Performance-Based Certification Program

The #1 Obstacle to the Success of Your Performance-Based Certification Program

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It was 2AM. After another late night call with a frustrated exam taker in APAC, Jim rubbed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. 

Jim was really worried about the future of his company’s performance-based certification program. Everything seemed to be unravelling at once after a great initial launch in North America. 

As Jim and his small team began to expand the program to Europe and Asia, so too did the support issues related to the delivery of their exams. Network latency, software defects, misconfigured exam environments, challenges with remote proctoring, and a host of other issues were putting an enormous strain on his team. They were up at all hours of the night dealing with unhappy users, which affected their ability to create new exams and market the program. 

The stakes were personally high for Jim too. He had advocated for transitioning the company’s certification program to performance-based exams in order to make the exams more meaningful. He was also the one who decided to build the exam delivery platform in-house.

As the night wore on, Jim began to wonder if the time had come to find a partner to help him deliver and support his performance-based exams. He also wondered if such a company even existed.

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Scale Your Performance-Based Certification Program

How to Scale Your Performance-Based Certification Program

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Subject: Refund Request.

The words practically jumped off Janet’s monitor.

Since launching her organization’s performance-based certification (PBC) program, the certification manager had received more unhappy emails than she cared to admit. The irony? 

The complaints weren’t because there was anything wrong with the program itself. Janet, and her lean team of two coworkers, spent 16 months developing a quality PBC program

In fact, the team went over budget after outsourcing a UX professional, devops engineer and cyber security engineer to leave no stone unturned. Unfortunately, Janet was now dealing with a problem she had never anticipated: Growing pains. 

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Performance-Based Certification Platforms: Is DIY Really More Affordable?

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Since the dawn of the Pinterest era, DIY has become ubiquitous with crafters building home decor on weekends.

Unfortunately, most certification managers don’t exactly associate the term with the same level of enthusiasm. And that is because they are often building new exams out of necessity, not love.

Creating a performance-based certification platform in-house involves several moving parts, such as exam design, platform programming, latency testing and more.

SMBs that can only devote one to three team members are the most likely to experience setbacks due to trial and error. Budgetary constraints, unfamiliar technical specifications and poor contractor communication are often additional cause for frustration.

Most of the certification managers we meet at conferences wish they could hire someone to manage and execute PBC for them. However, they assume that doing so would be out of budget.

They are surprised when we tell them that often isn’t true. Their jaw drops even more when they learn they may actually be overspending on contractors who don’t fully deliver!

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How to Design Performance-Based Exam Questions

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Learn how to design performance-based exam questions and get your team and SMEs ready.

Transitioning from multiple choice question (MCQ) to performance-based certification (PBC) isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Tech leaders who have already made the switch —  Google, SUSE and Chef — are enjoying benefits like trustworthy channel-partner relationships, greater brand recognition and increased sales opportunities.

If you’re not a huge company, with an unlimited budget, one of your biggest challenges will be navigating the exam design process with minimal errors. Obviously, no small or medium-sized business wants to waste time, energy and resources on designing a mediocre certification exam.

The good news? Learning how to design performance-based exam questions is relatively straightforward. That’s because the process of creating PBC questions is surprisingly similar to that of MCQ.

However, there are some key differences certification managers should familiarize themselves with before getting started. In this article, we’ll outline what those things are and why they matter.

We’ll also discuss why mentally preparing subject matter experts (SMEs) early-on is vital to growing a successful certification program. Let’s get started:

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Great test design depends on a shared understanding of competence.

Competence: It’s All About Context!

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Great test design for performance-based exams depends on a shared understanding of competence.

Competence is doing meaningful work to standard under normal conditions. Agreeing on what is normal is where the hang up is. Normal assumes agreement on the uniformity and diversity of both work tasks and the workplace environment. People with the same job title may or may not do the same tasks even in the same company. They certainly do not share the same workplace environment if they work in different locations or for different bosses.

Rob Foshay, Ph.D. et.al, in their research on emerging best practices in the private sector discusses the rising interest in performance-based tests to measure competence. Part of that interest is fueled by the evidence that performance-based tests have higher fidelity (they more fully reflect the workplace environment) and; therefore, can demonstrate greater external integrity (passing correlates with something important to the organization). For example, is there a correlation between the number of people who pass the test and those who do well on the job, stay in the job longer, or have fewer cost overruns or missed deadlines?

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Get ready for performance-based certification

Get Ready for Performance-Based Certification: 5 Team Training Tips

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What a waste of time…  

If you’ve ever uttered the phrase after attending an employee training program, you’re not alone. Despite U.S. companies continually spending more money on training, 75 percent of respondents surveyed by McKinsey & Co. indicated such efforts did not improve employee performance.

The primary culprit? Marathon learning sessions that overload team members with information that is never revisited.

“Decades of research on knowledge retention has proven that fire-hose training events deliver astonishingly bad results,” says Forbes contributor Stephen J. Meyer. “The human brain simply wasn’t designed to learn this way.”

Obviously, software and platform certification managers aren’t designing typical employee training programs. However, they are responsible for educating team members on how these certifications fit into “the bigger picture.”

If you’re in the process of transitioning to performance-based certification (PBC), it’s imperative that you approach team member training with the same level of care as the exam development process. Your program’s ultimate success will directly correlate with how much key stakeholders understand its value.

Organizational leadership, team members and channel partners alike should feel comfortable articulating why PBC enhances the capabilities of platform users, how it works from a technological standpoint and how the exam benefits everyone involved.

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Multiple Choice Question Exams

Why PBA Is Better Than Multiple Choice Question Exams for Software and Platform Certification

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How knowledgeable are you when it comes to MCQ exams?

Would you win a round at trivia night, answering the following?

True or false:

  • The longest answer on an exam is usually the correct one.
  • Exam answers hardly ever repeat consecutively.
  • The answers “none of the above” and “all of the above” are correct responses on multiple choice question exams 52% of the time.

If you answered “true” for all of the above, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for being a big nerd! Regardless of your score, read on to learn why performance-based assessment excels where MCQ fails.

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Dispelling the Myths About Performance-Based Assessment

Dispelling the Myths About Performance-Based Assessment

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Expensive. Complicated. Time-consuming.

These are some common misconceptions held by software and platform companies considering Performance-Based Assessment (PBA).

What has motivated companies like Google, Elastic and Chef to make the switch in recent years, despite these misconceptions?

Instead of presenting candidates with only multiple-choice questions — that don’t accurately measure true ability — these organizations can now test users and channel-partners in real world environments that emulate actual project scenarios.

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