CertMaster, MeasureUp and the trend in online certification training

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." — Albert Einstein

 

Professor blackboard

As a former educator, this particular quote by Einstein is one of my favorites. Long before multisensory learning became the hottest trend in education, there was a quiet recognition that not every student learned in the same fashion and that if we (the "professionals") were going to enable each child to truly learn to their fullest potential, then we needed to make changes in our traditional instructional strategies.

 

As a result, my classroom became a mecca of out-of-the-box teaching and most likely appeared to the outside world to be controlled chaos — and those on the other side of the looking glass were probably right. Despite appearances, the proof was in the results. As I changed my instructional strategies to meet the learning needs of my students, I found that even marginal students were able to do much more than merely memorize facts — they learned.

 

Today, we live and work in a fast-paced world in which the only constant is change. The days where learning ended with college graduation are long gone. The adoption of an attitude of life-long learning is a must for those seeking to retain peak skills and remain at the top of their profession. The problem with life-long learning is, well, quite frankly ... life.

 

We have careers, families, carpools, little league, band concert, and much more, that interfere with attending traditional classes. Finding time to pursue career-building training and advanced certifications becomes increasingly difficult once we leave the halls of traditional learning. How do we solve the dilemma? Perhaps the answer lies within the realm of online learning.

 

While online learning certainly isn't a new concept, it is currently one of the hottest educational trends. According to the Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition, educational models are shifting, and we can expect to see more online or hybrid learning environments, both in the near future and over the long term, in higher educational settings. The Horizon Report (which can be found online) also predicts that we'll see more hands-on learning, where students actually gain real experience versus merely absorbing content — a trend that could be a real advantage to those focused on gaining the technical career-building skills necessary for advanced certifications.

 

Online learning offers many advantages to students, particularly for those students for whom traditional, in-person instructor-led courses aren't a viable or an easily implemented option. Online learning comes in several flavors — instructor-led, self-paced, and hybrid or collaborative models, for example. (For purposes of this discussion, we'll focus primarily on self-paced online learning.)

 

First, online learning is the ultimate in convenience and flexibility. The only commute to class is a 30-second walk to your home office. Online course materials are generally available around the clock, enabling learners to choose the time in which to study that best fits their individual lifestyle.

 

Constant availability of materials also enables learners to repeat lessons and review materials as many times as necessary to ensure content mastery. Online learning may also be a more economical choice than traditional classroom instruction. While instructor-led online learning is frequently comparable in price to in-person instructor-led courses, self-paced online learning is generally offered at a lower price point, making such courses more affordable for the budget-conscious among us. (And who isn't conscious of cost in today's challenging economy?)

 

In 2014, two powerhouses of the IT certification industry, Certiport and CompTIA, have launched new, online training programs within a few months of each other. In March, Certiport announced the launch of its MeasureUp Practice Labs, while CompTIA's CertMaster product was made available earlier this month. Both offerings are unique and promise to provide certification seekers with some interesting choices as they design future career-building educational paths.

 

Certiport, a PearsonVue company, is an industry leader in the development and administration of certification exams. Certiport maintains a presence in more than 153 countries, and delivers more than three million exams annually in 27 different languages. An award-winning learning tool, MeasureUp has provided training and practice exams for certification seekers since 1997.

 

Currently available for VMware, Cisco, CompTIA and Microsoft certification exams, the new MeasureUp Practice Labs provides learners access to hands-on practical exercises in a virtual lab. MeasureUp Practice Labs eliminates the expense students would normally incur to create their own lab environment, an often vital and illuminating step to mastering new technology and skills.

 

Learning with PC

With access starting at $149 per year, the MeasureUp Practice Labs may just be the certification exam prep tool needed by credential seekers who learn better through practical, hands-on experience The MeasureUp Practice Labs tool does not replace certification practice exams, but is meant for use as a complementary tool to achieve maximum learning. More information on MeasureUp Practices Labs is available online.

 

An industry leader in vendor-neutral certifications, CompTIA has a new advanced learning too of its own in CertMaster. Based on the latest research in cognitive psychology and neurobiology, the new CertMaster is an adaptive learning tool is based on three primary hallmarks: priming, personalized learning and spacing. To address these advantages individually:

 

Priming. In its simplest terms, priming is a memory and recall tool using stimulus in one environment to influence the response to a different stimulus. According to CompTIA, priming is particularly helpful to learners who may be overwhelmed by too much new information at one time.

 

Personalized learning. CertMaster learning is personalized. Data analytic tools allow CertMaster to customize the learning experience to the needs of the individual user. Questions for each user will vary depending on user responses, with automatic reteaching of topics where the user's knowledge appears weaker.

 

Spacing. Spacing techniques (the intervals at which new concepts are presented or "spaced" out during the learning experience) are employed by CertMaster to promote maximum knowledge retention. Research indicates that when new concepts are studied for short intervals over a long time frame, long-term retention is much more effective compared to last-minute cramming sessions.

 

CertMaster will initially be available for the CompTIA A+, Security+, Network+ and Strata IT Fundamentals certifications. Users will be able to access the CertMaster in almost any format ranging from desktop to tablets to smartphones. The CertMaster will be accessible from iOS as well as Android applications. Additional information about the CertMaster tool is available online.

 

Can we expect more programs such as CertMaster and the MeasureUp Practice Labs in the future? It's highly likely. The information presented in the Horizon Report certainly seems to indicate that online learning will continue to be a growing trend in education. In addition, it appears that educational institutions are recognizing the increasing trend of e-learning by offering e-learning design programs.

 

A quick internet search reveals numerous e-learning instructional design certificate programs from institutions such as the Association for Talent Development and the University of California at Irvine. In addition, there are a multitude of e-learning certificate programs for teachers interested in enhancing their effectiveness in an online instructional environment.

 

Online or not, the issue of whether self-paced education is right for you remains a personal choice. For some, training tools such as CertMaster and MeasureUp will mean the difference between being left behind their peers and gaining skills in new and emerging technologies, leading to career advancement. There are others who will always prefer learning in a traditional, instructor-led classroom environment. While online learning isn't likely to entirely replace traditional classrooms any time soon, we're certain to see more online learning opportunities in the future.

 

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About the Author
Mary Kyle is a freelance technology writer based in Texas.

Mary Kyle is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and project manager based in Austin, Texas. Formerly employed in various positions at IBM, Mary has more than 10 years of project management experience in IT, software development and IT-related legal issues.