Athena Huss and Brittney Gibson join us to discuss ASTM's training and certification programs, how they are different, and what people can expect.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode 16: ASTM Training & Certification Programs
Recorded: August 5, 2022
Released: August 23, 2022
Host(s): Brian Johnson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager and Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source.
Guest(s): Brittney Gibson, Certification Specialist of the Training and E-learning Program at ASTM & Athena Huss, Instructional Designer of Training and On-demand Solutions at ASTM
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcribed by Kim Swanson and Descript.com
[Theme music fades in.]
[00:00:00] Announcer: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials, testing, and inspection with people in the know from exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here’s our host, Brian Johnson.
[00:00:20] Brian: Welcome to AASHTO re:source Q&A. I'm Brian Johnson.
[00:00:24] Kim: And I'm Kim Swanson. And who do we have with us today, Brian?
[00:00:27] Brian: Well, today we have some special guests from ASTM joining us to talk about two different things that I think some people get confused by. Our first guest, many of our AASHTO Accredited laboratories already know this person. It's Brittney Gibson, who is now the Certification Specialist of the Training and E-learning Program at ASTM. Welcome, Brittney.
[00:00:51] Brittney: Hello, thanks for having me.
[00:00:00] Brian: And Athena Huss, Instructional Designer of Training and On-demand Solutions that ASTM welcome Athena.
[00:00:59] Athena: Thank you. Hello everybody.
[00:01:01] Brian: Yes, I mentioned Brittney. So, Brittney, at one point in her career was an AASHTO re:source Assessor and then Quality Analyst for… Brittany, how long were you a Quality Analyst?
[00:01:14] Brittney: I was a quality analyst for four years.
[00:01:17] Brian: She and her time at AASHTO re:source and the AASTHO Accreditation Program has had many emails and conversations with people about all kinds of things. So, Brittney’s voice may sound familiar to some of you out there, but we're not going to talk about that. We want to talk about some of the certification and training. So. So, Brittney, I'm going to start with certification. Now you, you know a lot about certification from your time at AASHTO, but now you're taking some of that knowledge over to ASTM and tell us what you're doing with that.
[00:01:49] Brittney: Right. So ASTM has recently gotten involved in developing personnel certification programs for the construction materials testing industry and we focused on the following scopes of soil aggregate and asphalt mixture. Now all of our programs, they're developed so that they meet the requirements of the ASTM Quality Management System Standards for Certification. So that means that we try to make sure we include questions from all the different sections that are required. 3rd, we also want to make sure that we build and rigor and that we also include actual calculation questions where we can see that people are applying the formulas correctly and actually kind of get some meaning out of what those values mean at the end of the day. So, for soil, we have soil laboratory technician level one, and that covers really some of the basic test methods that you would commonly see such as compaction test methods, moisture content, liquid limit, plastic limit, things like that.
[00:02:56] Brittney: But then we also have two asphalt aggregate certification programs that cover.
The first one, level 1 covers the C1077 requirements, so C117, C127, C128, C136 and then the level 2 covers things like flatten and long gated, fractured particle, things that you would commonly see in it lab that runs asphalt mixture testing. And then we also have the asphalt mixture laboratory technician and the asphalt mixture field technician. Now of those programs, only one has officially launched and that is the ASTM soil laboratory technician level one and that is also the only program that we actually had you all review for AASHTO approval. So, at this time we're only offering the soil program, but we are hoping to launch the other programs very, very soon.
[00:3:54] Brian: That's great. Now I I know you started with soil for a specific reason. Would you like to get into that a little bit?
[00:04:01] Brittney: Actually, for all of our programs, we start developing them with a pilot organization. So that's actually how we came up with the scope. And we also looked at how commonly accessed our standards were. We also looked into accreditation information. So how many labs were accredited for certain standards? We did quite a bit of market research to try and figure out which test methods needed to be included in each program. ASTM soil specifically we wanted to focus on that scope of testing because we've gotten feedback that there aren't a lot of national programs that exist for soils testing and also it can be somewhat difficult if you have to travel different places to get your certification. And so, one of the main benefits of our programs is that they're actually fully online. So, the written exam component, completely online, it is proctored.
[00:05:02] Brittney: It uses record and review proctoring so. We're able to see what the participant is doing on their screen, but of course that information is not kept longer than six months. It's deleted if you e-mail us and say, hey, I want you to delete this now, we can also take care of that and the performance evaluations, we actually provide performance logs that your supervisor or manager has to log into our system, and complete them on your behalf. These are two different accounts. The participant has an account. The supervisor and manager has an account. They're not able to actually work in each other's workspace, and we do also require that we get an organizational chart, as well as the supervisor and managers' resumes so that we can just kind of verify that they're the best person to be evaluating that participant.
