Continuing education keeps design pros sharp
THE WORLD OF INTERIOR DESIGN stretches far beyond the aesthetics of a well-appointed room. There is so much for the architect and design (A&D) community to stay on top of, from new flooring and lighting technologies to safety and other regulatory issues.
A&D professionals have an added incentive to the ongoing pursuit of continuing education, too — maintaining credentials to practise in their respective jurisdictions. Every year, architects, interior designers and interior decorators must accumulate CEUs (continuing education units) to remain active in their professions.
Administering CEUs for Canadian and U.S. interior designers is the Toronto, Ont.-based Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC). According to Brynell D’Mello, IDCEC executive director, the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) was recently joined by the Decorators & Designers Association of Canada (DDA) — both based in Toronto — under the council’s umbrella.
IDCEC-approved CEUs presented by an authorized provider must be non-commercial in nature. The providers are often manufacturers that make their presentations in a showroom of a retail outlet, or at trade shows and conferences, as well as online. The presentations must be scrutinized by an IDCEC expert panel before approval — there can be some back-and-forth before this happens, according to D’Mello. Once approved and a fee is paid, a registered IDCEC course from a provider has to be resubmitted every two years to ensure content still meets the council’s guidelines.
Typically, a CEU is one hour in length and can be acquired at a “lunch and learn,” says Darrin Kostka, Canadian regional manager, Godfrey Hirst Carpets, of Markham, Ont. Kostka has been presenting CEUs on woolen carpets for many years to the A&D community. “We’re not there to talk about Godfrey Hirst,” he says. “It has to be just the generic wool fibre educational course presentation.”
Lana McIver, vice chair and chair of education, DDA Canada, as well as president of Nanaimo, B.C.-based Interior Design Group, explains “having continuing education courses that have been pre-approved by IDCEC was a way to streamline our certification policies. So, in late 2015 we mandated within our association that every member would have to take a minimum of continuing education units over one year.”
All renewing accredited members of the DDA were required to provide to IDCEC a transcript showing their continuing education units. “This equals five hours of time per year where each member would continue to learn, evolve with the industry,” says McIver.
IDCEC has a menu of courses broken down into various categories and interests that DDA and IDC members can choose from to continue their professional development. “There is a really broad spectrum,” says McIver, “and it basically comes down to health, safety and welfare courses, or it could be just an area of interest. It could also be new products that are out there for roofing or exterior products — flooring is a big thing.
“This is why we at DDA have done multi-CEU days, where as the education chair I am always looking for providers that are recognized by IDCEC and have a course or program that they could present.” The format of a multi-CEU day often involves three or four presenters live on premises, in conjunction with a national webcast to members.
The DDA presented in this format last October from Cambria’s Toronto showroom, with presenters from Benjamin Moore, Lutron and Cambria. “There were 35 in the showroom and 55 joined the webcast,” says McIver. “Everybody that joined into the event, whether it was by webcast or live, received three CEUs. “Everybody who attends this wants to walk away with at least one or two things they have learned to make it feel worthwhile. A sales pitch just makes people’s eyes glaze over.”
D’Mello acknowledges that more and more CEUs are available online but feels there are limitations to that approach. “A lot of interior designers are creative people, so they like to touch and feel the product and experience what the product brings. We still have a majority of in-class courses because the manufacturers and the dealers actually like the face-to-face contact.”
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is not affiliated with IDCEC, but architects in Canada are required to acquire similar continuing education credits. Don Ardiel, director, Practise/Support director, Syllabus, RAIC in Ottawa, Ont., says that webcasts and other web-delivered curriculum can suffer from a lack of engagement by participants. “To have a high quality online learning experience for one hour can take up to 30 hours of preparation by the provider.”
Ariel encourages providers to do their homework, incorporate video and PowerPoint presentations for a better non-linear interactive experience that mimics face-to-face engagement. He also suggests providers connect with professional educational designers to maximize the user experience.
The quality of the learning experience is everything, according to Kostka. “I’d been doing presentations for 14 years at wine and cheese parties that the dealers would put on, trying to access the interior designer or decorator,” he says. “They have really never worked.” Then his company was approached by a U.K.- based global organization called The Campaign for Wool that includes Prince Charles as patron.
Kostka says that the curriculum provided by the organization — that he now provides across Canada — has been a revelation for dealers, too. “Dealers who have been doing this for 30 years and consider themselves authorities on wool fibre.”
He believes his presentations for CEU credits should be engaging for the audience by being interactive. “I open the floor up as I’m doing the presentation,” says Kostka. “There is video, and I entertain questions and provide answers during my course just to engage people.”
McIver and DDA Canada are keen to get more providers on board to teach its members, including at trade shows and conferences throughout North America. “From my side of things on the education committee, we are looking for providers who would be at a show.”
Ardiel notes that architects’ continuing education schedule runs in two-year cycles in most provinces. “The education is divided into structured learning and non-structured learning,” says Ardiel. “Structured learning is that learning which is offered by one of the provincial regulators or the RAIC or another organization that has established a structured educational program. Typically, that program involves the publication of the learning outcome and numbers of hours that will be granted in this. An organization can offer structured learning provided they meet the criteria of the province in which the architect is registered.”
Depending on the province, in a typical two-year cycle, an architect might expect around 40 hours for structured learning and 30 hours for unstructured learning, with one hour the equivalent of one credit. “People are able to carry forward credits from one cycle to the next,” says Ardiel.
Unstructured learning is much broader than structured learning for RAIC members. “If somebody were to teach, read a book or go on a tour, something the individual believes they have derived a learning benefit from — they can then claim that as an unstructured continued education credit. However, they do have to have some form of document as they could be audited.”
A trip to see a cathedral would be unstructured continuing education, according to Ardiel, as long you had personally documented what you did. “There are limits,” he says. “You just can’t sit down and read books for the entire time.”
Unlike with the IDCEC, the education provider for architects in Canada does not actually have to formally become recognized by one of the provincial regulators. “What is required is that the architect submit their continuing education credits to the regulators through the regulator’s database or through the combined database of the RAIC,” says Ardiel.
To find education providers, Ardiel recommends going to provincial association websites. For example, the Ontario Association of Architects website has a continuing education page for education providers, he notes. “It lists all the requirements in order for a vendor or manufacturer to consider offering continuing education in the structured mode. There is no charge.
“A number of years ago if somebody wanted to offer education they had to pay many thousands of dollars to the provincial regulator in order to be allowed to deliver continuing education to architects. That’s no longer the case.”
Just like interior designers and decorators, “architects as a rule tend to be very sensitive to commercial bias,” says Ardiel.
“The best way to put that is market forces. I know if they heard that somebody was offering an education session and it was going to consist of advertising, they probably just wouldn’t show up.”