Continuing Professional Development, commonly abbreviated to CPD, describes the ongoing learning that contributes to an individual’s knowledge and skills, and enhances their ability to perform within their vocation.

The National Counselling Society defines CPD for our members as ‘a range of learning activities through which professional counsellors grow and develop throughout their careers to ensure that they retain their ability to practise safely, ethically and legally within their evolving scope of practice’.

So what is Online CPD?

Online CPD covers formalised, structured activities that you experience through a web browser or other similar software connected to the internet, and that has a level of engagement with the content or feedback designed into the experience.

Webinars (a portmanteau of web and seminars), wherein you watch a video – either live or pre-recorded – of tutors or instructors explaining a topic are very common. These are very similar to attending seminars or conferences, hence the name.

Depending on the webinar, you may be given the opportunity to ask questions of your tutor and engage with other students. Some webinars are pre-recorded content, so you are not able to ask questions of the instructor and have them answered ‘live’, but you may have the opportunity to email the tutor with any questions.

Webinars that are presented live will usually give you the option to continue to access the content indefinitely after it has been presented, just in case you find you are unable to attend, or if you want the opportunity to review it again at a later date.

Another form of Online CPD is what is known as an ‘online course’. Online courses tend to be longer than webinars and cover a range of different topics to give students a thorough and rounded knowledge of a certain topic. Online courses can be short, comprising just a few CPD hours, or they can be incredibly lengthy and in-depth, such as a Bachelors or Masters Degree.

In addition to the subject material presented to you online – which could be in written form, video, or sound recording – you may be required or advised to do additional reading around the subject. You should be given a reading list or pointed in the direction of legitimate sources of information, if this is the case.

Many online courses give you access to forums or group chats to discuss any questions you have with other students on the course.

Online courses should use quizzes, essays, or exams to test your knowledge. They may do this at regular intervals throughout the online course, or just at the end of the course.

Activities such as reading blog posts or other online content are not considered to be Online CPD.

What are the benefits of studying online?

Online CPD is an easy and practical way of accruing your required CPD hours at a time and a pace that suits you. You can take your time and really make sure that you understand and digest the lessons, review the content again and again, and fully commit to the activities and training tools at your convenience.

Unlike simply reading blog posts or newspapers, undertaking formalised CPD courses or webinars online means that you will receive a certificate at the end of your study. You can then present this to your professional body when they request it as evidence that you have been improving your knowledge and skills.

5 Tips for Choosing the Best Online Course For You

· Think about your preferred learning style – if you prefer to be shown or told, favouring lectures and seminars over course work, then a webinar might be the right kind of Online CPD for you. If you would really like to be given activities to put your knowledge into practice, and then be tested to make sure you have really understood everything, then perhaps you should consider some online courses.

· Think about your goals – what do you want to achieve at the end of your studies? Do you want to become proficient in a whole new skill set, or are you interested in gathering information in a more academic sense? Is there something within your role that you think you would like to improve or know more about? When choosing a CPD course, make sure that it will benefit you and your role. You may need to justify or explain this to your professional body, and you also may wish to avoid spending a great deal of time on an activity that serves no personal or professional purpose.

· Ensure you choose a legitimate training provider – there are many different organisations out there that are offering online CPD these days. Make sure to check for quality marks (such as the CPD Certification Service in the UK), and make sure that the creator of the content is a reliable source with a background in the area in which they are offering training.

· Are there any time constraints to be aware of? On occasion, some training courses may ask that you complete them within a certain time frame, and may only give you access to the content for a set time period after you have completed the course. If you are attending a webinar, make sure that you can watch the video again, or download the video once the webinar has finished, so you can always refer back to it if you need to.

· Will you receive a certificate? Online courses and webinars should be certificated so that you have evidence of your study to provide to your professional body. If they do not offer a certificate, you should contact the course or webinar providers to ask if you can receive some form of confirmation of attendance or completion of study.

The National Counselling Society has a variety of Online CPD courses available, designed for health and social care professionals, those working in a public-facing role, or in a supporting role. The courses cover various aspects of incorporating counselling skills and concepts within your day-to-day role. You can find out more about these courses here: https://www.counsellingcpd.org/

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