Microsoft Achieves ANSI 17024 Accreditation

Microsoft recently received accreditation for conformance to the international standard ISO/IEC 17024 General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons by the American National Standards Institute for two of its IT certification programs.  The blog world is buzzing with the news since these are the first product-specific IT certifications accredited to the international standard and ANSI.  Lots of individual IT bloggers responded on their own blogs and the buzz is positive, with agreement that the third-party "stamp of approval" is a really good thing for both Microsoft and the individuals certified.

See the Microsoft blog announcement here.

New Resources Available

I can't believe it's been over a month since I've last posted to Beyond Certification.  Busy, busy, busy am I.  Besides focusing on my fabulous clients, I've been working on several writing projects:

Published an article, "Certification Done Right" in the October Associations Now magazine.

Wrote an article, "Making Sense of Credentials" for the Association Forum magazine (coming out soon). 

Updated and expanded my Considering Certification? Your Guide to Making the Decision book.

Finally finished my Certification Simplified: A Primer for Staff and Volunteer Leaders of Personnel Certification.  I'm very excited about the launch of this book which is intended to be an orientation / reference guide that organizations can provide to new certification board members and staff.  And I apologize to those of you who have patiently waited since it is a year overdue its target release!  My clients are keeping me super busy, which is a great thing, but I miss my writing time!

Working every spare moment with a colleague to finish the ISO/IEC 17024 Compliance Handbook: Guidance and Templates for Personnel Certifying Bodies so that it can be available in November.

More information on these books can be found here.

Article on Test Item Analysis

Here's a really good article for organizations needing or wanting to ensure the quality of their tests.  It describes how to calculate item difficulty and item discrimination in Excel and SPSS (and explains what the results mean).   While most certification programs outsource measurement functions to testing agencies, organizations offering certificate programs and post-tests of training courses would benefit from using these basic quantitative measures to examine the quality of their tests.

Social Media for Professional Development Survey

Jeff Cobb ( is updating the free eBook Learning 2.0 for Associations 

to discuss new technologies and to offer new and different examples of the ways in which associations are using social media (blogs, wikis, social networks, Twitter, etc.) as part of their professional development activities.

To support the revised version of the eBook (which will remain free), he has launched a very brief survey to gather more information about how association professional development programs are using social media - not just for e-learning, but in all aspects of the education they deliver.

The survey should take no more than a few minutes to fill out, and survey participants will receive a copy of the results.  To participate, follow the link below and complete by Tuesday, July 21.

Respond even if you are not using any social media since part of the purpose is to get an idea of how many organizations are actually using social media as part of their professional development activities.

Certificate Program or Certification?

I spent last week in DC training ANSI Certificate Accreditation Program assessors and accreditation committee members on application of the ASTM E2659-09 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs.   After that 2 1/2 day intensive training, we then conducted a 3 hour training webconference for the organizations that have been accepted into the pilot being conducted this summer.  It was an exhausting but exhilarating week!  The talent convened to implement this program is incredible (a press release will be issued soon outlining the individuals and organizations involved). 

We had so many rich discussions that I can't possibly summarize them all here, but I will try to highlight some of the more important points.  A critical element (in fact the foundation of the training) was in ensuring everyone was clear on the distinction between certification programs and certificate programs.  The American National Standard, of course, provides the needed clarification.  Here's the table I often use to show the distinctions:


So, one of the key distinctions is that in certification, you may verify education/training received elsewhere (as an eligibility requirement), but you are not providing required training; you are assessing current knowledge and/or skill.  In a certificate program, in contrast, you ARE providing the required training/education and then assessing for attainment of the intended learning outcomes of that training/education.  So, the focus of certification is on the verifying past education and experiences and assessing current knowledge and skill.  In certificate programs, the focus is on providing the needed learning and evaluating attainment of it.

Also important, unlike certification (and more like a degree program), a certificate program does not have ongoing requirements and therefore cannot be revoked.  Once you receive a certificate, it's yours forever; there are no continuing education or re-examination requirements to maintain it.  However, certificate issuers should assign a term of validity to the certificates in order to inform stakeholders of the currency and relevancy of any given certificate.   (Note, that if it is determined that the content of the certificate is unchanging, then the term may be indefinite.)  Consider, as an example the American Heart Association CPR certificate which has a term of validity of 2 years.  There are no ongoing requirements to "maintain" the certificate, and it is never officially revoked.  But if you want or need a valid certificate,  you need to successfully accomplish the training/assessment again.

