How is the SAP Global Certification program going? A re-interview with SAP’s manager of global certification, part 2.

Posted by Zainab Fayaz

This is the second part of the two-part interview between, John Kleeman, Founder and Executive Director at Questionmark and Ralf Kirchgaessner, Manager of the SAP Global Certification program. This is a continuation of the use of Questionmark software in their Certification in the Cloud program. You can read the first part here. In the second part of the interview, John asks questions about the business benefits of certification and what advice Ralf has for other organizations.

John: What are the business benefits to SAP of certification?

Ralf: There are many benefits to the SAP Global Certification. So, let’s begin from the individual learner’s perspective.

Firstly, earning the SAP Global Certification increases your personal value; not only does it drive personal development; which often leads to increased responsibilities and promotion within your organization, but it also showcases and proves that you stay current and update your skills to the latest releases. Additionally, since 2018, professionals can gain wider recognition through sharing their SAP Global Certification digital badges.

SAP Global Certification is of great value not only for individuals but also for consultancies in the SAP ecosystem. SAP Global Certifications provide a clear measure of a company’s organizational capabilities, which give a competitive advantage, especially if the company has certified professionals in new and innovative areas, like SAP C/4HANA Cloud.

John: What about the customers? What benefits are there for them?

Ralf: Indeed, the most important benefit is the value for our customers. If SAP can ensure that the consultancy eco-system is well enabled and certified, it helps reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and ensures successful implementation costs. And in the end, this is of course also important for SAP, as this helps to increase the adoption of our software and reduces implementation risks.

John: Tell me a bit more about the recently introduced digital badges for people who get certified that you just mentioned. How useful is that?

Ralf: The introduction of digital badges for SAP Global Certification has been an absolute success! Making your workforce visible on the market is important and by sharing the digital badge proves that the workforce is currently in their knowledge. If on LinkedIn, you search for ‘certified SAP consultants’, you would find thousands of shared badges. Digital badge claim rates beyond industry standards show that people waited with much anticipation to share their achievements digitally.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our services and with the help of Questionmark, going forward we will be able to issue badges, even faster. In the near future, once candidates have passed their SAP Global Certification exam this will trigger the issuing of badges in “real-time”!

We have reached our ultimate goal and an overall mission of our certification programme if customers ask consultants for their digital badges to show their SAP Global Certification status.

John: There seems a slow move across the community from test centers to online proctoring. I know that for SAP, you deliver some exams in your offices but most in the cloud with online proctoring. How do you see this changing in the industry in general? Will all IT exams be done by online proctoring one day soon?

Ralf: SAP very much uses the model of taking exams wherever and whenever it is most convenient. Nevertheless, we use one harmonized infrastructure, for all our exams and these can be taken at our offices, in classrooms or in the cloud.

I think much of this evolves from the changing landscape in learning behaviors and offerings. In terms of the advantages of using test centers and online proctoring; there is a legitimate reason for test centres to exist; as there are groups of people who will still want to learn together – in one place at one time. However, as the shift moves towards a rise in remote learning, both synchronous (live virtual classrooms) and asynchronous, which are supported by social and peer learning via online learning rooms, then of course, online proctoring will become more popular.

John: What advice would you give to other high-tech companies who are thinking of setting up or improving their certification program?

Ralf: Two things instantly come to mind – online proctoring and digital badging. Certification programs that do not use online proctoring and digital badging should urgently consider improving their program as the benefits of implementing both features are tremendous.

More on certification
Interested in learning more about certification programs?  Find out how you can build your own certification program in 10-easy steps.

 

Certification in the Cloud and the Move to Online Proctoring: An interview with SAP’s manager of global certification

John Kleeman Headshot

Posted by John Kleeman

I recently interviewed Ralf Kirchgaessner, SAP’s manager of global certification, about how the cloud is changing SAP certification. This is a shortened version of my conversation with Ralf. To read the full previously published post, check out this SAP blog.

John: What are the key reasons why SAP has a certification program?

Ralf: The overall mission of the program is that every SAP solution should be implemented and supported ideally by a certified SAP resource. This is to ensure that implementation projects go well for customers, and to increase customer productivity while reducing their operating costs. Customers value certification. In a survey of SAP User Group customers in Germany and the US, 80 percent responded that it was very important to have their employees certified and over 60 percent responded that certification was one of the criteria used to select external consultants for implementation projects.

John: What important trends do you see in high tech and IT certification?

Ralf: What comes first to the mind is the move to the cloud. Throughout the technology industry, the cloud drives flexibility and making everything available on demand. One aspect of this is that release cycles are getting quicker and quicker.

For certification, this means that consultants and others have to show that they are always up to date and are certified on the latest release. It’s not enough to become certified once in your lifetime: you have to continually learn and stay up to date. But of course if you are taking certification exams more often, certification costs have to be much lower. In some regions, people have to travel large distances to get to a test centre. With more frequent certification, it’s not practical to travel to a testing centre every time you take a certification. So our aim is to allow certification anytime and anywhere using the cloud.

