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Certification Exams: Alternatives to Training Curricula
Think back to the times when you have learned most effectively. Was it when you listened to a particularly stirring lecture? Was it when you read a well-structured book with excellent diagrams? Was it a great e-learning widget that suddenly made a complex
There are certain characteristics of a business problem and target audience that make a certification program a viable alternative to a traditional training curriculum. These characteristics apply to most adults, making it easy to use this approach in many cases. Some of these characteristics are:
- The topic is mission-critical for the organization or the health of the public, or employees or corporate liability are at risk.
- The topic is considered important enough to impose the psychological pressure on the target audience that comes with the term “certification exam.” For example, safety or regulatory compliance needs may make it worth the stress you will impose.
- The target audience is capable of independent self-study or group study.
- The target audience is emotionally able to handle being tested and judged.
- The topic lends itself to independent self-study or group study, not necessarily led by a facilitator.
- All members of the target audience must meet minimum performance standards to be considered competent.
- Proficiency in the topic can be measured in some way (written questions, oral boards, simulation, demonstrating proficiency in front of an evaluator, etc.).
- There is a consequence for either passing the exam (i.e., a carrot) or failing to pass the exam (i.e., a stick).
If all these characteristics are met, a certification program may be an appropriate alternative to a traditional curriculum.
In some special cases, such as software vendors, a certification program may also be used as a method to draw students to your training classes, keep up with your competition or give your product prestige. For example, we worked with one e-business software vendor to develop a certification program to be used in conjunction with its training classes. Certification followed tracks similar to the classes offered. Gaining certification was advantageous to learners in that it could help them land a great job with a company producing cutting-edge software. For the e-business software vendor, offering a certification program was a way to add prestige to the company’s products.
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