion", not "Results".
I raise these concerns because companies offering exams with shortcuts like these downgrade validity of the continuing education system.  Every architect that pays for these shoddy tests takes away an architect that might otherwise take a high-quality course presented by a building product manufacturer or trade association.

I you to commit to providing high quality CEU programs. While some folks may pay their money and get credit hours on the quick and easy, little from the courses will stick with them. But if you offer genuine educational resources, students that take your course will remember you and the lessons for the rest of their careers.

I did learn one tip from the testing company.  Their course content consists solely of reprints of Government documents that are in the public sector. You can do this too.  Just be sure that your presentation and quiz are structured in a way that entices the student to study the material.

Illustration credit.