Welcome to December and the end of the year!
For this month’s blog, I thought I’d do something a little different. I’ve talked about how I rely on others to be my eyes and ears when it comes to exam security. Our Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT) are a big part of that process. We rely on them to not only prepare students to pass our exams and get skilled, but we also rely on them to be an integral part of the security efforts here.
Because I’m not often in a classroom setting, I reached out to an MCT for her perspective on what students should look for when it comes to security and a good instructor. Rachel Jones is a software developer and trainer who teaches throughout the country as well as internationally. She holds degrees in both Computer Science and Business. Rachel serves as a Subject Matter Expert to Microsoft and is passionate about helping others prepare for careers in the IT industry by developing quality certifications and curriculum. She holds several industry certifications such as, MCSD, MCPD, MTA, MCLC, MOS, and CTT+.
I asked Rachel a few questions about how security in a classroom comes into play.
Kerri: What kinds of things should an instructor be doing to prepare students to take an exam fairly and without taking security risks? What should students look for?
Rachel: Students should look for an Instructor that upholds a high level of integrity. A good instructor will cover test objectives and provides examples but never give out specific test questions. If an instructor ever encourages you to use brain dump sites to pass the test, this is a good sign that his/her method of teaching may also lack in quality.
Instructors should provide an overview of the test objectives and give real-world examples of applied knowledge. Specific test questions and answers should not be discussed in the classroom. Also, it’s a good practice to remind students that while working in a team environment, they should not share answers to the test as it devalues its credibility.
Q. Should students care how a trainer prepares them for an exam, as long as they pass it?
A. Yes, because training should be centered around learning to use the skill in a real world environment. Passing the certification should be evidence of the result and not the result, itself. It would be like an earning a driver’s license without knowing how to drive!
Q. Should students be concerned when an MCT points to or uses brain dump (or other illicitly-obtained) material? Or should they leave that responsibility to Microsoft and/or the Learning Partner?
A. As an instructor, it’s my responsibility to uphold the value of the certification process. Encouraging brain dump sites devalues the certification which is a reflection on me as well as the certification. How students view the credibility of certification begins with me! If I, as the instructor, adhere to a high standard, it will most likely affect how the student views the process.
As a student, it’s important to be part of the effort to reduce cheating on certification exams. When others cheat, it devalues the efforts of hardworking, honest certified professionals.
Q. What should a student do if they think an instructor is promoting use of such materials?
A. The first line of defense would be to discuss the concern directly with the instructor and the training center. If the instructor continues to promote materials and practices you feel are unethical, you should let Microsoft know. They have processes in place to harshly penalize those that do not maintain the ethical standards set forth by the MCT program. (Note from Kerri: Feel free to use the firstname.lastname@example.org alias to report any concerns.)
Q. How can students let instructors know when they are doing a good job teaching and upholding security standards?
A. Most courses end with an evaluation process. Instructors truly value hearing student feedback. In addition to completing the standard 1-9 ratings, take the extra minute to write in a comment on how you appreciate the instructors’ high ethical standard. This provides reinforcement to the instructor. In addition, these evaluations are also sent to Microsoft and provide valuable information to them. On the flip side, if you feel the instructor violated the integrity of the MCT program, let him/her know in the evaluation.
Thank you Rachel! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about security in a classroom.
For my readers, as always, if you see behavior in a classroom that you question or have a concern about, please let me know.
Got a tip for me? Let me know at email@example.com.
Very interesting interview. I agree completely. I think for certification, students are always interested in the types of questions that they can expect to get. For this reason, I like to encourage getting them to investigate the exam question item types (www.microsoft.com/.../certification-exams.aspx) and recommend official practice tests from MeasureUp. For preparing students, for their first certification exam, I find MeasureUp an invaluable tool as it allows you to address "how to think" during the test.
Yes, this is an interesting article. I've found over the years, however, that usually students who are fixated on certification cannot be dissuaded from brain dumps, etc. On many occasions students react with disbelief and even incredulity when I tell them that I and many, many others are able to pass vendor exams *without* resorting to cheat sheets, brain dumps and what have you. It many times seems that in the push to attain certification, the basic premise that it should, as Rachel so aptly stated, be evidence of the result gets completely lost or ignored. Unfortunate that exams don't include a hands-on practical component. Perhaps students might then understand that actually learning and practicing with the technology yields better results over all than memorizing answers.
So what about these "Boot Camps" I work with a guy who went to a week long boot camp for around $6500 and came out a full MCITP-EA certfied, having none to begin with. Basically they would sit in a class for a day and then at the end of the day take the exam. He related to me that the so called "practice questions" were very close to the exam. Upon the last test, he said that the test had changed and just about everyone failed it. They had a some sort of verbal brain dump where they compared what each individual saw on the test, discussed the answers, and then re-took the test in that same day. I dont know more details then that other than it seems suspcious. I am only MCSA 2008 and it takes me a couple of months per exam. I see these adverstisements for boot camps all the time, not just for Microsoft but for Cisco also. I have Boot Camp rep for Cisco promising that I can earn the CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switch, CCNA Security, and one other certfication in a week. There is no way on earth I could ever pull the off by my self honstly.