by Randah McKinnie
I used to be a certification addict. As a young woman teaching MCSE courses in the late 90’s (when NT4 was new and exciting), I believe this was in fact critical to my job. I set aggressive goals to obtain new credentials once a month, and added them like clockwork, studying most days after a full day of teaching, and ‘volunteering’ to administer the systems at the training company where I worked.
Now that I’ve been in training and elearning for over 10 years, I’ve definitely cooled off on the whole certification thing. Who has time for it? What does it matter when I can refer to my years of actual experience? At this point would it really make any difference to what others think of me?
A recent meeting at CompTIA (www.comptia.org) has brought me full circle to my old driven nature to get another certification fix. I was one of a group of virtual classroom training SMEs who met to discuss the differences and similarities between physical classroom and virtual classroom training, and how one can assess the efficacy of an online instructor with as much objectivity as possible. CompTIA offers the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification for physical classroom instructors, and plans to roll out a similar certification for virtual classroom trainers in Q3 of 2008. I attribute my change of heart regarding the attractiveness of mid-career certification to two realizations stemming from this two day meeting.
Trite as it may sound, the first realization is that there is always something new to learn. Participation in conferences, workshops, presentations – anything that provides a forum to have a group of experts and non-experts share experiences – consistently grants me at least one gem of unexpected enlightenment.
The second is that obtaining a new and meaningful certification, even after years of practical experience, could be self-reaffirming, akin to renewing your vows after 25 years of marriage. I plan to take the time to obtain CompTIA’s new CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer certification. I don’t actually do much formal training in my role here as a Sr. Product Manager, but I still consider myself a trainer at the core, and believe that certifying lends additional legitimacy to my claim to be somewhat of an ‘expert’ in this area. And let’s face it; those of us who have performed work focused in one area for a decade or more, especially in the tech field, always have that sneaking suspicion that something out there may have passed us by. Why not take a current certification and refresh your confidence that you are in fact who you say you are right now, and aren’t just coasting on what you did 7 years ago?
Trainers reading this post may have at one time or another become a ‘Certified Technical Trainer’. I obtained the certification years ago to kick off the Microsoft Technical Trainer phase of my career. You can check out CompTIA’s web site for details, but to obtain the current CTT+ certification you have to pass a CBT (computer based test), and then prove you can actually apply that knowledge with a recording of yourself teaching students (no actors or house pets please), and interacting with the class for 20 minutes, in a way that shows you’ve in fact succeeded with the desired transfer of knowledge.
The CTT+ Virtual Classroom Trainer certification is planned to be a similar evaluation, only this time, it will be a recording of your virtual class delivery capabilities. One of the things that really impressed me while working with the group last week was the extent to which we were able to extract the essence of teaching skills from the tools themselves. A valuable part of the certification is that they won’t likely pass a candidate who just ‘knows’ the formula to be a good teacher and also ‘knows’ the features of their online classroom platform. That isn’t enough. If the candidate is not able to apply that knowledge in the demonstration teaching session, then all the features in Connect Pro won’t save them.
Did I just mention Connect Pro? Branded the ‘Tool Snob’ of the group (I’m assuming in the best possible way), I was more than once reminded of this need to separate product capabilities from teaching skills. CompTIA is firm in its assertion that no specific vendor or tool need be used to pass this certification, and I fully support them in that stance, or else the value of the certification would be diluted. What I do have to say, however, is this: if you are using Connect Pro as your Virtual Classroom, I believe it will be easier for you to demonstrate the capabilities of an exceptional trainer than it would be using any other tool, and here’s why I believe this to be true.
The crux of this certification – and of teaching in a Virtual Classroom– is your ability to demonstrate that you can engage your learners and transfer knowledge to the extent required to meet your objectives. Standard stuff. The CTT+ Handbook (available for free off the CompTIA web site http://certification.comptia.org/ctt/prepare.aspx ) describes the specific ‘Domains’ of skill required and how they will be ranked. I’m not going to list them all here for you. If you are interested, take a look at them. But here are a few ways that Connect Pro tools – when applied along with your exceptional abilities as an effective trainer – will help you perform well in your recorded teaching demonstration.
• Connect Pro Training lets you list a Catalog of training offerings, and/or email students to let them know when training is offered, the steps required for them to prepare, and send reminders so they don’t miss your class.
• The Connect Pro Virtual Classroom gives you a wealth of ways to pre-load a variety of content into you room, organize it into layouts, and get yourself ready to be the charismatic teacher that you are.
• By using Presenter presentations and quizzes, polls, breakout sessions, Captivate simulations, whiteboards, chat pods, and more, you can engage all your learners over the course of the training session, and address both auditory and visual cognitive needs, as well as giving hands-on exercises for application training.
• Students are likely to feel comfortable in the Connect Pro virtual classroom quickly, and you can facilitate this by ‘showing them around’ the room, and setting ground rules such as using the ‘Step Out’ setting if they step away, or always responding as directed when a question is asked. This keeps you on top of the level of engagement in the room, and allows you to adapt to the class as you would if you were all working together in a physical classroom.
Those are just a few key examples of how Connect Pro helps you offer an engaging virtual class, all of which will be valuable applications of the virtual classroom whether teaching and recording for your certification exam, or simply teaching as you do every day. I plan to follow up this posting with a whitepaper next month, including more real examples of best practices when teaching in a Connect Pro Virtual Classroom.
I can’t help but be a Tool Snob as I prepare for this new certification offering, because I can’t imagine teaching in a virtual classroom where all I could do was talk to my audience and show them slides. I recommend that you too consider reaffirming your elearning vows with a fresh certification. Engagement is Adobe’s specialty after all.