Evolving education for an evolving profession

2020 was a year that brought life to a halt: professionally, economically, and socially – highlighting not only our collective fortitude but also the importance of connection.

As many can relate, adapting processes amid a worldwide pandemic has been no easy feat. It has required a measured and patient approach, creative application, and an ability to move past the traditional towards the present.


Together, apart is a theme that has governed the conduct of business and the lives of many this past year.

With safety a chief concern, the Institute quickly embraced the shift from in-person meetings to virtual, delivering all education and professional development events online.

A principal example of this is act20, the CIA’s flagship event and annual conference. Deferred from June to November 3–18, 2020, act20 included more than 40 sessions, 110 speakers, 400 attendees, and for members, the risk-free opportunity to connect and learn.

Though COVID-19 remained the topic du jour, the Committee on Continuing Education strived to create and deliver a program varied in content, relevancy, and scope. Expert-led sessions ran the gamut with discussions on IFRS 17 and the role of the actuary, the potential impacts of marijuana and vaping, and more.

“There were challenges putting together a virtual program, from how many sessions to offer in a day to how to maintain the feeling of an annual conference,” says Carol Murphy, Chair of the committee. “There were also challenges to have COVID-19 content balanced with a variety of other topics that were also relevant and pertinent. I think we were able to meet those challenges and provide an interesting, topical program.”

Over the course of three weeks, our well-curated line up of keynotes Alex Benay, Canada’s former CIO, Dan Gardner, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, and Anthony McLean, diversity, leadership, and mental health champion, led audiences through lively presentations on conquering disruption, forecasting for the future, and thinking critically about unconscious bias and microaggressions.

Thanks to the new virtual format, act20 sessions were recorded and made available for post-event streaming on the virtual platform for a limited time, and now available to all members on the website.

“I was blown away by the ability of the CIA to transfer the PEC virtually with such effectiveness. I thought the breakout rooms within Zoom were fantastic and although there was a lot of screen time, the experience surpassed my expectations.”

PEC participant

In helping candidates keep their plans for certification on track, the Institute also made the early decision to offer both the Practice Education Course (PEC) and the Professionalism Workshop online, hosting 157 and 259 participants, respectively, across all offerings.

“I was blown away by the ability of the CIA to transfer the PEC virtually with such effectiveness,” says one PEC-goer. “I thought the breakout rooms within Zoom were fantastic and although there was a lot of screen time, the experience surpassed my expectations.”

As for seminars, the Actuarial Evidence Seminar was the first to be broadcast virtually, kicking off on May 28. Taking the form of a series of webcasts, the seminar hosted by Amelia Burns, FCIA, and special guests, included discussion on industry trends, professional perspectives, and committee updates.


CIA members rely on events and practice-specific seminars to assist with meeting continuing professional development (CPD) requirements, making the restrictions of last year all the more challenging. For this reason, our strategy became one of filling in the gaps rather than waiting for them to close.

As our attention turned to a focus on access, we innovated by creating resources and opportunities for members to earn CPD efficiently and from the safety of their homes.

Recordings of archived meetings and webcasts quickly proved a great way to accomplish this goal. Whether members were looking for topic refreshers or background on current issues, they now had finger-tip access to hours of banked CIA material.

The CIA’s e-learning platform offered another buoy of support. The tool, which went live on January 1, 2020, allows members to complete the mandatory Professionalism Module remotely through a combination of self-study and online resources. With an ever-expanding library of professionalism-oriented case studies to choose from, members were able to test their knowledge of the Rules of Professional Conduct and their application to specific case scenarios.

While we hope to return to in-person meetings one day, virtual has increased our capacity to welcome a broader range of audiences. As more virtual opportunities are added to our events line up, we look forward to keeping our members informed, engaged, and most importantly, connected.


COVID-19 affected universities and their students immensely. Carefully planned semesters shifted online as campuses shut down, dormitories closed, and assessments went digital.

Like many, the CIA’s education partners and accredited universities faced innumerable challenges, working hard to help students complete their academic year under the University Accreditation Program (UAP) standards.

Established in 2012, the CIA’s UAP, comprised of eleven Canadian universities, enables candidates to earn up to, and any of, six Associate-level exam credits (P/1, SRM, FM/2, IFM/3F, LTAM, and STAM) toward ACIA and FCIA qualification through accredited university education, subject to meeting minimum grades established by the CIA.

To date, the CIA has granted close to 1100 exam credits to more than 650 candidates.

From the onset of the pandemic, the Institute took a proactive approach, supporting its accredited universities in developing an adapted framework to ensure smooth continuity and thoroughness of the program. With university exams transitioning online by mid-March, it ushered in a new dimension of considerations that had to be addressed.

Through extensive dialogue, accredited universities kept the CIA up to date on the measures taken to deal with syllabus coverage and concerns around the preservation of academic integrity. Leveraging advanced technology to administer assessments, universities used examination platforms to change or permute questions and administer time-stamped, fixed-scheduled testing.

By September, the threat of a second wave crushed all hopes of a return to normalcy. Un-jilted, universities pressed forward with more elaborate planning for course offerings.

Looking for guidance, accredited universities called on the CIA to help update CIA preferred practices on remote exam administration in the context of accreditation – an abetment that was well received by the Institute’s partners.

Looking ahead, the CIA and its eleven accredited universities will continue to work hand-in-hand to preserve the respected rigour known to the actuarial education and those who study it.

All in all, COVID-19 has forced us to re-examine our approach to learning. Technology and adapting evaluation methods are innovations that have proven highly effective, helping students and practitioners meet the evolving educational requirements of an evolving profession.

This is the second of five articles from Together, Apart: the 2020-2021 CIA Annual Report. Read the first article, A pandemic year to remember, and the next article, Actuaries’ expertise at home and abroad.

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