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Paperless papers

Waikato Management School has offered some of its qualifications online for several years, including the postgraduate diplomas in personal financial planning and not-for-profit management.

Friday, April 7th 2006, 6:56AM
The Bank of New Zealand and Westpac have put some of their staff through the financial planning qualification. Offered through the Centre for Corporate and Executive Education, it’s ideal for people who are working and can’t make regular daytime classes. Also it suits people in rural areas who don’t want to travel and those who have family commitments that prevent them leaving home to attend university.

Each of the eight papers in the Waikato Management School’s programme covers the CFP required material structured into small segments. Participants have regular items of assessment to complete leading up to a test worth 25% of the final grade for each paper. This structure helps busy people manage and balance the CFP tertiary education workload over a two-year period.

Each paper includes at least two days of compulsory in-class workshop sessions where key concepts and methods are presented. These sessions are supplemented by regular electronic chat sessions with the paper presenter.

Associate Professor Stuart Locke has been teaching personal financial planning online for five years. “The BNZ was astute, anticipating changes in the regulatory environment and seeing the need for its staff to be prepared,” says Locke. “Their needs got us investigating how we could best deliver, and the eight-paper qualification evolved.”

The diploma meets the educational requirements for the professional association, the Financial Planners and Insurance Association (FPIA), and its content is suitable for people in the financial planning, insurance and mortgage businesses. “We have a suite of certificates and diplomas in property finance, personal financial planning and risk management designed for the industry,” says Locke.

Over the years the financial planning qualification has undergone continuous refinement as technology advances.

Locke says at first there were problems with down times but now the co-operation between teaching and technical staff is such that things almost always run smoothly.

“I think our demands have pushed and pushed the system and because we want our external delivery to be efficient we’ve improved our internal efficiencies. We have increased our technical capabilities and robustness. E-marking and online plagiarism checking came out of us trying to meet the needs of this programme.”

Locke calls the modules paperless papers. All outlines, learning objectives, assignments, assessments, exercises and resources are online. Assignments are submitted online and there’s a 48-hour turnaround for assessment. Participants come online for e-chats at 8am, before their working day is in full swing.

For Locke it means he can still teach whether he’s in Hamilton or Hamburg, Morrinsville or Montreal. And the students can participate from anywhere too. There are some face-to-face components, says Locke, but they’re flexible and fit in with client needs. “Westpac, for instance, wants its staff to complete the qualification in a shorter time than BNZ so we’ve adapted the programme to do that.”

Johnny Cochrane is director, private banking at the Bank of New Zealand. Alongside his degrees in commerce and law he has a diploma in personal financial planning. Through that, he’s become an advocate for on-the-job learning.

“I was already working at the bank – providing investment advice to customers – when I decided to study for the diploma. It was so much easier to learn, combining the ‘real work’ situation and education at the same time.

“You don’t always make the connection between situations and problem solving when you’re at university, but this was all relevant, a much more productive way of learning, though probably more demanding,” he said.

“For many students computers are toys,” says Stuart Locke, “and they’ve been playing all manner of games on them for years. So using a computer for learning is no big deal.

There’s a link between games, knowledge acquisition and development, and now with things such as web-cam and broadband, I think more and more learning will be done online.”

For more information email exceed@waikato.ac.nz> or Click on the banner at the top of the page.
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