This week I received an e-mail from the Virginia Real Estate Board that, among other things, advised the schools that the requirement for CE and PLE instructors have changed. This is a good start, but we must do better…
Up to this point, schools submitted their classes to VREB for credit and included an instructor’s name and bio. There wasn’t much more required than a loose idea that the instructor could teach the topic. The new requirements state that the instructor must have three years experience in their area of instruction, letters of reference, etc… I am a fan of high quality instruction, but I am not sure that we’re attacking the issue of practitioner competency from the correct angle. I fully agree that it starts with the instructor. Not everyone who is teaching is effective. These requirements, although a bit cumbersome, will help.
There are other changes going on this year as well. Two significant changes are coming up as of July 1, 2008. The first is that licensed Brokers (Associate, Supervising and Principals) will be required to earn eight additional hours, on top of the limited services two hour requirements and the 16 hours of Continued Education. It’s obviously a good move to require those who carry the title of broker to get that higher level of training that most consumers perceive the broker as having. I’ve been surprised at the number of Associate Brokers who have balked at this requirement. I don’t even know what to say about that, other than the fact that it’s necessary and it’s only one extra day out of the 730 that you have between license renewals.
The other significant change is that VAR and VREB worked together to have legislation passed to require agents licensed after July 1, 2008 to obtain 30 hours of Post Licensing credit in the first 12 months of licensing. The theory, as I understand it, is that there are obvious failings in the pre-license program, as the 60 hour requirement does not typically carry information about the practical practice of real estate. There is so much theory and principle that things such as drafting a contract, short sales and marketing simply don’t find their way into the training.
I fully support the idea that the 30 hours should be “everything that we should have learned in pre-licensing and did not” but I think we’re going to see the nature of unintended consequences. Having sat as an association staffer now for the past few months and getting many daily phone calls from agents who find the relicensing program complicated, I have found that many (most) are taking the path of least resistance and simply taking an all inclusive on-line program. Many of these agents are very honest that the 30 hours can be gotten in 10 hours and they can do it while watching television.
Online Education Isn’t Cutting It
I’ve ventured through some of these online programs, and they can be done in far less time, than the “learner” is given credit for. At some point I have to ask: “Why do we even bother requiring CE or PL hours?” Almost all adult learning studies I’ve reviewed show that online learners have a much lower retention rate than those who learn in a classroom. The relicensing process for many is too complicated and frustrating to keep track of and they feel that there is no other option but these online classes. To compel the issue even further, most schools only have a limited number of these classes approved and don’t offer them often enough.
Learners have to take 30 hours, with 15 of them being in mandatory topics and the other 15 in a variety of electives. No one can get credit for taking any one class more than once. So, if I take “Short Sales” and get my three hours, but feel I need to take it again, I will not get an additional three hours, unless I take that topic through a different school.
How To Gauge The Retention
However, even aside all these issues, my real concern is that we never establish a mechanism by which to gauge the retention of the student. How do we know that the student really learned anything? What’s the point of requiring the student to meet certain criteria, if we’re not evaluating the student to see if they retained the information? I know that by suggesting that written evaluations be implemented I will become the least favorite person here, but really, how can we otherwise gauge our effectiveness? If the student is required to pass a written evaluation, then the instructor will be sure to deliver that material better and the learner will pay more attention.
Here are my suggestions:
First, we should consider requiring all mandatory PLE and CE classes be in a classroom setting, with a written evaluation. (Otherwise, what’s to stop an agent from reading a romance novel or comic book for the three hours I am supposed to be taking ethics?)
Second, electives can be taken in a classroom or online, but if they are taken online than it should require some mechanism to ensure that the learner is interacting at intervals that equal the clock time of the program. So, maybe you have to have mouse or keyboard activity every five minutes for the three hours, or you have to start all over. The technology is out there. All online training should require written evaluations at the end of the course.
Third, licensing and relicensing should be more relevant to the discipline of the practitioner. I am curious to see if anyone else thinks that Commercial, Residential and Property Management should have different licenses, with separate pre-licensing and separate post licensing requirements. There are a lot of different litigious pitfalls involved with these various types of practice and it seems that most all of pre-licensing and post licensing programs are directed to residential.
There are folks smarter than I am looking at the issues and overhauling as we go, but I just don’t feel our current structure is as effective as it can be. I am sure that there are some solid objections to these concerns, but if we’re all interested in improving the competency of agents than we need to find a better way to proceed in the future.