What I'm Reading...

There's a good article in the NYT called Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits that addresses, some myths about learning and what the research actually shows.  A good quick read for both association educators and parents of kids in school!

Then, if that piques your interest read Evidence-Based Training Methods:  A Guide for Training Professionals (Ruth Colvin Clark).  It's available through ASTD and Amazon.  It's been on my shelf for a few months and I finally made the time to read it last week, and I'm glad I did.  This should be required reading for all educators/trainers!  First, it addresses some common learning myths like the use of learning styles.  Then, it covers current education/training research and how to apply it in education/training.

Handling Retired Certificants

Retired certificants aren't usually considered in policy-making...at least until a huge portion of the pool is about to retire.  Organizations logically fear the financial implications of losing a large portion of certificants.  That's understandable, but not a good enough reason to jump on the certification retired classification bandwagon.  There are many issues here that need to be considered.

First and foremost, organizations should have a policy covering use of the designation and associated acronym, and if an individual lets a certification lapse, he or she should no longer use the credential.  That includes retirees.   If the certification lapses, you no longer have it.  Period.  Organizations should have procedures for how to communicate this to individuals whose certifications lapse and to those who continue to use the credential despite being told otherwise. 

Holding your certification / credential should mean something ...and if you have some individuals who are meeting ongoing competency requirements and others aren't, but they all hold the same credential, then the meaning is mixed.  Some try to address this by having active and retired categories of certification, which is good in theory, but falls apart if they let all certificants use the same exact credential and no one other than the retiree and the certifying organization knows which category of certificant they are.

If your certification focus is on public protection, then you want to do your best to ensure your certificants are competent. Telling some certificants they don't need to do anything to improve or demonstrate competency anymore while still holding up the same designation as others isn't consistent with the public protection focus. If all use the same designation and/or associated acronym there is no way for consumers to know which are required.  So, if you have decided you want a retired category, at minimum, clearly distinguish it with a different designation/acronyn - because it is a different credential.

Also, many of the retired classes of certification I've seen are based on age alone. But we all know that not everyone retires at 65.  How do you know if they are practicing or not?  One way to handle this if you have a retired class is requiring a signature attestation that the individuals are, in fact, retired from the role that you are certifying.

Crane Operator Certifications must be Accredited per OSHA

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has been recognized as an approved accreditor of crane operator certification programs by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor. Under the new OSHA rule to address the safety of cranes and derricks used in construction, all crane operator certification bodies must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting entity. According to statistics issued by the Department of Labor, approximately 267,000 construction, crane rental, and crane certification establishments employing about 4.8 million workers will be affected.  More information here.

Credentialing Trademark Search

If you are in the process of developing a new credentialing program, one thing you'll want to do when considering a designation and associated acronym for the certificants or certificate holders is to conduct a a trademark search.  In case you don't know where to start, here's the link to conduct the search.

Many associations have their legal counsel conduct an official search for them, which is great, but it's still a good idea to do your own search so you can rule out some obviously "taken" choices early on.

Certification Prep Course

A frequently asked question in certification circles is:  Who may not author or contribute to preparatory courses and exam study materials, or lead study groups related to the certification? 

The only individuals prevented from contributing in this way are those who have been directly involved with certification test question writing – which sometimes includes certification board (CB) members.   Item writers and CB members should sign agreements with the CB stating that they will not be involved in any activities which serve or could be interpreted to serve as preparatory for the certification exam for an established period of time extending beyond their related volunteer term (often 2-3 years).

An important distinction for CB members communicating with candidates is that they are free to talk about the process of certification and the content in general ways, but they should not be specifically training/preparing individuals to be successful on the certification exam.    For example, they can certainly present at conferences and teach college courses; however, they should not lead courses that are promoted as preparatory for the certification exams.

ANSI Personnel Certification Accreditation Cited in Department of Defense Directive

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has been named the sole approved accreditor of certification bodies by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for its Information Assurance (IA) Workforce Improvement Program.