[00:5:75] Brian: OH OK, that's great. Yeah, because that's a question that often comes up is how that performance component is handled so that sounds good. I know this happens with the accreditation program, but sometimes people aren't great at reading instructions when they're about to do something. And I'm wondering how many times when you tell people that when they take the written exam that there's going to be video on and they have to have their camera available. Do you ever have times where you go to the review the video and there's nothing because they have a cover over it or is everybody been pretty good about keeping up with that?
[00:06:34] Brittney: So, the great thing with our system is it forces you to go through a series of checks before you can even begin the exam. So, if you have multiple screens, multiple tabs open, if you try to click into another tab, it'll lock the exam, so you can't access it. It checks the quality of your video, checks the quality of your microphone, it even looks at your Internet quality, and that way we haven't really had any issues.
[00:07:01] Brian: Oh, that's great. Uh one, one other question I had for you, and this is something that somebody, one of our customers asked about the scope of that soils program. Now I know that there are there is one field test in there, right? Have you had many people sign up for it that knew the laboratory test and not the field test and asked to have that split out or if they've been I mean it's a common field test that a lot of technicians know but, have you had people run into that or is there any solution? If they did have an issue with it?
[00:07:33] Brittney: So, I would say for D6938, that's the test I believe you're referring to, nuke gauge. We have had some people mention that they don't necessarily do certain parts of it and that there are not always the ones that are doing the calculations or the standard counts. Other than that, we haven't really gotten any feedback saying that you know, that really threw off the certification process for them. On the other hand, we have gotten requests for an actual soils field program.
[00:08:07] Brian: Ohh interesting. What tests did people want to see in that certification?
[00:08:12] Brittney: So, this is a fairly newer request. I haven't actually gone back and done the market research to see what exactly they want, but I do know that they were interested in soils field and also in soils geotechnical testing.
[00:08:24] Brian: Oh wow. Geotechnical certification, that would be interesting, but I'm not aware of anybody offering that right now. So that would be a first in the industry as far as I know. What kind of feedback are you getting so far, Brittney?
[00:08:37] Brittney: Really, I think most of our feedback comes from the different applications that we use. I haven't really gotten or been informed of any feedback relating to our content of the exams. I think we did a really good job working with both the partner organization originally as well as we work with a consultant to make sure that our questions are really robust and that they aren't confusing. They're tricky or gimmies or anything like that. But as far as the applications we use, we do have three different applications. So, the certification process is managed through our application Certemy and that's where you would actually go when you would apply. You would complete the performance evaluation logs and you would do payment things like that. This is also the application that would send out a letter officially recognizing that you've gained certification status as well as what put you on our registry on our website so that if anyone wanted to verify that you had certification. They could just click on our website and do that there.
[00:09:45] Brittney: The exam takes place in Questionmark. This is where I think we get the most questions. Either they're confused on when their access period for the exam begins the access period for our exams are the second full week of every month. So, for August, for example, that exam period's coming up. It would be August 8th through the 12th, and then September would actually be September 12th through the 16th. Now as far as getting scheduled for the exams, that's all handled by ASTM staff. You would get an e-mail that would say, hey, you've been scheduled for this exam. This is how you log into your account. And that's really where the most issues occur because if you have SPAM set up or if your organization will block certain emails because they don't recognize the sender, you might not get that e-mail and you might have issues logging into the website. But that's really the main issue. The other application we used is for the digital badging, so once you complete our certification programs you do get a digital badge through Credly. And that's just another site that you have to log into and create an account. So, the goal is as we move forward, we can streamline those processes so that you don't have to go to those three different sites physically.
[00:11:11] Brian: That's pretty incredible. So, you've got it at least four different applications working together to deliver this service, right?
[00:11:20] Brittney: It's three, but yes.
[00:11:21] Brian: It's three. OK, so, yeah, sorry. But yeah, that must have been difficult to coordinate, and it seemed like you got this off the ground pretty quickly. How? How long did it take you to do this?
[00:11:30] Brittney: It may seem fairly quick, but it's actually been over two years.
[00:11:37] Brian: I'd say that's pretty quick. When it comes to these kinds of complicated developments, not only did you figured out how to deliver it, you know you got the customer interface, the data management delivery and then you've got writing all the questions and figuring out the scheme of you know how it's going to operate. That's really, I mean you should be commended on how you were able to do that. That's a big lift in coordinating all these things. So yeah, it's impressive. You should feel good about that. So I'm trying to say I'm not very good at giving compliments, but.
