Getting Started Writing Continuing Education Courses

Online continuing education courses have gained in popularity among licensed professionals in recent years mostly because of their affordability and convenience. There are literally hundreds of thousands of state licensed professionals across the country who are required to complete continuing professional education in order to renew their licenses. This creates an equally huge market for authors of continuing education course material.

In an earlier article, Become a Continuing Education Author and Earn Mailbox Money!, I described the benefits to licensed professionals, such as architects, engineers, land surveyors, interior designers and landscape architects, in sharing their expertise and experience with others by becoming an author of continuing education courses. In this article I will explain in more detail just how to go about doing it.

First, select a topic in which you are both interested and experienced. It is much easier to write about something that interests you and you have experience with than something outside your interest and experience. Be careful to choose a topic that is neither too broad nor too specific. Your course must be broad enough to appeal to a wide audience, but specific enough to provide useful information.

For instance, if you are an architect who specializes in retail interiors in shopping malls you probably have a lot of experience dealing with the property management’s Tennant Coordinator who reviews and approves your designs. A course that covers the general process of complying with the landlord’s technical and submittal requirements, sprinkled with real-world examples of common pitfalls and solutions could be of great interest to other architects and interior designers who also work on projects in shopping malls.

Once you have a topic in mind prepare a brief outline of the issues you want to talk about. This doesn’t have to be a formal outline, just enough to get your basic ideas on paper. You can then begin to expand upon each item.

At this point you should consider writing what are known as “Learning Objectives.” Learning Objectives are basically what the student can expect to learn by taking the course. Nearly every state licensing board requires that Learning Objectives be clearly and concisely spelled out at the beginning of a continuing education course. There should be at least three Learning Objectives for each credit hour of the course. So a one-hour course should have at least three, and a three-hour course should have at least nine. Learning Objectives should be no more than one or two sentences in length.

With your basic outline and Learning Objectives in hand you can now begin to break up major headings into subheadings and further expand upon those. Your outline and course should flow naturally and logically from the broader topic to the more detailed specifics and examples.

You should consider including pictures, drawings, diagrams or charts as visual aids to help explain your points. Asking a student to read one paragraph of text after another, page after page, without graphic aids to reinforce and break up the text is not a good idea. Use only non-copyrighted graphics and never plagiarize someone else’s work. You should also use major and minor headings in your text and pleasing combinations of bold and italicized text to further break up and reinforce the concepts you are explaining. And be sure to proof read your course for spelling and syntax errors before submission.

The last step in creating your course is to prepare a test. Tests should be in the form of True/False and multiple-choice questions. Both types may be used, however, True/False questions should not make up more than 50% of the questions. Multiple-choice questions should contain no fewer than three and no more than six choices. The test questions can be either part of the course document or a separate document. You will also be required to provide the course provider company you are submitting to with a copy of the test with the correct answers highlighted in some fashion.

The number of test questions required will depend upon the credit hour length of the course. A one-hour course should contain no fewer than ten test questions. Each additional hour should contain at least five additional questions. So a two-hour course should contain no fewer than 15 test questions.

Continuing education courses are generally assigned credit according to the length of time an average student can read and understand the material and take the accompanying test. The universally accepted units are the “PDH”, or Professional Development Hour, and the “CEU”, or Continuing Education Unit. One PDH equals one hour of professional development. One CEU is equivalent to ten professional development hours. So if your course takes an average student two hours to read and comprehend and take the test it should be rated as worth two PDH or 0.2 CEU.

You are free to include at the end of your course a list of references for further study and a bibliography. Be sure to give appropriate citations to any quotations used from other sources. You should also be prepared to submit a short biography of yourself along with your first course.

Each course provider company has their own submission requirements and pay scales. Generally speaking, you can expect to either be paid outright for the copyright to your course, or to receive a commission of around 20% of the sales of your course for some period of time. Again generally speaking, the shelf life of a continuing education course is three years. After that period of time many providers will require that you update the course and possibly sign a new contract to extend your commission for another period.

