Advisers studying for professional exams often find it difficult to find the time to revise, keep up their day job and maintain some sort of home life. For some it makes sense to study on the move, making full use of time that would otherwise be wasted, such as the train journey home or on the way to a meeting. A decade ago this would mean carrying various textbooks around and scribbling in margins or jotting down notes and diagrams.
Now advisers have a digital option, where everything they need to revise can be accessed through a tablet or smartphone. Bree Wealth director Julie Flynn points out that going on revision courses takes advisers out of the office for long periods. But something like an MP3 player can be used in the car and apps can be used whenever there is a spare moment. Flynn is a fan of app Study Blue in particular.
“I used to use flashcards on my phone. Type ‘return on equity rates’, for example, and suggestions of flashcards other people have made come up, so you can tap into that. I thought Study Blue was just going to be flashcards but it has a quiz that mixes up the answers, so you are not going purely by memory. You can do one of the tests and there is a summary at the end so you can see which ones you get wrong the most. It makes sense to focus on the things I am struggling with,” she says.
Professional bodies are keeping an eye on demand for digital learning materials that can be used on the move. Online study materials are par for the course now, with both the Chartered Insurance Institute and the Institute for Financial Planning providing tools to support the range of courses they provide. The CII’s RevisionMate website provides everything from online study texts and quiz questions to mock exams and a student discussion forum.
Similarly the IFP has an e-learning platform that provides test questions, exam paper specimens and model answers, plus a range of other materials such as study guides. IFP professional standards director Sam Rees-Adams says: “We have been thinking about apps but we haven’t had any particular demand for the format. That may be because we offer a limited number of qualifications and people are not expecting to have lots of study material in different formats.”
But Rees-Adams thinks apps do have a place, however, especially as younger generations enter financial services. With the IFP’s education committee, she is looking into what can be done in this area, subject to costs.
There will always be a place for traditional methods of revision, however. “A lot of the time younger people coming in still like having the physical books. A paraplanner on our education committee has a book on her desk as a reference because its much easier to flick through physical pages,” she says.
At the CII, the intention is to provide learning materials in as many formats as possible, embracing digital but not to the exclusions of traditional learning materials like textbooks. “We are almost agnostic in that we want to work across all devices. We are not going to develop lots of CII apps or go down the other route where we say we’ll never do it,” says CII head of learning Simon Graham. ”We already have an app for the recording of CPD. It’s a note-taking and recording app that you can do offline, on your phone and sync it up to your desktop. We are looking at a variation of that for study – we could end up with an app like a picture frame, with stuff being dragged onto it from other sites,” he says.
Graham says analysis of how CII members are using RevisionMate shows 25 per cent are using it on tablets and smartphones. “The next step is to look at how we develop the quizzes for phones, so you would use use swipe gesture rather than a next button,” he says.
Just because digital revision aids are available, it does not mean they will be popular. Graham says less than 10 per cent of CII members choose its e-book format over traditional books. “We can speculate on the reasons for that – books are portable, they don’t run out of batteries. Devices like Kindles are good for reading, which is a passive activity, but studying is active. People want to scribble notes and e-books currently don’t lend themselves to that. But the format will improve and the technology will improve,” he says.