Cheating on CE – I’m Not Proud About it

(Originally published on 8-15-18.  Nothing has changed!  Save the Date: 8-15-26 when, god willing, you’ll be able to re-read this post)

I consider myself a “reader”. I love education and encourage all forms of training. On a personal level, I am pretty much a straight shooter, not because of some high moral ground, but because, at my core, I am lazy and it’s simply easier. That said, it pains me to admit I cheated in completing my mandatory 36 hour Continuing Education requirement.

I took a popular online course. As you step through screens, after each section of the course, there is an online test. You have to “pass” the test to move on. Users can immediately jump to the test section, fail every answer, but note the correct one. Fail the test twice and it will repeat, so by the 3rd time the test comes around, you know all the answers. This eliminates all that pesky “reading” or need to know stuff.

The state of our industry’s education has me questioning my moral values. Is cheating OK—sometimes? I say that because I am a strong believer in respecting people and their time. When you waste someone else’s time you are showing them the ultimate in disrespect. Much of today’s online CE courses are a huge waste of time. Agents complain about the BS of it, all the time.

You don’t hear much complaining about the time involved for CE. (The number of CE hours just recently increased to 36 hours every license period) But, it’s the content that drives most people mad. For example, my recent course highlighted 14 modules on Tax. Let’s be blunt: if there are people out there relying on their realtor for tax advice, real estate may not be their only issue. Commercial real estate aside, residentially, we shouldn’t encourage our sale agents to be tax conduits of information.

There was a time when realtors needed to be versed in all the financial options of buying a home. I remember the 90s well. But since then, the financial services industry exploded with several companies cumulatively spending billions of dollars advertising and promoting themselves as the “go-to” partner for all things mortgage. Quicken anyone? Yet today’s online CE still has sales agents needing 14 class segments on finance. It’s like learning Metes and Bounds. Why? I think GPS technology, like Mortgage Brokers, are both here to stay. 

Other CE time sinks; square footage calculations and replacement pricing. Clearly CE courses have yet to be updated to accommodate changes in technology. But today, we have an app for that. While it doesn’t hurt to brush up on high-school math, we really don’t want our sales agents calculating square footage.

I had been looking forward to the “Pricing” section of the course. But it quickly went into the weeds with long discourses on replacement cost approaches versus income approaches. Neat information to know, but not relatable or useful to 98% of our agent community. (Note: percentage quoted, pulled from thin air)

Understanding the HUD/CD is important information for an agent to know. My course had 24 course sections on it. But, this is another area where the consumer is looking elsewhere for their information. The realtor isn’t the leader in this information loop anymore. Ask any 10 realtors to explain, line by line, a Disclosure Statement. I would bet a majority couldn’t. But, that isn’t bad thing as long as they can point to an easy source who can. 

I really like the idea of requiring on-going education as a part of maintaining a real estate license. But, ask any thousand agents if they thought their CE was a useful educational experience. My guess—not many would say yes. Think it’s just the online version of CE that is the problem? The last “live” CE class I took was more a; “sit and play with your phone while someone drones on”, kind of experience. 

There is so much room for improvement when it comes to realtor training. But how do you begin? Who are the Lords over CE? Are they watching? Do they care? Will realtors ten years from now still be forced to calculate taxes paid on a closing statement? My guess—probably!

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