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Talent Assessment | 4 Min Read

How to Create Your Own Online Certification Program in 6 Easy Steps

Introduction

In an online certification program, students receive certificates through completing non-degree programs at technical schools, colleges, and universities. Certifications for postsecondary courses are quite popular, the reason being they require less time to complete than degrees. Despite busy schedules, students taking online certification programs can access higher education with the utmost ease. Distance learners enjoy the convenience of completing coursework at a time of their choosing. eLearning enables students to pursue the most in-demand courses from the most sought after universities across the globe without relocating to the site. From UG to PG courses, online certification is available in a plethora of fields: IT, Accounting, Paralegal, and more.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from great universities come with online certification programs that can be earned through internet-ready computers, rather than attending courses in brick-and-mortar universities. Advancement in technology, penetration of the internet in far-flung areas, and the need for upskilling in the ever-changing job industry have led to the proliferation of online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree courses. Undoubtedly, online education has become a source of inspiration and aspiration for individuals living with disabilities, full-time workers, rural and remote residents, military personnel, stay-at-home parents, among others. They can access higher education and earn online certifications for the same.

With a shelf life of skills rapidly shrinking to less than three years and technology changing at breakneck speed, certifications are one of the most effective means to train talent in new upcoming technologies, tools, and software, in bulk.

What Organizations Want?

Organizations want talent trained to work on the latest and most relevant tools and technologies to ensure that they deliver high performance in their respective job roles.

What do Students/Employees Want?

Job seekers always want to keep their skill-sets updated so that they can find employment easily anytime.

How Do Certifications Fit In?

Studies indicate a general decline in the number of students enrolling in traditional 3-4-year college degrees and an increase in the number of individuals (nonworking/ working) opting for certifications. This is because certifications require less time and cost investment and are more relevant in the workplace as they are very job-specific. A ‘data science’ certification will teach an individual exactly how to extract meaning out of big-data, analyze data to provide more value to customers and make data models that can shape a company’s product and service offerings in the future. Certifications are very job role-specific. Getting a certification is very close to getting real job experience in that field.

Certifications help increase the employability of professionals and always lead to lucrative pay raises.

Certifications help increase the employability of professionals and always lead to lucrative pay raises.

“In general, when you earn a certificate, you can expect anywhere from a 13 to 25% boost in your annual salary.”

                                                                                              – Forbes

According to Brian Bosworth, president of FutureWorks, a consulting and public policy research firm in Seattle, Washington – “The United States faces a decline in the educational attainment of the labor force that threatens to reduce economic growth and limit national and personal prosperity. For many individuals, the most practical route toward this goal will be obtaining not an academic degree but a certificate that signifies the completion of a rigorous, occupationally focused program of study.”

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the number of people holding post-baccalaureate certificates has increased by more than 50% since 2005 — and the numbers continue to grow.

For Organizations seeking skilled talent, certifications are a blessing. Certifications provide companies with resources that are skilled in the latest tools and technologies needed to excel in their job now and in the future. Certifications also ensure that the talent’s skills keep getting updated as the job role evolves by helping them upskill regularly.

Types of Certification

Internal Certification:

  • Certification provided by the company individual works in
  • Usually not acceptable outside that organization
  • Part of Employee Learning and Development and Leadership Development initiatives

External Certification:

  • Certification provided by a certification body/ vendor
  • Is valid for use in a specific industry or a particular profession
  • It needs to be audited to establish certification credibility

  • Software certification: Individuals are certified on a version of software or hardware. E.g., SAAS Certification, Oracle certification, Microsoft certification
  • Industry Certification: Awarded by industry bodies such as ‘International Maritime Organization,’ which is usable anywhere in the world where these standards are followed

Educational Certification:

Awarded by universities and third-party vendors: Awarded as per profession- Accounting, Nursing, Food safety

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How to Create an Online Certificate Program

Whether it’s Internal certification or external, creating a certification program is an arduous process that is time and cost-intensive. Here are the top tasks related to creating a certification program:

  • Up to date Exam content
  • Robust Online Platform to host a large number of tests simultaneously
  • Audit to get ISO certification to add credibility
  • Portal to register for certification and schedule test time and date
  • The payment gateway for candidates
  • Proctoring to uphold exam integrity by preventing cheating
  • Automated test evaluation and result declaration
  • Providing an authentic white-labeled certificate

What Parts You Can Outsource and What You Can’t

Course Content and Exam Content: This part is best done by the organization or body conducting the certification. This is because they are more acquainted with the course content on which the certification test is based and hence are a better judge of the type of questions, the number of questions, method of assessment, weights, competencies, sections, etc. to include in the certification test.

Exam Platform: The certification platform on which the test is to be hosted, can be outsourced to a third-party vendor who can provide the following features:

1) Easy Test Creation Process

Test creations include the ability to upload different types of content, create different sections of questions, assign time limits, cut-off scores for each section, and redirect the test taker to the next section or test based on their performance in the past sections/tests.

