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Evolving Certification During COVID-19

Terra Belanger is MM’s Certification Manager who has been working on transitioning certification and education programs online during the pandemic, as well as planning new digital offerings. Terra was interviewed by our Communications Team on her experience of working through certification successes and challenges during COVID-19.

How has MM approached certification programs of clients during COVID-19? Managing Matters works with a number of different certification programs that vary in requirements and processes. We had to pivot fairly quickly while maintaining the integrity of the programs we manage, which can be challenging when shifting from in-person to digital. The first step we took was to educate ourselves and conduct more research on best practices, namely through resources and webinars provided by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) and other organizations. There is a lot out there right now around exam integrity and accessibility as more associations are going virtual.

We also conducted a significant amount research on platforms and technology that could work for our clients’ programs. Every program is unique and has different objectives which we have kept in mind while working directly alongside our Certification volunteers. We realized quite quickly that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach and that a solution for one client may not necessarily work for another.

What has been the biggest challenge with certification programs during COVID-19? I believe the biggest challenge was for programs that have a face-to-face element, as well as credentialing programs that are based on a particular skill set that cannot be assessed with an exam alone. These programs were required to quickly adapt to the demand of going online/remote; however the complexity of changing the process to a virtual environment took a lot of research, education and communication. We worked together with our clients to set realistic implementation times.

How has technology played a part and evolved with the pandemic? It was clear that there was a lot of learning to do, in particular with the technology and platforms involved. There was a need for greater assessor training as new technology was being introduced. This also applied to the candidates as well. In order for the association to be able to set candidates up for success, they now had to consider if the candidate had the technical knowledge or ability to partake in the virtual assessments. This resulted in an update of the participant materials that are provided prior to the assessments.

Have you had to address accessibility issues with certification during this time? I have not come across any accessibility issues as of yet. In fact, now that the majority of programs are online, it is making it easier for international certification programs to be able to offer credentialing in regions that have previously faced challenges. In particular, candidates in low income areas no longer have to incur the additional expense associated with face-to-face assessments such as travel and accommodation fees.

What should certification programs consider before going virtual? The key is that the value of the credential must remain the same. Organizations should pilot the virtual program to ensure that the new process is in alignment with the stated purpose of the credential, while ensuring validity, reliability, and fairness of the examination.

Do you see the virtual certification model lasting beyond COVID-19?

Absolutely! The virtual certification model is here to stay. COVID-19 just pushed the industry to make the switch faster. The key to having a successful certification program is to be able to deliver a quality program that is in line with the ever-evolving industry trends.


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