ACE adds individual course approval

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This month saw a big change for ASWB’s Approved Continuing Education program, one that is welcomed by members who count on ASWB to evaluate CE offerings.

Beginning April 1, 2019, ACE began offering individual course approval in addition to the provider approval that has been the program’s cornerstone service to member boards. Continuing education providers now have more flexibility to choose either to seek approval as providers or to submit an individual course for approval.

The change came about after the Member Services and Strategic Initiatives department recognized that many providers need only one or two courses approved to offer credit to social workers. Making sure those providers can access ACE means that social workers and regulatory bodies now have a wider selection of high-quality continuing education opportunities.

Efficiency through experience

This change represents a return to a policy that was in effect before ACE ended the practice of approving individual courses when the program began restructuring in 2016. Despite that change, intended to increase efficiency, ASWB never completely stopped approving individual courses. Since then, the New Jersey Course Approval Program—which is now transitioning to ACE individual course approval—met the needs of social workers in New Jersey, where regulation requires that CE offerings be approved individually.

 “Individual course approval allows us to have a greater range of oversight over a broader range of continuing education.” —Jennifer Henkel, Senior Director of Member Services and Strategic Initiatives

“Our three years of experience with New Jersey helped us gain insight and refine processes,” says Jennifer Henkel, senior director of member services and strategic initiatives. “We realized through our experience with New Jersey that we could expand the positives of that program to apply to all our members. The process would work for any jurisdiction that accepts ACE.”

Quality improvement

Henkel and Lisa Casler Haun, continuing competence and continuing education services manager, point to the shorter feedback loop as a mechanism that helps providers using individual course approval improve quality. “We’ve seen that ACE providers who also submit courses for individual approval improve their overall programs as a result of more frequent review,” says Henkel.

“Boards can be assured that providers of any size are able to have their courses approved,” says Casler Haun. She says social workers will have more courses available to them, potentially from providers with specific expertise. And providers will be able to gain more reach.

“Our hope is the ACE individual course approval will lead to improved CE quality and a better level of competence overall,” Henkel says.

Cosponsorship changes

The addition of individual course approval was an important step toward an upcoming change to the ACE program. The updated cosponsorship policy, which goes into effect fully on June 1, 2019, means that ACE providers may only cosponsor with other ACE providers. If one or more cosponsors is not an ACE provider, then the course or conference must be submitted for individual course approval. “Individual course approval gives us more oversight over cosponsored offerings,” says Casler Haun, “so members are assured that cosponsored courses and conferences meet ACE standards.”

Regulatory perspective

“In informal conversations with regulators at the recent ASWB Education Conference,” says Casler Haun, “we heard from member boards that there are inefficiencies inherent when boards do their own CE approvals.” They understand, she says, that ACE approval saves member boards time and money. They can be confident that CE is approved using a well-thought-out structure carried out by people who understand the needs of the profession for continuing competence with a regulatory point of view.

“AWSB understands what our members require,” Casler Haun says, “and we can lift the burden of approving CE with a service that is free to boards.”