John: How does online proctoring work for the candidate?

Ralf: A remote proctor monitors the candidate via a webcam, and there are a lot of security checks done by the proctor and by the system. For example, a secure browser is used, the candidate has to do a 360 degree check of his or her room, and there are lots of specific controls. For instance, you aren’t allowed to read the questions silently with your lips in case someone is watching or listening.

The great advantage to the candidate is flexibility. If someone says, “I’d like to do my exam in the middle of the night or on weekends because during the week I’m so busy with my project,” they can. They might say that they’d like to do their exam on Saturday afternoon: “After spending two hours playing with my kids, I’m relaxed to do my exam!” It’s such a flexible way to get certified and to quickly demonstrate that they have up-to-date knowledge and are allowed to provision customer systems.

John: Who benefits from certification in the cloud? Candidates, customers, partners or SAP?

Ralf: Of course, I think all benefit! Candidates have flexibility and lower cost. Customers can be sure that partner consultants who work for them are enabled and up to date. For partners, it’s a competitive advantage to show that their consultants are up to date, especially for new technologies like S/4HANA and Simple Finance. A partner is much more likely to be chosen to deploy new technologies if they can demonstrate that they have several consultants already certified in something that’s just been released. And for SAP, our goal is to have engaged consultants, happy partners and lower support costs. So everyone genuinely benefits.

John: What are some of the challenges?

Ralf: One example is that it’s important in cloud certification to get data protection right. SAP have very detailed requirements that we ensure our vendors like Questionmark meet.

Security is also a challenge. You need to prevent cheating and stealing questions.  And interfaces and integration need to be right. We have worked out how we get the data from our HR systems, how people book and subscribe to exams and then how they can authenticate with single sign-on into the certification hub to take cloud exams.

The delta concept also gives challenges. You need very precise pre-requisite management logic, where the certification software checks for example that, if you want to take the delta exam, you have already passed the core exam. It also can sometimes be difficult to prepare a good delta exam, particularly if a new release has very specific or detailed features, including some that apply in only some industries.

Lastly, providing seamless support is a challenge when using multiple vendors. The candidate doesn’t care where a problem happened: he or she just wants it fixed.

John: Where do you see the long term future of high-tech certification? Will there still be test centres, or will all certification be done via the cloud?

Ralf: Test centres won’t disappear at once, but there is a trend of moving from classroom-based learning and testing to learning and certification in the cloud. The future will belong to anytime, anywhere testing. The trend is for test centre use to decline, but it won’t happen overnight!

John: If another organization is thinking of moving towards certification in the cloud, what advice would you give them?

Ralf: Ensure that you are aware of the challenges I mentioned and can deal with them. And do some pilots before you try to scale.

Interested in learning more about Online Proctoring? I will be presenting a session on ensuring exam integrity with online proctoring at Questionmark Conference 2016: Shaping the Future of Assessment in Miami, April 12-15. I look forward to seeing you there! Click here to register and learn more about this important learning event.

9 trends in compliance learning, training and assessment

John Kleeman HeadshotThis version is a re-post of a popular blog by John Kleeman

Where is the world of compliance training, learning and assessment going?

I’ve collaborated recently with two SAP experts, Thomas Jenewein of SAP and Simone Buchwald of EPI-USE, to write a white paper on “How to do it right – Learning, Training and Assessments in Regulatory Compliance[Free with registration]. In it, we suggested 9 key trends in the area. Here is a summary of the trends we see:

1. Increasing interest in predictive or forward-looking measures

Many compliance measures (for example, results of internal audits or training completion rates) are backwards looking. They tell you what happened in the past but don’t tell you about the problems to come. Companies can see clearly what is in their rear-view mirror, but the picture ahead of them is rainy and unclear. There are a lot of ways to use learning and assessment data to predict and look forward, and this is a key way to add business value.

2. Monitoring employee compliance with policies

A recent survey of chief compliance officers suggested that their biggest operational issue is monitoring employee compliance with policies, with over half of organizations raising this as a concern. An increasing focus for many companies is going to be how they can use training and assessments to check understanding of policies and to monitor compliance.

3. Increasing use of observational assessments

Picture of observational assessment on smartphoneWe expect growing use of observational assessments to help confirm that employees are following policies and procedures and to help assess practical skills. Readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar with the concept. If not, see Observational Assessments—why and how.

4. Compliance training conducted on mobile devices

The world is moving to mobile devices and this of course includes compliance training and assessment.

5. Informal learning

You would be surprised not to see informal learning in our list of trends. Increasingly we are all understanding that formal learning is the tip of the iceberg and that most learning is informal and often on the job.

