Actuarial Review Return to Main Page

Survey Yields Opinions on Continuing Education

Early this year a survey was sent to all Fellows of the CAS to get their opinions concerning continuing education needs. The survey, which received 387 responses from a mailing to approximately 1,500 Fellows, covers a broad range of topics, including 1) members' preferences for annual meetings, special interest seminars, limited attendance seminars, etc.; 2) seminar topics and timing; 3) desire and possible topics for home study courses; 4) effectiveness of the Discussion Paper Program; and 5) professionalism education needs. The survey response indicates a strong interest in learning more about financial issues, particularly via home study courses which could be Internet-based. Members generally like the Discussion Paper Programs. (Professionalism education responses are covered in a separate article on page 21).

"The Continuing Education Committee was very excited about doing this survey," says Jim Surrago, chairperson of this year's Committee. "While we've developed an extensive menu of educational opportunities, we wanted direct feedback from the members regarding their degree of satisfaction with education content, or that there were other topics or avenues of delivery that we should be pursuing more vigorously."

"We have been experimenting with focus group sessions," says Alan Hines, chair of the Task Force on Limited Attendance Focus Group Seminars. "But we're not sure of their effectiveness in meeting membership needs."

Forty-seven percent of respondents achieved their Fellowship since 1990, while 41 percent received their designation between 1980 and 1990. The average respondent achieved Fellowship nine and a half years ago. "This was the target we were after - those who have been out of the exam process for some time, and thus have a good feel for the gaps in education they are experiencing," says Surrago.

Sixty percent of respondents indicated they would definitely or most likely attend semi-annual CAS meetings or special interest seminars during the next two years, such as Ratemaking, CLRS or Reinsurance. Thirty-five percent also said they were most likely to attend special interest seminars such as DFA, Catastrophes and Emerging Technologies. Only 13 percent would likely attend a limited attendance seminar in the next two years, (for example, Principles of Finance). Forty-three percent indicated they were not likely to attend such limited attendance seminars.

Preference for geographic locations was fairly uniform across the country. Fifty-four percent preferred a major city, while fifty percent preferred a resort. (Some obviously "preferred" both.) Only six percent preferred a location outside the U.S., and twelve percent preferred an airport hotel. The most desirable time frames were March through June, and September through November. Least preferred were December, January, July, and August.

"We've been discussing the need to develop limited attendance focus groups in addition to limited attendance workshops. The former would be a more open discussion format, while the latter would be structured and more intensive," says Hines. Only 11 percent would attend a focus group session, and 43 percent would not likely attend. Comparable numbers for workshops were 22 and 21 percent.

Hines attributes the lack of enthusiasm to the number of alternative educational opportunities offered by the CAS. "All of the CAS continuing education programs are competing for the limited time that members can devote to attending seminars. More than 50 percent of the respondents indicated that the 'time commitment' and 'other educational opportunities available' are very important in their decision to attend these seminars." Hines concludes that while the Continuing Education Committee should encourage and facilitate these workshops, more of the CAS resources should be dedicated to alternative educational opportunities such as home study programs and courses on professionalism.

Home Study Programs

Currently the CAS does not sponsor offerings for home study programs. Thirty percent favored a comprehensive home study program format that facilitates self-paced learning. Thirty-five percent indicated they were not likely to use this approach.

Not surprisingly, topic (98 percent) and time commitment (62 percent) were most important in selecting a home study course. However, only 26 percent felt that the amount of pre-work was very important.

Once a course was developed, two-thirds would definitely complete a course, or use courses to train staff. Forty-two percent would like these courses either on a computer disk or over the Internet. Forty-two percent were more likely to complete a home study program if developed in conjunction with a special interest seminar. Preferred topics include financial modeling (62 percent), rate of return (57 percent), assets and investments (50 percent), dynamic solvency (49 percent), loss distributions (43 percent), managing catastrophe exposure (42 percent) and reinsurance issues (39 percent). These topics follow closely members' desire for limited attendance programs.

What's Next?

The results of the survey will be reviewed by the Continuing Education Committee (CEC) and the Task Force on Limited Attendance Focus Group Seminars. Action plans are now being developed to respond to the needs of our membership. Specifically, the CEC will assume responsibility to facilitate future limited attendance focus group seminars. Members wishing to organize one of these sessions should contact the CEC through the CAS Office. In addition, the CEC will begin working on a course of action to develop home study programs. The CEC welcomes volunteers.