The platform should support:

  • Variety of Question Type: The vendor providing the certification platform should allow it to host a different type of questions: MCQ’s, software simulators, case study simulators, audio/video-based questions, etc.
  • Custom Grading Logic: The platform should support the creation of different sections in a test and assign marks/weights to specific questions/ sections.
  • Section-Based Workflows: Certification exams usually consist of multiple levels of tests to indicate the level of proficiency that the candidate possesses. There can be beginner, intermediate or advanced level certificates granted to a test taker depending on what level of certification test the test taker has passed. In such cases, the test taker needs to be allowed to take multiple tests. If the test taker wants to get an advanced level certificate for a tool/software, he/she will have to clear the beginner level certification test and intermediate level certification test. Only then will the test taker be even eligible to take the ‘advanced level’ certification test. In such cases, the platform on which the certification test is being hosted needs to redirect the candidate to higher test levels or different sections depending upon what type/ level of certification they have registered for. In simple words, the certification platform should allow the creation of workflows.

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2) Efficient Scheduling

Scheduling a certification test is considered one of the most cumbersome tasks. In conventional certification programs, the participants have to reach the test venue, and the test administrators have to book multiple test venues, get invigilators, provide test material- all of which entails a huge cost and lots of time and money. It is also very chaotic and makes the whole process of conducting and giving a certification test very inefficient.

A reliable online certification platform provider should provide you with an easy test scheduling process where the test taker has an option to select from various test slots. The test admins are equipped with tools that enable them to manage a substantial database of candidates, send and authenticate test invites, give slots, and distribute the test in bulk as well as individually.

The certification platform should have features to prevent imposters from giving the test or avoiding any kind of foul play. Features such as IP Restriction ensures that the test can be accessed from one specific IP address. The browsing tolerance feature ensures candidates do not browse away from the test, and pre-test id authentication can reduce the instances of unfair conduct by test takers significantly.

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3) Hassle-Free Test Delivery

Once the test is created and scheduled, it needs to be delivered to the candidates interested in getting the certification in the most effective and hassle-free manner. That means that the candidate should be able to launch the certification platform from any browser without having to download any additional apps. The platform should allow the candidate to register, pay, and give the test on a single platform. The certification platform vendor should also allow white-labeling of the certification to enable you to build and leverage your brand name.

Here’s how an excellent certification platform makes the journey of the candidate easy and seamless:

  • Candidate registration: Candidate shows interest in taking your certification test and submits details either directly on your web page itself or is redirected to the certification platform to provide details and register.
  • Payment: The candidate upon registration is asked to pay for the test and enter any applicable discount coupon code if available.

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4) Test Monitoring

Test integrity is as important as test credibility. Without these two key components, it’s not possible to build a brand name for your certification test that is trusted by the industry. Remote Proctoring is the most efficient method of ensuring high test integrity in the case of online certification tests. You can opt for different types of remote proctoring services depending on the level of integrity, the number of candidates, the type of questions, the cost you are ready to incur, and the speed at which you want exam results delivered.

These are the most commonly preferred remote proctoring methods that are used by certification bodies:

    • Live Proctoring: Live proctoring is a method of proctoring in which a human proctor monitors the test taker from the start of the test till the end and gives warnings whenever he/she detects any dubious behavior that can be construed as cheating. Use of live proctoring is preferable if:
    • Budget for proctoring is high
    • You want immediate result delivery as soon as the test ends
    • The number of candidates giving the test is small
    • The exam is a very high stake one
  • Auto Proctoring: Auto proctoring is a software that comes into play just before the candidate starts the test. The software comes preinstalled with the certification platform. It tracks the participants’ behavior and flags it if it comes across any doubtful behavior such as looking away from the screen, hiding the face, mobile phone, additional person, etc. Advanced remote proctoring software can also detect if the test taker tries to mirror the test screen onto another monitor, tries to run any additional software in the background, or tries to access any app or website during the exam. One the test starts, the candidate cannot venture outside the test environment. Use of auto proctoring is preferable if:
    • Budget for proctoring is low
    • You want immediate result delivery as soon as the test ends
    • The number of candidates giving the test is large
    • The exam is a medium stake one
  • Record and Review Proctoring: Record and review proctoring use auto proctoring to review test-taker behavior during the exam. The whole exam session is recorded, and the complete audio/ video file of each candidate test session is reviewed by a human proctor post the test completion. Use of record and review proctoring is preferable if:
    • Budget for proctoring is not very high
    • You do not need to declare results immediately post-test
    • The number of candidates giving the test is not too big
    • The exam is a medium stake one

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  • Additional methods: There are additional features that can be used along with these proctoring methods to increase test integrity:
    • ID Authentication: ID authentication precedes the test to authenticate the ID of the test taker. Before the candidate can begin the test, their identity is authenticated via biometric, submission of ID, face recognition, background information check, etc.
    • Secure browser: A secure browser is a software that is launched just before the test starts. It prevents the test taker from accessing anything apart from the test on the device. By using a secure browser, you can prevent candidates from looking for test answers online or accessing any apps, software, or any resources that are on the device on which the test is being given. It also prevents screen mirroring.

