March 26, 2020 by David Gambrill
COVID-19 has shifted the Insurance Institute of Canada’s April exam session into the first three weeks of June, a move that affects students taking winter semester courses in the Institute’s Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP), General Insurance Essentials (GIE) and Risk Management programs.
Winter semester students who were originally scheduled to write exams in April will now be taking their exams during a three-week window in June. No action is required by the students, the Insurance Institute told Canadian Underwriter in an email. The Institute, the educational arm of the Canadian property and casualty insurance industry, will contact the affected students to schedule their new exam times in June.
“Obviously the health and well-being of students and members, volunteers, and staff continue to be of prime importance of the Institute during these challenging times,” Insurance Institute president and CEO Peter Hohman told Canadian Underwriter, explaining the move. “We believe that [scheduling new exam times] any earlier than June would likely have been subject to being postponed again, given the progress of the virus.”
Hohman said the Institute was “keenly aware” that its students in March were focused on preparing to work from home and practicing social distancing. That said, many still wanted to continue their studies despite the societal upheaval.
“It may be that they are registered in their last course and looking to graduate,” as Hohman explained. “Or they might have work requirements to meet. Or they basically want to move on to their next course.” Whatever the reason, Hohman said, “to make this as student- and instructor-friendly as possible, we’re prepared to adapt in ways that allow our students to safely – and I underscore safely – continue their studies.”
To help students complete their studies in a world of social distancing and self-isolation, the Institute is moving into the world of digital learning, at least for the time being, until COVID-19 runs its course.
“We’re basically going entirely online,” Hohman said. “Fortunately, we’ve been working in the digital format for many, many years. For our students who were in a face-to-face classroom environment this past semester, it was relatively easy for us to pivot and move these students into a virtual format for the last couple of weeks for their semester. We are glad we have been able to respond for the industry in that way.”
The Institute’s Risk Management, Commercial Insurance, and Advanced CIP programs are already available entirely online, so the spring semester will begin as scheduled, with classes starting mid-April.
For the CIP designation program, in addition to regular spring classes beginning in mid-April, the Institute will also offer an accelerated spring/summer virtual semester beginning on June 22 and running until July 31, with exams being held between Aug. 4-24. All spring/summer CIP courses will be offered in virtual or independent study format only.
Hohman noted there will be a significant gap between the original exam April date and the new June exam timeframe. The Institute is therefore making digital resources available to help students keep their knowledge current while they wait for their new June exam date.
“We are putting together complementary web-based sessions to help students keep their knowledge current during this time,” Hohman said. “These include things like study skill sessions, as well as sessions by each CIP course. Also, each student has access to individual online tutorials, and this is outlined at the end of chapters in the course textbooks, so if students would like to stay engaged, we are putting tools in place for them to do so, to help them prepare for June exams.”
In addition, course instructors have been given the discretion to grade assignments using alternative formats that don’t rely on proctored exams during a time of social distancing.
In Ontario, public schools were first closed for two weeks after March break, starting Mar. 26. But the government has recently indicated that the scheduled return date on Apr. 6 was not realistic, given the rise of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. As of the time of this writing, no formal public announcement has been made about when classes may return.
In light of the uncertainty about how long social distancing measures will be in place, Canadian Underwriter asked Hohman what would happen if June comes along and COVID-19 is still around. Hohman reassured that the Winter session students would see finality and certainty, assuming social distancing measures were still in place by then.
“All of our students, I know, are going to want to wrap up this particular [Winter semester] course [they are taking] and either graduate or move onto another course or job requirement,” said Hohman. “We are working to put in place a plan that will allow students to finish within that [three-week June exam] timeframe and not have to keep pushing it out. We know our students are looking for finality and certainty on that, and we will have resources in place for that. As we get closer to the June date, we will be making announcements on that, if required.”
In addition, Hohman observed, in-person exams currently scheduled for June “may not be possible,” depending on how the pandemic is playing out at the time. “We are working on alternate solutions that will allow students to complete their courses during the June three-week exam window regardless of whether or not in-person exams are possible,” he said.
Hohman also reported that the Institute is working with industry regulators to come up with a virtual solution for licensing exams, which are currently suspended until further notice.
“A number of brokers are looking to bring on people to help them work with customers over the phone, and I know a number of direct writers are also looking for a solution in that regard,” said Hohman. “We are working with the regulators to come up with a solution that responds to general requirements and also the needs of the industry.”