GS: And the response from candidates?
MP: We’ve received many positive responses from candidates. At the beginning, there were questions that you would expect from any change. But once people started to really see how easy the process was, the responses have been pretty uniformly positive.
The main negative that we get is about internet connectivity. We recommend specific criteria and parameters, but in the end connectivity is something only the candidate has control over. In fact, that’s one of the things that our candidates enjoy – having the ability to test whenever and virtually wherever.
GS: So, if you had any advice for an organization that that was considering making a transition from paper/pencil or computer-based testing to virtual proctoring, what would it be? Is there anything that comes to mind?
MP: The primary thing I would recommend would be to educate your candidates. The most difficult part of the entire process was making sure we were educating early and often. As aggressive as we were with our communication strategy, we could probably still have done twice as much. Communication eliminates or at least reduces some of the questions and concerns.
In addition to contacting your candidate pool early and preparing them for the coming changes, you should also offer a practice exam. Practice exams help candidates know what to expect when it comes time for the real thing.
GS: I know you’re in the middle of a transition from CBT or paper / pencil for those 440 exam programs or at least a good portion of them. But it sounds like so far, you’re pretty satisfied with how that’s going, with how the technology is serving ICC.
MP: Oh, very much so. We’ve administered more than 2,500 exams virtually in the last nine months. That is about 30% of the total exams that are available, which is a much larger percentage of the uptake that we expected. We’re rolling out another 40 or so exams on July 1st. So, we’ve got a lot that’s going to be added to our catalog as we go.
Now people are asking, “When are you going to have specific more exams (available virtually)?” Maybe they’ve heard about it or they’ve taken one already and found how much easier it was – they didn’t have to go anywhere; they didn’t have to wait. They were more comfortable, and it reduced test anxiety, which is a big deal for a lot of our candidates.
GS: And the reduced anxiety is because they’re taking it at home, in a familiar environment?
MP: Absolutely. They’re in their office or at home. It’s their own equipment. They’re already familiar with the computer that they’re working with. We have heard quite a bit from our candidates that, “I wasn’t as stressed because I was in a comfortable environment.”
GS: Right. And will you move the entire set of exam programs over, or what does the future hold for ICC and virtual proctoring?
MP: Probably 95% of our catalog will move over to virtual proctoring, or be available as CBT and virtual, depending on what the program it is and what code year it is. We’ve got some complexities that will impact that decision, but we’re looking to open up more and more programs to virtual proctoring through the end of 2020.
GS: Okay. Wow, that’s an exciting transition and that sounds like things are well underway and working well at this point.
MP: Very much so. I’m proud to say ICC is on the cutting edge of credentialing in the building safety industry, which is a huge cultural shift since our members have historically been very conservative about change. So being able to get online proctored testing and some of the other things that we’re doing with digital badging and print-on-demand certificates and that kind of thing really is pushing the envelope of what ICC has done previously.
GS: Isn’t it interesting that even an industry that you describe as conservative that there are enough perceived advantages to virtual proctoring that the industry is willing to take that risk with you?
MP: Absolutely. It’s becoming a different world quickly. Even some of our seasoned members are seeing the benefits, being able to take an exam anytime, anywhere. So, it’s really helping to push ICC forward, and they’re excited about it.
GS: We’re excited for you as well. Michelle, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today about your experience with virtual proctoring, and I look forward to following your progress over the next couple of year!
MP: Thank you!