The ultimate goal for online learning is to modernize real estate education without sacrificing quality.

Key takeaways:

• Proponents of online learning believe it modernizes real estate training and increases access to students who have families or full-time jobs.

• Tighter regulations aim to ensure online vendors offer high-caliber programs.

• The ultimate goal is to modernize real estate education without sacrificing quality.

The controversy that surrounded the 2016 passage of a law in Ohio allowing online real estate training brought up what online training opponents have long argued is the reason to keep training in the classroom. Online training, they said, diminishes the quality of pre-licensing and continuing education.

But proponents, which include state REALTOR® associations, said that’s not the case. Online training, they argue, modernizes real estate training and increases access to students who might have full-time jobs or families.

In most U.S. states — 44 at last count — online education is allowed for pre-license and/or continuing education training. That was the case in Ohio, which despite opposition, overwhelmingly passed House Bill 532 into law in early 2016. All states allow either all or a portion of continuing education to be taught online. For pre-license education, 37 states allow online education.

Included in the states that do not allow pre-licensing online training in real estate are Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey, and South Carolina.

Dana Taulli, Mbition’s director of compliance for real estate, said most states embrace online real estate training, allowing it for pre-licensing and continuing education. There are states, like Arizona, which do not allow online education for pre-license training but do for continuing education. Then, some states, like Texas, which allow online education, are looking to tighten rules to make online education more stringent and compliant.

Click here to access Mbition’s continuing education in real estate and appraisal courses by state.

Tighter regulations becoming the norm

The problem regulators have with online education is that they don’t want it to be the easier option, resulting in students who are ill-prepared for their licensing exams. If there’s an in-class 60-hour pre-license course, regulators want online students to match that with a 60-hour online format. Regulators also want to make sure that real estate students are doing more than reading or reviewing text, but also interacting with instructors and fellow students, according to Taulli.

For example, Texas has made several changes to help ensure online education quality. The state started requiring online vendors to include an exam or quiz bank after each course lesson. To help ensure that the students who sign up for courses are the same ones who take the exams, vendors have had to implement a student identification verification process. And to discourage the use of correspondence courses, which simply require that students read a text and take an online test, Texas requires online real estate training to have a certain amount of interaction between students and faculty, according to Taulli.

“States like Texas have made online training so stringent that online providers have had to go back and overhaul their systems, adding more quiz exams, adding scenario-based learning to their courses, etc.  Overall, this will make a better educational experience for the students,” Taulli said.

The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, which approves online training platforms in most U.S. states, reworked its educational standards last year to make online education vendors more accountable, implementing standards similar to those in Texas, according to Taulli.

What to look for in a quality online learning experience

Taulli said choosing the right online training course can make all the difference in your getting a quality education. Whether it’s for prelicensing training or continuing education, students should:

  • Ensure that the courses are state approved. Where applicable, make sure that the courses are ARELLO-approved (for those states that require ARELLO approval).
  • Find out how much instructor interaction exists. The idea is that if you’re taking an online course, you’re pretty much self-sufficient, but you will have questions and need to be able to reach the instructor.
  • Look for programs that offer exam preparation manuals or classes, as well as additional learning materials. This will give you more bang for your real-estate-training buck, according to Taulli.

“Mbition and other vendors have to submit justification for timing of our courses. For example, if I submitted a 60-hour pre-licensing course for regulatory approval, I would have to get timed studies done by experts to review and testify that this course is 60 hours of education,” Taulli said.

ARELLO aims to get away from courses in which students simply review a booklet, take an exam, and then sit for a state real estate licensing exam. Something had to be done because, as a result of these low-quality and unregulated online and correspondence options, state licensing pass rates were going down, according to Taulli.

So, the goal is to modernize real estate education without losing the quality of education.

“If you take away online, you’re actually going backward,” Taulli said. “But I agree that there have to be standards for quality education that help all students pass state exams.”