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Certificate Programs - Some Clarifications

At a recent meeting I ran into several of you who thanked me for this blog and commented on how informative and helpful it has been...and politely reminded me it's been quite a while since I've posted!  Thanks for the much needed nudge; I'll try to return to more regular postings.

I've been hearing a lot misinformation about certificate programs so I'll use this post to hopefully clear up a couple of things.

First, at the November ICE (formerly NOCA) conference, I heard several consultants / speakers indicate that certificate programs are a good option for organizations to implement when 1) the target market is too small to support a full scale certification program, or when 2) the organization doesn't have the resources to develop certification.  I respectfully and emphatically disagree.  These are both inappropriate reasons for an organization to develop a certificate program.  A certificate program is not a back-up option for certification.  The decision as to which credentialing program to develop should be based upon what the program is intended to accomplish, not the size of the market or resources of the organization.  The appropriate reason to develop a certificate program is that your target audience has a knowledge or skill gap that can be addressed through an outcomes-based training program.  Certification programs do not address knowledge or skill gaps; on the contrary, they recognize those who demonstrate they already have the knowledge and skills within the scope of certification.

Second, I continue to hear people mistakenly believing that ICE collaborated with the American National Standards Institute (ANS)I to develop the ICE assessment-based certificate standard.  ICE solely developed this standard.  I do understand why many are confused.  The ICE standard bears the label "ANSI/ICE 1100..." but it's important to understand that the labeling does not imply any collaboration or endorsement of the content of the standard.  There are thousands of standards that bear the ANSI prefix; when it is applied to a standard that means that the standard developer (in this case, ICE) followed the minimum procedures required by ANSI to have the standard designated as an American National Standard.  It is not an indication of collaboration or endorsement of the standard.

Regarding certificate programs, the ASTM E2659-09 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs is also an American National Standard.  ASTM chooses to not use the ANSI prefix since most of its standards, while used in the U.S., are also used globally.

ANSI's Accreditation Division extensively reviewed both the ICE standard for assessment-based certificates and the ASTM certificate program standard and selected the ASTM standard for use in its accreditation system.  More information on that decision and selection process can be found here.

This past summer ANSI began a pilot test of its certificate program accreditation.  Applications were due in August, and ANSI assessors reviewed the applications and supporting documentation and then conducted site visits this fall and winter.  The ANSI Accreditation Committee recently met, and this week ANSI will announce its first class of accredited certificate programs.  I'll post more about that as soon as the announcements are made.


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