ANSI’s designation as the accreditor for the program is stated in revisions to a manual issued under the authority of DoD Directive 8570.1, Information Assurance Training, Certification, and Workforce Management. Originally published in 2004 and revised in April 2010, the manual provides guidance and procedures for the training, certification, and management of the DoD workforce conducting IA functions in assigned duty positions.

According to the manual, IA personnel must receive and maintain certification for the highest level functions that they perform related to data management, use, processing, storage, and transmission. Bodies issuing this certification must be accredited to the International Standard ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024, General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. The new revisions to the manual state that ANSI is the sole approved accreditor for these certification bodies.

More information here.

Can Certificates be Required?

I received a question yesterday about the ASTM E2659 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs and thought others might benefit from hearing the answer.

The question was related to the clause: (1) The certificate issuer shall not state or in any way imply that certificate holders are certified, licensed, accredited, or registered to engage in a specific occupation or profession.

The question asked if it was a violation of if if the certificate is required to practice a certain aspect of a profession?  The answer is no.  This clause prevents a certificate issuer from making misleading and confusing claims about the type of credential granted.  The certificate issuer should state that a certificate is issued for the attainment of a training program's intended learning.  They should not state the certificate holder is certified or licensed (or anything other than that a certificate was issued) since those credentials are not the outcome of a certificate program.  However, if attainment of a certificate is required by some entity for individuals to act in a certain role, that is a different issue and is fine.  An certificate issuer can state what what the role of the certificate is since these are truthful and not misleading statements.

As real life examples, two of organizations that recently had their certificate programs accredited by ANSI operate under this scenario. FDA’s “New Hire Investigator Training Certificate” is required to become an FDA Investigator and the US Army’s “CP 12 Safety Professional Certificate” is required to become a Safety Officer in the US Army.

Learning Trends & Certification on Facebook

Just left the www.trainingindustry.com webinar by Elliott Masie and thought I'd share a few takeaways.

Two of the disruptive trends (disruptive meaning that they are changing the way we do things) he discussed were 1) use of video for learning and 2) social learning.

Regarding the use of video, Elliott described seeing explosive use of short video stories from learner peers, SMEs or customers to set the stage or provide the context for learning. He's finding that many organizations are accepting the use of self-shot videos (using Flips, etc.) but a key word here is short.  The videos are not the full course - they just set the stage or contribute to key points.  Guess I need to dust off the Flip.  Only use it has gotten lately is catching Matthew's slick dance moves or Megan's freethrows.

Regarding social learning, he reminded us that there is very solid research on the value of social/collaborative learning that dates far back (in other words, while the tools may be new, the concept is not).  He encouraged us to build social learning into our training/education programs as part of the course design.  In response to a question he also mentioned that bulletin boards are one of the least effective tools he's seen for collaborative learning.  Amen to that.  I've been seeing a lot of inactive bulletin boards / electronic lists in the certification and overall association communities.  He says you're lucky if 10% of those on the board/list are active. 

But, I ask, what can we do to have more active virtual conversations?  Just yesterday a certification colleague presented a question to me and we discussed it but also then said how nice it would be to be able to get substantive feedback on the question from many.  We even lamented that the currently available certification discussion lists might generate one or two comments, but not a conversation. Recently I've had some good discussions (via comments on posts) on Facebook and I do check in there frequently.  For me it's not out of sight, out of mind like many of the other community sites are for me.  Here's an experiment.  I've set up a FB group called Certification Connection.  If you're on Facebook, search by the name and join!  Let's see if we can get some conversations going there.  For those of us who use FB often, it'll work great I think.  If you don't frequent FB then I don't think it'll work any better for you than any of the other communities, although like others you will get e-mails of the items posted by others and could click in.   Let's give it a try.  I don't want to add to the clutter of communities already out there - so if our experiment fails, we'll shut it down, but let's give it a try! 

And lastly, here's a nice resource list on social learning.

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.