6. Learning in the extended enterprise

Organizations are becoming more interlinked, and another important trend is the expansion of learning to the extended enterprise, such as contractors or partners. Whether for data security, product knowledge, anti-bribery or a host of other regulatory compliance reasons, it’s becoming crucial to be able to deliver learning and to assess not only your employees but those of other organizations who work closely with you.

7. Cloud

There is a steady movement towards the cloud and SaaS for compliance learning, training, and assessment – with the huge advantage of delegating all of the IT to an outside party being the strongest compelling factor.  Especially for compliance functions, the cloud offers a very flexible way to manage learning and assessment without requiring complex integrations or alignments with a company’s training departments or related functions.

8. Changing workforce needs

The workforce is constantly changing, and many “digital natives” are now joining organizations. To meet the needs of such workers, we’re increasingly seeing “gamification” in compliance training to help motivate and connect with employees. And the entire workforce is now accustomed to seeing high-quality user interfaces in consumer Web sites and expects the same in their corporate systems.

9. Big Data

E-learning and assessments are a unique way of touching all your employees. There is huge potential in using analytics based on learning and assessment data. We have the potential to combine Big Data available from valid and reliable learning assessments with data from finance, sales, and HR sources.  See for example the illustration below from SAP BusinessObjects showing assessment data graphed against performance data as an illustration of what can be done.

data exported using OData from Questionmark into SAP BusinessObjects

For information on these trends, see the white paper written with SAP and EPI-USE: “How to do it right – Learning, Training and Assessments in Regulatory Compliance”, available free to download with registration.

If you have other suggestions for trends, feel free to contribute them below.

SAP to present their global certification program at London briefing

Chloe MendoncaPosted by Chloe Mendonca

A key to SAP’s success is ensuring that the professional learning path of skilled SAP practitioners is continually supported – thereby making qualified experts on their cloud solutions readily available to customers, partners and consultants.

In a world where current knowledge and skills are more important than ever, SAP needed a way to verify that their cloud consultants around the world were keeping their knowledge and skills up-to-date  with rapidly changing technology. A representative of the certification program at SAP comments:breakfast briefing

It became clear that a certification that lasted for two or three years didn’t cut it any longer – in all areas of the portfolio. Everything is evolving so quickly, and SAP has to always support current, validated knowledge.”

Best Practices from SAP

The move to the cloud required some fundamental changes to SAP’s existing certification program. What challenges did they face? What technologies are they using to ensure the security of the program? Join us on the 21st of October for a breakfast briefing in London, where Ralf Kirchgaessner, Manager of Global Certification at SAP, will discuss the answers to these questions. Ralf will tell how the SAP team planned for the program, explain its benefits and share lessons learned.

Click here to learn more and register for this complimentary breakfast briefing *Seats are limited

High-Stakes Assessments

The briefing will  include a best-practice seminar on the types of technologies and techniques to consider using as part of your assessment program to securely create, deliver and report on high-stakes tests around the world. It will highlight technologies such as online invigilation, secure browsers and item banking tools that alleviate the testing centre burden and allow organisations and test publishers to securely administer trustable tests and exams and protect valuable assessment content.

What’s a breakfast briefing?

You can expect a morning of networking, best practice tips and live demonstrations of the newest assessment technologies.The event will include a complimentary breakfast at 8:45 a.m. followed by presentations and discussions until about 12:30 p.m.

Who should attend?

These gatherings are ideal for people involved in certification, compliance and/or risk management, and learning and development.

When? Where?

Wednesday 21st October at Microsoft’s Office in London, Victoria — 8:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m

Click here to learn more and register to attend

Online or test center proctoring: Which is best?

John Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

A new way of proctoring certification exams is rapidly gaining traction. This article compares and contrasts the old with the new.

Many high-tech companies offer certification exams for consultants, users and implementers. Such exams often require candidates to travel to a bricks-and-mortar test center where proctors (or invigilators) supervise the process.

Now, however, online proctoring is becoming prevalent: each candidate takes the exams at his or her home or office, with a proctor observing via video camera over the Internet. Two of the world’s largest software companies, SAP and Microsoft, offer online proctoring for their certification programs, and many other companies are looking to follow suit. This article explains some of the pros and cons of the two approaches.

