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Badges, Certification, MOOC's -Oh My! Follow the Training Path

Following a Path, watercolor rendition

Emerging professionals, don’t wait; take charge of your own career learning paths now!

What’s typical of the A/E and design profession is you likely began with a BA or MA in your chosen field of study. The majority of design professionals will not add additional formal academic training to their resumes after graduation. Most interns and newly minted architects, engineers and designers hope and expect that they will start with a firm and participate in their in-house training activities. Currently, the typical training path starts with a lot of web surfing. “Structured learning” will likely be a mixture of in-house lunch sessions, on-the job training, webinars, and maybe some association conferences. Some lucky emerging professionals will connect with a mentor willing to assist them in designing a career learning path. In time, a few may be selected to participate in a specialized workshop or seminar. A small percentage of young professionals are even sponsored to receive specialized certification.

Unfortunately, results rarely match expectations. A major obstacle that is working against finding that perfect training firm is tradition. In the A/E design field only a few firms have well organized, structured learning opportunities, academies or universities. A/E firms were progressing well in developing their training centers until the Great Recession forced staff reductions. Among the first staff to be released and benefits to be cut back - anyone or anything that was not billable. Training in the A/E industry falls under that category. The industry has been slow to recover. A second obstacle to overcome is trust. That is, trust among some firm leaders about training staff and then losing them to their competition.

Would you erect a building without a foundation? Why expect that your professional education development would be any different? Consider the following:
* Few companies provide a “what you need to learn” outline for you. During your annual job performance appraisal you may be lucky enough to have a manager who is willing to take the necessary time to work with you to outline a one or two year training plan.
* If at all possible, find two, three or more trusted leaders or mentors that will advise you on the development of a career learning path. If you were making a life altering medical decision wouldn't you seek a second or third opinion?
* For established awareness, practitioner and mastery content do not overlook your professional associations. Some associations such as AIA and ACEC provide recommended curriculum that you can use as a guideline. (See my related professional curriculum blogs: Personal & Association).

Distinguish yourself at your convenience by earning:
BADGES has emerged as a recognized way to document your achievements in professional development. They can support and enhance your career portfolio and may help illuminate a learning path.
CERTIFICATION is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Industry examples include ASQ, CSI, LEED, and PMI.
MOOC (Massive open online course) There is a growing list of free college and university course available. For various fees, some of the courses provide digital badges, certificates, and/or college credit. These can be a great opportunity for when it applies to your professional interest or job. These college courses do require work. The completion rate is around 5-10%, being highest in the business sector.

Learning Objectives Simplified: Check out the New Bloom’s Taxonomy Tool

Candle Flame

The tool is simple, easy to understand, and easy to use. If you are the course designer, a trainer, an instructor, or the firm's Learning and Development Coordinator, Manager, Director or the CLO - this tool will make your professional life a little easier. If only this tool had been available during the past 30 years.

I would like to thank the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the University of Iowa for posting on their website the Model of Learning Objectives. This model was created by: Rex Heer, Iowa State University.

Sharing this tool with my professional peers who are working in the A/E/C design industry, this is probably the best gift I can offer for the New Year. Try it for yourself; I think you will like it.

Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

If you have trouble accessing the interactive Flash-based model the content is available in a text-only table.

Continuing Professional Education Audit Options for Associations

Certificates: A growing trend

There is a variety of approaches to providing continuing professional education quality assurance (QA) or compliance audits of association’s members. Regardless of whether the intend is to meet internal association education requirements, state mandatory continuing education (MCE) licenses related requirements, or continuing education requirements to maintain a specific skill certification. Below I will outline three approaches to conducting such audits or reviews from the auditing organizations perspective.
1. Professional Member Solely Responsible

The simplest approach for an association is to place full responsibly of compliance on the individual member. The member is responsible for everything relate to compliance. The member’s responsibilities would start from taking and completing the appropriate coursework and obtaining proof of passing the course requirements successfully at an acceptable level and in a timely manner. The responsibility of maintaining accurate records and reporting results to meet related requirements also becomes the full responsibility of the individual. Like taxes, there is generally a compliance time period that all records need to be maintained.

In this model the association only requests documentation from the individual member under extreme situations. Examples may include, but not be limited to a complaint or charge of fraud or incompetence by a client or customer. Another example, the individual member might be charged with a related legal violation or a professional ethics violation. Request of the individuals related continuing professional education documentation may be a required part of their defense. In this model a special review panel should be appointed to review and verify the documentation.

2. Blended Responsibility Model
Another approach would still require that the member be responsible for maintaining all continuing professional education documentation related to their meeting the association’s and/or certification requirements.
This model requires commitment and dedicated resources on the part of the association as they take a more systematic approach. This model requires that a small percentage of the members be audited on a regular pre-determined basis (5 - 20%). The association needs to commit at least a part-time dedicated reviewer that will be responsible to review and verify the documentation. A special audit/review task group should be appointed to establish guidelines and a review process policy. They should also act as a final decision making body for all disputed audits outside of a legal system. The established review process needs to be published and made available to all participants.