There are a variety of online continuing education course providers easily found through an Internet search. Each serves certain target professions, such as architects and engineers, or mechanical and electrical contractors. Find the ones who serve your profession and contact them. You will want to be familiar with their writing guidelines, commission rates, contracts and submission requirements before you attempt to prepare a course for them. They may also have course topic suggestions and even restrictions. Most providers will not accept a course on a specific topic for which they already have a course. So check it out before you invest your time and energy.

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Choosing an NMLS Mortgage License Education Course Provider

Every Mortgage Loan Originator licensed in the United States must complete Pre-License Education in order to obtain a license and Continuing Education each year in order to renew the license. There is a federal mandate that each state require at least 20 hours of Pre-License Education and at least 8 hours of Continuing Education each year after the license is approved. And many states have decided to require additional “state-specific” Pre-License and Continuing Education on top of the federal mandated minimum requirement. If a Loan Originator obtains licenses in many states, there could be a lot of Continuing Education required each year, which brings us to our main topic. How do you choose a Mortgage License Education Course Provider that can make this process as simple and painless as possible?

Availability of Courses – Each Mortgage License Education Course Provider must get their courses approved through the NMLS (Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System). Some Course Providers only get the main 20 hour Pre-License Education and 8 hour Continuing Education, so if you are licensed in any states that require state-specific education, you’ll have to do that part with another Course Provider. Most Course Providers only get some of the state-specific education approved for the larger states, because it is very time consuming to get approved and maintain if they don’t have enough customers taking the courses. Very few Course Providers get the state-specific Mortgage License Education Courses approved by the NMLS in every state that requires it. If licensed in many states, it is best to find one of these few Course Providers that offer all courses.

Course Formats – The Course Providers are able to provide Pre-License Education in 3 formats: Classroom, Webinar, and Online Instructor-Led. Classroom is a live course in-person. Webinar is a live course via a webinar online. And Online Instructor-Led, which is by far the most popular, is an online course at your own pace with a small amount of instructor involvement to meet the NMLS requirement that there be interaction between the student and the instructor. Due to the instructor interaction, the Online Instructor-Led courses must be done within a certain window of time. Usually 2 days for a few hour course up to 12 days for a 20 hour course. For the Continuing Education, Course Providers are able to offer all of the same course formats as the Pre-License Education plus an Online Self-Study format. The Online Self-Study format is virtually identical to the Online Instructor-Led format, except that there is no window of time that the course must be completed in and there is no instructor interaction. For most people, the Online Self-Study format would be the best option for the Continuing Education. Not all Course Providers offer all Course Formats, so you will want to find a Course Provider that offers the formats you prefer.

Technology Platforms – Specifically for the most popular Course Formats, Online Instructor-Led for the Pre-License Education and Online Self-Study for the Continuing Education, the technology platform of the Mortgage License Education Course Provider is critical to making the process smooth. The NMLS has specific guidelines on how the Education Course must operate regarding timing of the course, instructor interaction, timing out after a certain period of inactivity, verifying that the person taking the course is the actual Loan Originator, etc. However, the Course Providers have a lot of flexibility in making the compliance with these requirements as painless as possible. There is a huge difference between Course Providers so you may even want to ask to test their systems out before purchasing courses, especially if you are licensed in a lot of states or are making the decision of what Course Provider to use for many Loan Originators.

Customer Service – In my experience, this is by far the most important factor. Issues will come up such as courses not reporting to the NMLS properly, course windows ending before the course is completed and the need to reschedule, questions about what Mortgage License Education Courses are required for a new license or continuing education to renew your Loan Originator Licenses, or even just issues navigating their website. When these issues come up, you want to have someone at their office that always answers the phone during normal business hours so you can quickly resolve these issues. I have found that not all Education Course Providers have the same excellent customer service that you would expect. This is critical. If you start finding that the responses from customer service are slow or inadequate, then it is probably time to start looking for a new NMLS Mortgage License Education Course Provider.

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