The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is set to introduce a new online mandatory continuing education program that it says will provide significant benefits to registrants.
The courses will be administered and delivered directly from RECO, a move that has riled the province’s third-party education providers.
Set to start August 1, the new program represents a complete overhaul of the current system in terms of content, structure, price and how courses are delivered. The new course material has been limited to focus strictly on consumer protection, regulatory matters and current industry issues. These courses will be delivered in an online format only.
The entire continuing education program, which will be phased in over a two-year period, will cost registrants a mere $44 for the whole two-year cycle. RECO says this low fee is based on the fact that it is delivering the entire program online and that it is a not-for-profit organization working strictly on a cost-recovery basis.
This marks a significant departure from the current system where approved third-party education providers offer courses in several real estate, business and technology related subjects, and deliver these courses not only online, but also through correspondence and in a classroom setting.
RECO president and CEO Tom Wright says the revamp was necessary, noting the retiring program first came into effect in January 2000 and that there have been a lot of industry changes and developments since then. He also says that the needs and expectations of the registrants have also changed.
“The information coming back to RECO indicated that registrants wanted two things in particular,” says Wright. “They wanted their courses to be more focussed in terms of what they were required to learn and they wanted the delivery of the required courses to be more convenient for them.”
Wright says that by narrowing the course content to consumer protection, regulatory matters and current industry issues, it brings the material more in line with its role as a regulator.
But why did RECO opt to pull the entire mandatory continuing education program in-house and choose to deliver it only online? Wright says it all came down to consistency, control and what works best.
“We (RECO) wanted to have the ability to make changes to the course content in a speedy way so that the material is always current,” says Wright, adding that it’s much easier to control these changes when less people are involved. “And, there have been a lot of advances in online education over the last few years and we feel this method will provide a better learning experience for adults.”
Wright says pulling the mandatory course delivery in-house isn’t meant to push third-party education providers out of the market, but rather separate mandatory regulatory education from what he calls personal development learning.
But at least some third-party educators don’t agree.
“I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop for a long time and it comes as no surprise to me,” says Gabrielle Jeans, president and CEO of e2000 Training Institute, a third-party online education provider. “There was a period where they were trying to find the demographics of our classes. I would ask myself ‘Why do they need to know that?’ To me, it was just collecting data to see how much money was being handed over.”
Jeans says she supports mandatory education on acts and legislation – in fact considers it essential – but that there are other areas of learning like teaching agents how to ethically survive in the real estate industry that are just as important.
“RECO separates the two and I don’t agree,” says Jeans. “I don’t think Ontario consumers are going to be better protected and served by this.”
Callum James, president of education provider CE Network, agrees. “RECO has chosen a model that disenfranchises long-standing and respected organizations whose contribution to Canadian real estate education has been extensive and crushes any potential or motivation for innovation,” says James. “It is a disappointing announcement for Ontario registrants who are accustomed to choice and seek to specialize.”
Don Kottick, president of Right At Home Realty in Toronto, says he feels strongly the continuing education changes are “terrible” on several fronts. For example, Kottick wonders what will happen to the educators and boards who depend on the continuing education revenue. He also questions how eliminating other training delivery methods like classroom education can be a smart move since doing so wipes out any face-to-face interaction and the sharing of real life experience.
Kottick says this move is contrary to RECO’s mandate of protecting Ontario consumers.
“There are people in this industry who need to be forced to improve their professionalism,” says Kottick. “A lot (of registrants) will take courses on their own but there are also a lot who won’t. That’s going to bring the rest of us down. I think the only people who are really applauding this are the people who want to save money.”
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) released a statement supporting RECO’s changes, saying: “OREA’s members appreciate RECO’s new online program for its province-wide consistency, accessibility and affordability.”
OREA president Ron Abraham says, “These changes provide OREA and real estate boards with an opportunity to offer members the education they want and need, on the learning platform of their choice, in addition to courses required to fulfill regulatory requirements.”
RECO’s move appears to follow a similar path taken by the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) nearly six years ago. Since October 2007, RECA has limited its Re-Licensing Education Program (REP) to regulatory and consumer protection issues only.
Kirk Bacon, deputy executive director of the RECA, says that RECA is extremely pleased with the results of their professional development policy. He refers to the voluntary survey that industry members are asked to complete at the end of each REP course, noting that this year 97.3 per cent of those who completed the voluntary survey indicated a positive response to the question, “The course content increased my awareness of industry issues and will be helpful in my real estate practice.”
Bacon says, “When industry members have a better understanding of legislation, compliance and regulatory issues, consumers are better protected. In addition, RECA is very supportive of industry associations and boards’ initiatives in the area of professional development of its members.”