3. Association Commitment Model

An extensive association commitment approach should include a blended approach to records maintenance. While the responsibly of compliance falls on the member, course content and delivery should be a role that the association is at least involved with supporting and monitoring. The record keeping in this model becomes a shared approach.

Through an automated system it would be possible to offer a full menu of services. This could includes a selection of courses from pre-approved course content providers or listed options of alternate externally approved methods of obtaining the appropriate skills and knowledge. An automated records system can be monitored by the association. Records for members would include appropriate completed coursework that is maintained and monitored during the compliance time period. This approach also allows the association to provide and ongoing audit and review process towards a 100% compliance rate.

Similar to the Blended Responsibility Model an audit/review standing committee should be appointed to establish guidelines and a review process policy. They should also act as a final decision making body for all disputed audits outside of a legal system.

Depending upon the size of the association and the number of members involved, this model would require full time staff dedicated as reviewers responsible to review and verify the documentation. And depending upon the commitment of using an automated system, the service could be either in-house or contracted out. Appropriate staff to support either effort would be required.

The Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on Associations

Certificates: A growing trend

A service that many associations offer is continuing professional education (CPE) for their members and the profession, trade or industry that the association represents. These offerings are delivered in a variety of formats. Among those formats, the growing trend to also offer a specialized certificate program or a profession related certification program. These certificates and certifications are becoming widely recognized and accepted by professionals, employers and government agencies. For many the certification has replaced the degree for those who wants to get the promotion or a raise and at a cost generally much expensive than the college degree.

Keeping the definition simple, certificate programs are generally limited in scope of the subject matter, time and accountability. Certificate programs can be as simple as a one day, one class program or they may go for a week or a month. Certificates are generally awarded based upon completion of the course or a limited series of courses. Generally there is no accountability on the part of the association that is offering the certificate about what is actually learned, only that the individual attended the class or program about a given topic.

Associations that offer specialties of Certification are more focused upon continuing professional development (CPD). of the membership and related industry. Certification programs are generally longer, running several months, possibly as much as a year. Certification may be offered after completing one long class or a series of shorter classes. Additionally, many certification programs require updates or renewals every few years. Associations are placing their reputations on the fact that those who complete a certification will have measurable knowledge or skills that are taught in the framework of the certification program.

Associations are not chartered to offer degrees, but some associations similar to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) are working closely with colleges like the Alexandria Technical and Community College to incorporate their certification program into the college program. Other examples of blended cooperation include West Virginia University offering their Forensics Science Initiative (FSI) program in collaboration with the National Institute of Justice. And there is theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA) offering their certification programs, Facility Management Professional (FMP), Sustainability Facilities Professional (SFP), and their Certified Facility Manager (CFM) program in collaboration with various community colleges across the country. These are all examples of the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

The Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on Higher Education

It about the degree, right?

Let me state my point of view of higher education upfront, I am focusing on the student who is interested in obtaining a college degree to improve their employment options. It may be the graduate student or it could be the undergraduate or the student in a community college or technical school that wants to get a promotion, a better position or a raise. Today, it is also more than likely that these are adult students. They have experienced the stress of a difficult economy and observed the rising cost of tuition. A record number of them have taken on student loans and many now face default. Higher education is about the degree, right? The degree has been the path to gaining knowledge, education and better employment. But tens of thousands of students and employers are questioning the perceived value of that degree.

Along came the Internet with free information. Today you can take free online courses from leading universities such as Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other colleges. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees becomes part of anyone’s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). But colleges cannot afford to give away their courses and expect to stay in operation. Community colleges, technical colleges and associations are offering certificates and certifications. These certificates and certifications are becoming widely recognized and accepted by professionals, employers and government agencies. Certification may show a demonstration of advanced knowledge, of a competency, and/or a skill. In some cases the certification has replaced the degree for that person who wants to get that promotion, the better position or a raise and the cost of a certification is generally much less that the college degree.

So, what might we expect for higher education? Well, the college degree is not going to go away. Society still values the college tradition, the credibility and trust the college degree. Most colleges will increase their online education programs and online course offerings. For example, the Boston Architectural College offered the first online Sustainable Design degree and their colleges are searching for their niche. Schools will increasingly offer certification programs and the courses that support those programs. Schools will increase the number of partnerships they develop with professional, technical, and trade associations as well as related businesses and industry. Pratt Institute for example, partners with the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA). offering IFMA credential programs using Pratt IFMA certified faculty.

Two major expenses for a college, the campus and the faculty and online education affect both areas. Online education allows the college to expand their reach to students globally without greatly expanding the cost of a facility or an instructor. Partnering with a business or industry and setting up a satellite facility in an office is becoming a common practice. Online education expands the college faculty’s reach globally, 24/7. The online instructor can offer a lecture to hundreds or thousands at a time. It would be similar the professor offering a class lecture in a large auditorium while discussion groups make it more personalized for the student.