workplace_addFactors for choosing online proctoring

  • Reduced travel time.  Candidates can take an exam without wasting time traveling to a test center. This is an important saving for their employers – often the test sponsor’s customers.
  • Convenient scheduling. A candidate can choose a convenient time, for example after the kids have gone to bed or when work pressures are lowest. Usually one needs to book in advance to attend a test center, but it’s often possible to schedule an online proctor at short notice.
  • Fairness. With an exam at a test center, some people will have had a short journey and others a longer one. Some might have experienced a traffic jam or other hassle getting there. This gives an advantage to those who happen to live closer, as they will have less anxiety. An online experience reduces the variability of the exam experience.
  • Accessibility. Candidates take online proctored exams on their own computers, using their normal accessibility aids such as screen readers or special input devices, whereas these require setup at a test center. Some test centers only provide their own (often limited) tools for providing accommodations, so candidates are working with unfamiliar tool sets. This places them at a disadvantage. Also, for people with certain disabilities, travel is a major inconvenience.
  •  Keeping certifications up to date. If candidates have to travel to a test enter, a test sponsor can’t realistically require an exam to be taken more than once every few years. But in today’s world, products and job skills change very quickly, so certification risks being out of date. The availability of online  proctoring allows update exams (assessing candidates on what has changed since their last exam) to be taken as products change, which makes the programme more valid.
  • Greater authenticity. The more authentic assessments are, the more they measure actual performance. See Will Thalheimer’s excellent paper on measuring learning results for more on this. Assessing someone in their work environment with online proctoring is more authentic and so will likely measure performance better than putting them in a test center.

office-buildingFactors for choosing test center proctoring

  • Standardized computers. While online proctoring requires the candidate to have an appropriate computer, internet connection and webcam that they know how to use, test centers provide a computer that is already set up. For most certification programmes, it’s fair and reasonable that candidates use their own computers (often called BYOD – Bring Your Own Device). But for some programmes, this might be less fair. For example, in professions where IT literacy is not required, it might not be fair to expect people to have access to a PC with webcam that they know how to use.
  • Very long exams.  In online-proctored exams, the candidate is usually forbidden from taking a break for security reasons.  Most exams can be taken in one sitting, but if exams are longer than three hours, a test center makes sense.
  • Regulation. Some regulators or government authorities may require delivery of an exam with a physically present proctor at a test center.
  • Geographical convenience.  In some cases, test centers may be close at hand. For example, a university might have all its candidates already present, or, for some test sponsors, candidates may all live in metropolitan areas close to test centers.

checkOther factors to consider:

  • Language. In theory, a candidate could schedule an online proctor in his or her own language, though in practice many programs only offer English-speaking proctors. A test center may well not have proctors who can speak different languages, but typically will speak the local language.
  • Security. You might think that the security is stronger in a test center than with online proctoring. However, over the years there have been many incidents where face-to-face proctors have coached candidates. Online proctoring also makes it feasible to administer exams more frequently, which helps security by making impersonation harder. This is a big subject, and I’ll follow up with a blog post about security.

I’d welcome your thoughts on any other factors for and against online proctoring.

How many test or exam retakes should you allow? Part 2

John Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

In my last post, I offered some ideas about what to consider when determining your retake policy regarding a certification assessment measuring competence and mastery. Some of the issues to balance are test security, fairness, a delay between retakes and the impact of retakes on test preparation. In this conclusion to the post, I’ll share what a few other organizations do and how you might approach deciding the number of retakes to allow.

Here is how a few respected certification programmes manage retakes

SAP have the following rules in their certification programme:

No candidate may participate in the same examination for the same release more than three times. A candidate who has failed at an examination three times for a release may not attempt that examination again until the next release. 

Microsoft allow up to 5 attempts in a 12-month period and then impose a 12-month waiting period. They also have gaps of several days between retakes, with the number of days increasing for subsequent retakes.

The US financial regulator FINRA requires a waiting time of 30 days between exams, but if you fail an exam three or more times in succession, you must wait 6 months before taking it again.

What’s the right answer for you?

The right answer depends on your circumstances. Many programmes allow retakes but have rules in place to limit the delivery rate of the assessment in order to limit content exposure.

1. You should communicate your retake policy to participants and to stakeholders who see the results of the assessments.

2. If you release scores, you also need to decide whether you will have a policy  as to whether scores for all attempts are released, or (as many organizations do) only for the successful attempt. Section 11.2 of the the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing states

“Test users or the sponsoring agency should explain to test takers their opportunities, if any, to retake an examination; users should also indicate whether the earlier as well as later scores will be reported to those entitled to receive score reports.”

3. You should not allow people to retake a test they have passed.

4. You should consider requiring a period of time to elapse before someone retakes an exam if they fail. This allows time for them to update their learning. You can easily set this up when scheduling within Questionmark software, for example the dialog below gives a 7-day gap.

Limit days between retakes

5. Unless special circumstances apply, you will usually want to allow at least one retake and probably at least two retakes.

6. You may want to consider some intervention or stop procedure after a certain number of failed attempts. A common number I’ve heard anecdotally is three attempts, but it will depend on each assessment program’s own individual factors and use cases.  If this is an internal compliance exam, you might want to organize some remedial training or job review. If this is a public exam, you might want to ensure a longer time period to allow reflection and re-learning.

Please feel free to comment below if you have alternative thoughts on the number of retakes to allow.