Industry Education and Technology

None of the 2019 educational conferences sponsored by the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) included any presentations about technology issues. This omission appears more the rule than the exception for recent NSSTA educational conferences.

By comparison, the 2019 Annual Conference of the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) featured a presentation titled “Secure File Sharing and Secure Email.” In addition, SSP has offered its members monthly webinars featuring leading settlement planners presenting sample case studies.

This final article in Independent Life’s 10-part series evaluating whether NSSTA needs to re-think and re-design its educational programming and educational marketing to strategically position structured settlement annuities as the core product within personal injury settlement planning, therefore asks “whether and how should NSSTA (and SSP) educate its members about technology issues?

There are certainly arguments against NSSTA providing its members with education about technology issues. For example, some members might suggest this topic is too company-specific or that it falls outside the scope of NSSTA’s educational Mission or that it is just too broad a topic to effectively address within NSSTA’s limited educational time parameters.

All of these arguments, plus any others perhaps opposing not only education about technology issues but also technology-based education, should be carefully considered – but also, in this author’s opinion, rejected.

Internet technology has already transformed how NSSTA members, like almost everyone else, communicates, works and interacts socially. What is surprising has been the limited impact and/or interaction to date of Internet technology and NSSTA education.

By comparison, consider the well-established impact of online learning and collaboration in other contexts such as massive open online courses, online communities of practice and online social networks. This author began writing about the benefits of online knowledge management for structured settlement professionals in 2004.

Suggestions

Assuming NSSTA decides to begin integrating Internet technology and Internet technology issues into its educational curriculum, where and how should NSSTA begin? Here are four suggestions.

Suggestion 1: Acknowledge that technologies and technology tools will continually change and improve and that technology skill sets of individual NSSTA members are substantially different – especially at the outset of any educational initiative.

Suggestion 2: Survey NSSTA member companies and a few selected professional associations to identify their current technology tools, skill sets, applications and educational programs/priorities.

Suggestion 3: With this survey input, identify preliminary structured settlement (and/or settlement planning) information technology technical standards and develop a course and/or series of information technology courses that become part of a re-designed CSSC / MSSC program with continuing education requirements.

Suggestion 4: In developing this information technology curriculum, establish a NSSTA technology competency baseline and course syllabus that takes into consideration: 1) transitions in the market (including member age and evolving technology); 2) specific structured settlement / settlement planning professional skill sets; and 3) industry standards and best practices.

College Freshmen Course Syllabus

To help generate further thinking and discussion, what follows are selected portions of a recently updated syllabus for an Introductory Technology Course for College Freshmen at one of Cincinnati’s local universities. This is NOT a proposed syllabus for NSSTA or SSP. Its purpose is to demonstrate what one university believes a college freshman should know about information technology in 2020.

Fundamentals of IT – Partial Course Syllabus for College Freshmen

Course Description - This course is an introduction to the field of Information Technology including technology concepts, terminology, hardware components and software applications. Students will be introduced to, and asked to apply, basic skills in the core areas of information technology such as programming, database management, networking, systems administration, web development and the basic research, problem-solving and decision-making skills required to be successful in this field. The course emphasizes the role of technical communication, project management, languages, tools, models and application architectures within the IT development process.

Learning Outcomes - Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Describe the history of information technology and its associated disciplines.
  2. Identify and explain the specialty areas and basic concepts of Information Technology.
  3. Explain the information technology profession and available career paths.
  4. Apply introductory skills and concepts related to: productivity applications, information management, digital media, web technologies, programming, networking, and systems administration.
  5. Demonstrate college level communication, coordination, and collaboration skills.

Course Topics

  1. What is Information Technology?
  2. Selecting the Best Tech for Your Computing Needs
  3. How the Internet Works
  4. Transmitting Information Over the Web
  5. Application Software and Software Selection
  6. Understanding System Software
  7. Software Programming
  8. Understanding Hardware and System Storage
  9. Databases
  10. Networking Basics
  11. Networking Connections
  12. Cybersecurity Basics
  13. Mobile Computing

Concluding Questions

  • Should NSSTA (and/or SSP) be educating its members about technology issues – and, if yes, what issues and how?
  • What elements, if any, of the preceding “Partial Course Syllabus” for College Freshmen would be relevant to a NSSTA (or SSP) technology education curriculum?
  • If asked, what would you recommend as: 1) a Course Description; 2) Learning Outcomes; 3) and Course Topics; for a NSSTA (or SSP) technology educational course or course series to improve your professional success?