A standard 40 hours of training annually was once considered sufficient for maintaining internal auditors' professional skills and knowledge. Today, 40 hours is not nearly enough to keep pace with ever increasing stakeholder expectations and the host of emerging risks organizations confront. For these reasons, internal auditors face continual pressure to supplement their training with continuous learning and development. But with budget cuts and time constraints, it can be difficult to make the case for an increase in training resources when, historically, 40 hours per year was the norm.
So what is a dynamic and enthusiastic internal auditor to do with minimal or nonexistent resources and a significant desire to learn? Three no-cost options, while not a substitute for professional, more robust training, can help practitioners hone their skills and supplement formal instruction.
Individual Learning and Development
What? Canvas Network — an assemblage of courses from universities and colleges worldwide.
For Whom? The professional seeking coursework in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Business Ethics for the Real World (from Santa Clara University) to Foundations of Evidence-based Practice in Healthcare (from The Ohio State University).
Commitment? Canvas suggests two to three hours per week, per course. A course can last approximately 10 weeks.
Format? Online; some courses are self-paced, while others are offered in a specified semester.
Benefits? With a multitude of offerings, Canvas provides opportunities to explore new industries (e.g., pharmaceuticals, aviation) and gain technical expertise (e.g., collaborative knowledge services).
Having personally completed a Canvas course (Exploring the Student Affairs in Higher Education Profession, from Colorado State University), I can attest to the course's interesting and high-quality instruction, which consisted of weekly modules comprising lectures, reading, and videos.
What? Discussion Group
For Whom? The professional seeking thoughtful conversation about instructional media — such as Ted Talks, podcasts, and books — with internal audit colleagues who seek a more informal learning environment.
Commitment? Preferably, meetings should be held once per month — more often if participants are interested and available. A few hours of preparation would be required before meeting for participants to read, watch, or listen to materials.
Format? Preferably in person, although discussions could occur online if participants are interested and available.
Benefits? A discussion group can be designed exactly to participants' needs and interests. For those interested in a book club, internal audit (think the IIA Bookstore), career development, or business books could be the topic of discussion. For those who enjoy learning via speeches, a selection of Ted Talks could spark conversation; or industry podcasts may be a better option — especially for participants with lengthy commutes.
Rotating Technology Instruction
What? Training Team — a collaborative team consisting of participants who train each other on topics of interest, particularly well-suited for technology training. Teaching and learning technology can be more effective when it is both hands-on and interactive; a training team accomplishes both as it encompasses live instruction and encourages ongoing dialogue about technology. Unlike other topics, technology is constantly evolving — training teams are designed to help keep pace with these changes and promote strengths among those teaching and learning.
For Whom? The professional seeking brief yet personalized instruction with internal audit colleagues about emerging and current technologies.
Commitment? Preferably, meetings should be held once per month — more often if participants are interested and available. For those offering instruction during the meetings, preparation could take upward of eight to 10 hours.
Format? Preferably in-person, although demonstrations could occur online if participants are interested and available.
Benefits? A training team can be designed exactly to participants' needs and interests. Group members can compile a list of technologies, programs, and systems that they would like to learn about or teach (e.g., Instagram, Google Analytics tools, and programming in R). They would then agree on who will teach each topic and set up a learning schedule. For those who enjoy technology, or recognize that their skill level could be improved, this format offers a flexible and unique way to share an interest or passion, as well as gain new ideas and information.
These three learning platforms offer a variety of ways to keep pace with the speed of internal audit and the risks organizations face, supplementing more traditional, equally important internal audit learning methods such as conferences and seminars. Many more such resources are available online and via in-person collaboration with peers. The IIA, for example, offers free webinars to IIA members on a regular basis and opportunities to collaborate face-to-face through local chapters and institutes.
How a practitioner chooses to proceed depends on his or her goals (e.g., focusing on technical skills, improving public speaking) and schedule. By prioritizing continuous learning; setting a realistic, individualized, and intentional plan; and executing that plan, every internal audit professional can grow, develop, and even have fun along the lifelong learning journey.