Over the weekend, I read this article about American football player James Harrison, and how he returned two trophies that his sons had received because they had not really done anything to earn those trophies.
It made me think of the certificates that are given after people attend a training workshop or a conference or completing an elearning module. What do those certificates even mean?
Several years ago I attended a webinar in which the presenter suggested that instructional designers hold certificates until the learners have demonstrated proficiency in the topic at hand. This could mean that instead of simply designing a 1-day workshop, a learning experience could be marketed as a 1-month experience. Maybe there’s a webinar or a short elearning module or some other pre-work to start. Then the learning is reinforced and practiced during the 1-day workshop. Then the learners are challenged to apply the learning to their jobs and submit some sort of evidence of mastery within a month. Then, and only then, should a certificate be awarded to learners.
Announcing a learning experience as a 1-month (or 3-month or 6-month) learning experience as opposed to a 1-day or 3-day workshop immediately shifts the mental model with which a learner will approach the situation. By spacing the learning over the course of a month (or longer) and insisting learners do something upon their return to their office, it can also lead to better retention, not to mention the possibility for level 3 (transfer) and level 4 (impact) evaluation.
Instructional designers can indeed take a lesson from James Harrison and insist that their learners earn their certificates.
Have you found a way to make certificates more meaningful? Let’s hear about it in the comment section.