Is this the end for CPD courses?
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
This is going to be a controversial one for sure, but I've been thinking about this problem for a couple of months now. I think something has changed in the CPD course market, which causes that the number of paying participants is gradually decreasing. At least according to my experience. Maybe paid courses have to start offering something more than just knowledge...
Even if you live under a rock (which I would love to do more and more often, actually) you must have seen, read, and experienced that the world is undergoing immense changes and the world economy is witnessing dire times.
But no matter how difficult our circumstances become, we always strive to do the same thing: survive at all costs. Some businesses (e.g., solar panel companies, furnace and fireplace builders) are flourishing at the moment but many others (e.g., almost everyone) are already facing harsh times and even harsher futures. Everybody wants to save money at the moment, so we're all trying to figure out where and how we could cut costs.
And this is where my problem with CPD courses comes into the picture. As a freelance trainer and course designer, my main source of income is training others how to teach. I'm always trying to come up with new course ideas and new approaches. Of course, I'm passionate about my profession and about helping others become a better version of themselves, but passion can only take you so far. At the end of the day we all have to pay bills and put food in our mouths. So, I'd also like to make some money out of my passion.
Reasons for not taking part
But what I've noticed is that there are fewer and fewer teachers who are willing to pay for a CPD course at the moment. And I do believe it's not because they're not interested or engaged in their professional advancement, but it's rather for two reasons:
Huge selection of free webinars, conferences and tutorials online
Dull learning experience
The first reason has been around for long, but with the pandemic the number of free (or quite cheap) online events skyrocketed. I'm also often invited to perform at such events, and, honestly, I will put the same amount of work in no matter if participants need to pay for the event or not because I don't wish to create something that's not up to my standards. And if there are hundreds of free events that offer the same quality as paid ones then why would you pay?
The second reason is something I've recently noticed, and it's kind of related to the first one. This time and age is perfect for self-study enthusiasts since content is widely available. But that also means that simple knowledge transfer courses don't cut it anymore. In order to get people to actually buy your course, you'd have to offer a learner experience that they cannot get in any other way.
So, what's the solution?
I'd say it's not the end for CPD courses but their content and build-up should change significantly. Course designers should consider what would make someone pay for something that they could get from the internet for free. What could be worth their money? These are a couple of things I came up with:
interaction - teachers are under a lot of pressure and they've also experienced a lot of isolation during the pandemic, so they would really appreciate it if they could share ideas with each other, look at each other's works, and just network. This means that an up-to-date CPD course should include lots of interactive elements, like forums, peer feedback, discussions, idea walls, and synchronous online sessions.
individual attention - another thing that seems to characterise MOOCs (massive open online courses) is that you're just a number as a student. But you'd probably appreciate the course more if you received individual feedback and support throughout the course. Moreover, you could receive continuing support even after you've finished the course.
a big name - it would be a naive thing to forget about the power of big names. People would be over the moon to learn from (and with!) famous and popular trainers who've obviously earned their fame for a reason. And that reason could be that they are knowledgeable, can adapt to their audience, and are willing to pay individual attention.