I'll cover designations more thoroughly another time, but the key point here is that both certification and certificate programs can issue designations and associated acronyms.  It is important, however, that certificate issuers that confer them do not state or imply the individuals are certified or licensed.  Programs that make this implication will not be in conformance with the standard/accreditation requirements.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about the certificate program standard.

Communicating the Value of Learning in Difficult Economic Times

ASTD has a free downloadable whitepaper on communicating the value of learning in difficult economic times.  It's written primarily from the perspective of corporate training; however, there are enough nuggets for the association educator to make it worthwhile to download and read the 24 pages.

On a similar note, join the ASAE & The Center's Professional Development Section to discuss "Providing Superior Programs in a Cruddy Economy" on Wednesday, June 3, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern. This is a free, peer-to-peer learning discussion.  Advance registration is not needed; I'll post the call-in information when it is made available.

Good Reads for Association Educators

If you're like me, all too often the industry magazines gets pushed aside in a "to read later" pile that you sometimes never return to.  Well, don't let that happen to this month's Association Now which is full of good advice for association educators.  Here's a rundown:

  • Conference admission: $ (Pay what you can) page 14

  • E-learning expectations page 16

  • A conference for the members by the members page 17

  • Interactive vs. lecture-style learning page 20

  • The Right Connection page 23

This was the magazine's first "crowd-source issue" -- meaning that readers picked the story ideas --and it was just brilliant.  You can access the articles here.

Cobb on "Decision Not to Attend"

Colleague and friend Jeff Cobb hits the nail on the head with his recent blogpost describing how he recently decided NOT to attend a conference, not based on the cost, but on its value (or lack thereof). He ultimately determined he could find the equivalent content online (and often free through blogs, etc.) and that he was already connected with most of the individuals he would likely see at the conference.  Wow, if you're a conference planner, that's some scary stuff since the primary drivers to conferences are the opportunities to learn and connect. Even when content started being put online, it used to be often said that conferences were unique in their networking opportunity.  But that really isn't true anymore, is it?  I've made hundreds of contacts in the past year through social media sites (and I'm not talking about a simple "follow" or "friending" -- I've made serious connections and lasting friendships with colleagues online). 

In fact, there are several colleagues who I used to see annually at conferences that I now connect with continuously online (via blogs, Facebook, Twitter primarily).  Whereas I wouldn't have dared miss the industry conference previously because I'd be missing my once annual opportunity to connect with these colleagues, now that's not a necessity.  Will I start skipping the conferences?  In the case of ASAE & The Center's, for now I'd have to say a big NO because there still is plenty of value (and fun) in it for me!  But I am starting to second guess some of the other conferences I've been attending.  Like Jeff, I'm thinking the $1200 (for registration and travel) can be better spent elsewhere.

Jeff makes another great point and caution to be heeded:

"...organizations worried about a drop in conference attendance because of the current economic climate need to look deeper. Cuts in travel budgets will, of course, lead to declines in attendance at face-to-face events, but anyone who expects attendance to come bouncing happily back once the economy improves may be sorely disappointed."

The fact is, association conferences often have lots of competition in content and networking....and it sure seems that competition is going to get tougher as e-learning and social networking opportunities expand. The current economy certainly isn't helping conference revenue, but we can't forget that there are bigger, longer-term issues to contend with too. 

However, there is good news.  There are great opportunities for associations in e-learning and social networking.  And, if I were a conference planner, I'd be thinking about how to capitalize on what's happening online.  Case in point, ASAE & The Center has done a fabulous job of attracting the social media savvy (and want-to-bes) to their conferences.  They've offered social media labs for the novices (which also gets the experienced there to serve as faculty and mentors).  They've held sessions to bring together and highlight the association bloggers.  They incorporated tweeting into the events - which as it turns out, has had multiple benefit:  1) it embraces those already connected through Twitter, 2) it enables those who've only met virtually to connect in real life (IRL), 3) it strengthens the community onsite, and 4) it provides a way for those not attending the event to still learn (albeit in 140 character tidbits).  This, by the way, serves as marketing.  Case in point, I've been following the tweets from the ASAE & The Center's Membership and Marketing Sympsium and I have to say I've been intrigued by the conversations / highlights from the sessions.  This may just influence my decision to attend next year.

Lots to ponder.  More questions than answers, I guess.  If this issue isn't on your radar, it needs to be!

ANSI Press Release

The official ANSI press release regarding the selection of the ASTM International Standard Practice for Certificate Programs has been posted to its website.

As the technical lead on the ASTM standard, I've been asked to lead the training of the ANSI Certificate Accreditation Program (ANSI-CAP) Accreditation Committee and assessors, which of course I enthusiastically agreed to.  This is such an exciting and needed program, and I very much look forward to helping ANSI in its implementation.