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5) Test Evaluation

Once the certification test has been attempted, it needs to be evaluated on an individual level and group level (if required). Online certification tests evaluation is automated, and test results are made available immediately post-test. Online certification programs make it possible to access group insights to assess if the cut-off scores or the question difficulty level is optimal.

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6) Provide Authentic White-Labelled Certification

Once the test evaluation is done, the certificate should be immediately made available to the candidate. It’s always better to white-label the document that you are providing to create a brand name. Also, the certificate authenticity should be easily verifiable. By providing a unique QR code in each certificate, the authenticity of that document can be easily verified online.

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USP’s of Using Online Certification Platform

An online certification program is much easier to create, execute, and manage. It also improves the candidate experience immensely. Here we have listed the top USP’s of online certification, which makes it a much better method of creating a certification program as compared to offline.

Creating a certification program is a strategic process, but you need to be meticulously careful right from the start of the process to its implementation, and beyond. Here is a three-step approach that will help you create an exceptional online certification program: 

1. Define Your Priorities

In the first stage, you should ensure that you are heading in the right direction and will be getting the most ROI from your program. Some basic questions you need to ask yourself are:

Who is this online certification program for?

What do I want to achieve from this?

How will this program help further the company’s objectives?

Initially, you can come up with few certifications in areas that are most in-demand and would be most beneficial, then expand the program from there.

2. Decide on Curriculum

Once you have defined your priorities for certification, decide how extensive you want the certificate to be. This approach helps you identify whether you should focus on a single course or a multi-course certificate. Also, take the total time utilized in this process, as well as the ways by which you’ll assess learned knowledge in the end. In this instance, you can finalize who will be the creator of the course. You may refer to an in-house expert or seek assistance from an external expert. Either way, you need a professional who is innately credible to your audience to enhance its effectiveness. 

3. Improve your Delivery Performance

Ultimately, it’s time to consider the exact channels via which you schedule to deliver the curriculum. This step is frequently ignored, but extremely critical to the success of online certification programs. It is vital to provide visual content keeping the audience in mind. Just uploading and hosting video content is not enough. You should be able to track your learners, give them access to the courses, and gauge their learning via those online certification programs. Here a learning management system adds vibrancy by streamlining the delivery of certification programs. This way, it’s easy for you and your students to track day-to-day progress and access new modules. Using the right LMS is integral to the success of your program. It enables you to determine the number of students, and how many of them correctly complete the certification. This way, you can make the necessary adjustments to enhance the user experience. 

It’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees when a company opts for a comprehensive online certification program. Employees never want to miss professional development opportunities, and that’s where online courses come in handy. Such courses boost their morale, keep them engaged with the organization, and eventually help reduce turnover costs. Moreover, employers start noticing the difference with a productive workforce with the data that’s available with an LMS. Undoubtedly, using the right strategy and the right software will help you in creating a certificate program that resonates well with both employers and employees.

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How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?

Mettl Certify is a robust online certification software that redefines the experience of conducting certification programs. Mettl online certification platform is laced with intriguing features that simplify the process of online certification programs. With this comprehensive platform, it’s significantly easy to create, deliver, monitor, and certify. Here, you’ll find a variety of question types from simple questions (MCQ, MCA,etc.) to advanced ones (case studies, simulators,etc.). You can make the most of our software simulators to test candidates’ hands-on software skills. The custom grading logic feature makes setting questions and grading logic based on sections extremely easy. Adding to that rich media support, which enables you to use images, flash, videos, etc. in questions or responses is also a good feature. Similarly, section-based workflows help you create test sections; define time limits, cut-offs, and workflow.

With the advent of live video monitoring comes the ease of monitoring your candidates’ screens live. Besides, you can remotely authorize and control candidates’ actions by authenticating them to start, pause, and end tests. By way of auto behavior alerts, you will get auto-generated alerts based on the candidate’s behavior, image, and audio processing. Moreover, session reviews

Make it feasible to record and review the entire session with complete audio and video. The certification platform also allows for certificate distribution and management. It enables you to design your certificates with custom data and QR codes. And you can verify certificates online/offline using QR codes or verification URLs. Moreover, it provides certificates based on gamified workflows & pre-set performance criteria.

When it comes to reporting and analytics, we’ve covered all the bases. Our comprehensive reports on candidate performance and question by question analysis with in-built graphs and charts are beneficial. Then you can also combine group reports with benchmark scores. Using the report dashboard, it becomes easy to quickly slice and dice through results. Getting question/ skill/ candidate/ group level insights based on data analytics is also effortlessly smooth. Unsurprisingly, Mettl’s secure, robust, and scalable platform is a one-stop solution for your varying needs. Our online certification platform is easy to use, packed with powerful technology and is available for round-the-clock support via email, chat & phone.

Originally published February 12 2019, Updated June 24 2020

Romila Kanchan

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