The International Learning Unit: An Expanding Role in Schools

Flickr photo by hohohob

What do West Palm Beach, Florida, Vancouver, British Columbia, Morgantown, West Virginia and Washington, DC have in common? They all host organizations that use the International Learning Unit (ILU) for continuing education courses and programs. In Washington, DC you will find associations that use the ILU. In Morgantown, WV you will find it used at the university, in Vancouver it is used at Langara College and in West Palm Beach, Florida at Forest Hill Community High School. The ILU is used because of its flexibility, its ease of use, and its capabilities of measuring learning, knowledge and skills. The ILU can be used for supporting a professional license or for personal growth.

David Reilly is the Assistant Principal for Adult and Community Education at Forest Hill Community High School. David states that “The ILU may be used in many teaching situations. It must be remembered that we are looking for a mastery of the content. The mastery is set at 80%. Content items may be evaluated through the use of test and quizzes, demonstrations, essays, online discussion, presentations, performance based projects, peer review, and other outcome- based evaluations. It makes sense that if a student is taking a class for the betterment of him or herself that there should be a measurement of how well the student did, and how much he or she learned. Many courses offer different types of instruction and the ILU unit of measurement can be used in all modes of teaching. It is also an advantage if a student is taking a course for his or her present employer. When a certificate is issued with the 80% amount of content mastery shown to an employer the mastery and the amount of ILU’s carries more clout than if a student simply takes a course.”

David told us that it was the instructors that saw a need for the use of the ILU in some of the adult and community education classes that were offered at Forest Hill Community High School. David stated that the instructors of courses such as Quick Books and cake decorating use the ILU because they were looking for a performance based measurement that supported quizzes as well as a demonstration to gain mastery. David indicated that within each lesson there are assigned actions that must be performed by the students. As the student completes assignments the teacher, using a scale for performance grading checks off the performance content and assigns ILU points.

What Are the Differences Between the CEU and the ILU?

Photo by Lowther7

The Continuing Education Unit (CEU) was developed by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
The International Learning Unit (ILU) was developed by the the Learning Resources Network (LERN).

The CEU has been widely used for several decades.
The ILU has been used since the early 2000’s

The CEU was designed to address issues of the industrial age.
The ILU was designed to address issues during the “Age of the Internet.”

The CEU is a measurement of education units based upon time, specifically - seat time in class.
The ILU is a measurement of education units based upon based upon competency to measuring learning.

The CEU emphasizes that the professional/participant/student is in the classroom while a qualified instructor delivers his/her presentation.
The ILU emphasizes that the professional/participant/student learns the material while a qualified instructor delivers his/her presentation.

The CEU measures the length of the class, the time from start to finish.
The ILU requires an outcome based competency with a minimum result of at least 80% or better.

The CEU has difficulty measuring time on some eLearning platforms.
The ILU accommodates all platforms when measuring competency and skills.

Remember, not that one is good or bad but there are differences between the CEU and the ILU. And now it is your turn to add to the list:

The CEU is different from the ILU in that….?

The ILU is different from the CEU in that….?

Knowledge or Education? A Point of View of the Product Manufacturer

Knowledge or Education? A Point of View of the Product Manufacturer

From the point of view of the product manufacturers most of them would argue that they offer education for their clients and/or the public. But are they?

As early as the sixties and seventies the pharmaceutical companies were providing free lunches for the physicians training times during grand rounds in the hospitals. Obviously information about their pharmaceutical products was made available. Ask the pharmaceutical sales representative (rep) and they would say that they were educating the next new group of emerging physicians.

For decades manufacturer sales representatives provided free lunches for staff€™s of the design professionals. During this lunch-n-learn period the reps would demonstrate their company'€™s products or services. The savvy companies realized that sometimes it was better to send in a technical expert rather than a sales rep to deliver €œeducation, but this was the minority. Ask the manufacturer sales representative and they would say that they were educating the next new group of emerging architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, specifiers, etc.

In both situations the professionals would stick around long enough for the free lunch while politely listening to the sales rep talk about their product or service. For the professional this was considered gathering information and industry related knowledge. It wasn't until later that the professional would contact the sales representative to educated because they actually intended to use a specific product or service.

During the eighties and nineties state licensing boards and professional associations began to tighten their standards on what they believed qualified as professional education. When the professionals realized that under the right format this knowledge, delivered to them in an educational format, they could then apply that education toward the credential maintenance of their profession. Professionals always believe that their billable hours are precious to them so they began allowing only those manufactures who met the newer standards into their firms for the purpose of continuing education. Again, the leading manufacturers quickly converted their sales presentations into educational formats following the guidelines of the professional associations and state regulatory boards.

The professional should ask – is the source reliable? Does the provider meet industry standards for offering continuing education? Which organizations are monitoring them? Does the course content follow stated learning objectives and not just information statements? Will the product manufacturers’ course help the practitioner improve their practice? The manufacturer sales representatives needs to be able to answer yes to all of these questions if they want to claim that they are educating their clients and the public.

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