Jan 9, 2023 4 min read

How to Decide Between Self-Study and Live CPE Options

While both self-study and live CPE courses are offered online, each has unique features that may suit you better at certain times of the year.

How to Decide Between Self-Study and Live CPE Options

Your success as a tax professional requires numerous hours of continuing professional education but it’s not always easy to find time to take courses. However, those hours of qualifying credits are essential to your business.

While both self-study and live CPE courses are offered online, each one has unique features that may suit you better at certain times of the year. Because both types are online courses, they are designed so you can complete the requirements wherever you are. You can take the class at home, in your office, or even on a trip.

Each year, many tax professionals like you make decisions about whether self-study vs. live CPE courses are better for them.

What is Self-Study CPE?

Self-study CPE provides CPE courses that can be accessed and navigated at your own leisure and in your own time. This allows you to set your own goals and focus your time on the sections and principles that are most applicable to you. Canopy offers a wide variety of  free self-study CPE courses.

Pros and Cons of Self-Study CPE Options

Don’t underestimate the quality of today’s self-study CPE courses. Not only are they readily available online, but they are also often better suited to the self-disciplined tax professional who wants to tackle CPE any time of the day or night. Check out a few of the pros and cons of taking online self-study CPE courses:


    • Flexible schedule. There’s no webinar time to tune into with a self-study program. Whether it’s early in the morning, late at night, or on a weekend, you’ll be able to participate when you want for as long as you want.
    • Self-paced. Taking online classes allows you to go through the material at your own pace. You can spread out the material over time or speed up to finish more quickly. It meshes perfectly with any schedule.
    • Hard copies. If you are the type of person who likes to highlight, underline and scribble notes, many self-study programs are available to order as hard copy.


    • Requires self-discipline. It can be a real challenge to motivate yourself to get through the coursework when so many other things demand your attention.
    • Self-imposed schedule. Self-study courses are often set up so that you only need to finish them within a certain amount of time. For example, the NASBA standard allows up to a full year to finish from date of purchase. This could leave you scrambling if you put it off too long.

Pros and Cons of Live CPE Options

Live CPE courses are generally done via a webcast or webinar. Participants log in at the appropriate time from their location to participate. Also, live CPE courses generally require some kind of formal interaction to ensure actual attendance and that you are paying attention. Here are some of the pros and cons of enrolling in live CPE courses:


    • Interactive. Many live CPE courses in webinar format require some interaction from you before, during and after. This may be in the form of questionnaires, surveys, polls, and quizzes. Your participation shows that you are present and listening.
    • Structured. For many, having a set time and day to log into a live CPE course means you will get it done and keep moving forward with the class until you finish. There’s no putting off certification with a live course that requires your attendance to finish.
    • Most current information. With a live webinar instructor, they can discuss and teach about the latest tax information. Other methods may take a little longer to produce, so the information isn't always the most current.
    • Multiple learning styles. If the webinar presenter is dynamic and personable, they may be able to keep your attention for hours. Also, they usually incorporate graphics, video, and more. When it comes to retaining information, a live CPE webinar may help you stay focused.


    • Limited flexibility. Participants in live CPE courses must complete their coursework within the timeframe allowed by the class. If you have to miss a scheduled webinar for any reason, you’ll miss the information and you won’t get credit. Additionally, if you are not present for a full 50 minutes of a 60 minute presentation, you won’t get credit.
    • Questionable quality. A great live CPE course will educate you, but a lousy webinar will make you want your money back. Differences in presenters and problems with technology (such as dead air or graphics issues) can detract from learning and waste your time.

Both self-study and live CPE courses can be beneficial to tax professionals who are trying to get their annual CPE credits. Take the time to carefully choose the right method of learning that best suits your current needs.  

Want to earn free CPE or CE credits? Check out our free course library here. 
CPE Course Library

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