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Trend: Measuring and Testing the Acquisition of Knowledge

Microsoft runs one of the largest training and certification communities in the world, related to its Microsoft Developer program. And they certainly “get knowledge” ; indeed, I often use a quote from the organization that outlines their belief that in the future, half of GDP will be generated from knowledge acquisition and education.

One of the observations from Jim Carroll during his keynote: "How do we test and certify people for jobs and skills that don’t exist yet?"

One of the observations from Jim Carroll during his keynote: “How do we test and certify people for jobs and skills that don’t exist yet?”

That’s why I was thrilled to see that they had some representatives in attendance for my opening keynote in March for the Association of Test Publishers ; folks who manage such things as SAT and LSAT tests, and scores of technical and professional testing programs. I had about 1,000 folks in the room.

Microsoft just ran a blog post over their at their “Born to Learn Training and Certification Community” blog with their thoughts on the conference ; near the end, you’ll find their observations on my talk, which I think offer up a pretty good summary of what I spoke about on stage.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a lot of links on how I view the future of knowledge. Click on the running dude on the right for my thoughts on ‘The Future of Knowledge!”


The Changing Face of Certification, by Liberty Munson – Microsoft

The key note speaker was Jim Carroll, a futurist and author, who spoke at length about the need for our industry to look at the accelerating rate of change around us and embrace it so that our businesses are well positioned for the future.

He repeatedly said “The future belongs to those who move fast.”

Here are some of the challenges we face in the testing industry given that knowledge is being refreshed at an increasing pace and is quickly outdated:

  • How might the acquisition of knowledge be measured in a way that’s both timely and relevant?
  • How do we stay ahead of change? How can we be proactive rather than reactive? How do we keep our assessment content in line with those frequent changes?
  • How do we test and certify people for jobs and skills that don’t exist yet?
  • Today, learners want real-time knowledge ingestion based on video offerings, such as YouTube, Khan Academy, etc. because they have a desire for continuous knowledge replenishment; how do we continually update our offerings to meet this demand?

This session underscored our industry’s (training and certification) need to adapt to the lightning speed at which technology changes and how those changes are affecting our students’ and test takers’ expectations about training and exam content. As I mentioned, this theme/conversation/concern re-asserted itself through many of the sessions as testing organizations struggle with how to manage

  1. the rapid speed with which knowledge and skills become obsolete, and;
  1. the impact that instant availability of information has on candidate expectations (known as “finger tip” knowledge–we don’t have to know the answer…we just need to know where to find it online; in fact, research shows that if someone knows they can find the answer later, they have more difficulty remembering it but have a good memory for how to find it!).

Along these lines, more organizations are looking to gamification (game-based exams) as the next big thing in testing because it can be very engaging and new entrants (in most cases, these are those young whippersnappers just starting out in a field) are largely engrained in the gaming universe in one form or another. I find this concept intriguing and am trying to figure out how Microsoft might apply it to our certification exams. Clearly, there are many hurdles in the implementation of something like this, but the notion of gamification in terms of certification may be one way to start thinking differently about what certification means and what exams might look like.

To me, the conversations around the future of certification are the most intriguing as we explore how to meet the demands of the future and embrace the speed at which technology changes things. After all, “the future belongs to those who move fast.” What do you think the future holds for certification? Where do we go from here? What do you think changes? What stays the same?

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