[00:12:08] Brittney: Oh, well thank you. Honestly, I'll say that you know, the pandemic forced a lot of different organizations to pivot, and the technology that we have available these days really helps to streamline a lot of these processes so. I think we are fortunate to be living in the time that we live in.
[00:12:27] Brian: Yeah, it doesn't feel like it all the time. [Brittney: Minus COVID minus COVID.] Yeah, yeah, I'm not always feeling so fortunate about all the times we live in. But Brittany, thanks for all the information. And let's switch over to Athena. You've been very patient as I've been asking Brittney all these questions, but let's focus on training. So, certification and training are different processes. Can you tell us about what ASTM offers and the training arena and how that came to be?
[00:12:55] Athena: Again, I'm Athena. I focus on the e-learning portion of the training ASTM offers. Our training team offers live in-person training through Zoom because as we said, we're in a different world now or in person and then we offer a large catalog of e-learning courses focused on different ASTM standards. A lot of these are going to be common standards that everybody's using in their labs. We talked about aggregates, soil, asphalt, a lot of different standards in these programs are about hour-long e-learning modules that are intended to really introduce somebody new in the lab to that ASTM standard. It's going to walk them through each standard, and bring the text of the standard in with a lot of visual aids, knowledge checks, interactive reviews, and videos of the different procedures to help them see what they're going to be looking at before they get into that lab and. Ideally, that'll really reduce the amount of time you're managers are going to be spending walking through that standard, you hand somebody that ASTM standard and its technical language, and sometimes it doesn't connect to what you're actually going to be looking at in the lab. And the intent is to help bridge that gap for new learners. The other really intended use is to help somebody who's preparing for an audit who is preparing for a certification. Like, Brittney just spoke of to help them.
[00:14:22] Athena: Ensure they're aware of everything in this standard. That calculation section, what the reporting requirements are, what the apparatus should look like, and have that from ASTM with the most recent version of the standards. So, we keep that all updated. Another interesting part I think that has happened over the last few years with our eLearning is we've really redesigned it. Many people may have seen sort of a PowerPoint-style training in the past from us and we've really moved into, as Brittney said, with all the new technologies and things people have available. We've changed our training to fit the needs of our modern learners. So, all of our training is transitioning into a mobile-friendly, responsive eLearning so people can open it on their phones and we've heard from tax opening their D75 training on the truck while they're waiting for a new job site, so trying to make that a little bit more accessible for everybody, adding interactivity, making sure it's interactive and consistent and really makes it easy learning opportunity for those in need.
[00:15:25] Athena: So that's a little bit about of our, our training. A lot is coming out in the next year to support Brittney's certifications. So, she talked about some of that. Some of the soil training geotechnical areas we're looking at. We have a lot of new training coming out in those areas. I think we should be launching about 25 new courses based on ASTM standards, in aggregates soil, geotechnical standards with triaxial testing, and things like that. And we just launched D7928, the Hydrometer test, and we're working on D6913. That one is taking me a little bit longer, but it'll be coming out soon. So, there are a lot of more complicated ASTM standards that we're trying to approach with e-learning to help everybody get sort of equal footing going into those standards.
[00:16:12] Brian: That's amazing. D7928 is extremely complicated, [Dog barking in the background.] and I know there's a lot of need out there for people to receive training on that is backed by the standard language [Athena: Yeah.] and not... I'm sorry my dogs barking. Well, she'll be part of this podcast then. So is 7928 it is a standard that has been not well understood by a lot of people. Even some of the managers of testing laboratories. So, I think having ASTM deliver a training module on that would be really helpful to people. What was your background on this?
[00:16:53] Athena: So, I can talk a little bit about that and how we develop these courses for everybody to sort of have that background. My personal background has been in working in nonprofits in all different sectors, really focused on the training and onboarding of new people. So that's where I came to ASTM from. I'm sort of a nerdy person, so I find it all interesting, as Brittney knows. So, I get to learn about a lot of this from the experts, which is amazing. But that's the real key. So, when I come to a new training with my team, we're going to work with the committees, with the technical contacts for each standard to get a sense of where the needs are, where the pain points are, where we need to focus, what's really visually important to show, to make sure that things are done correctly. So, we'll work with that individual and sometimes several individuals from the committees.
[00:17:42] Athena: To sort of scope the course out, then we'll go on-site to a laboratory and work very closely with accredited laboratories to film the standards. And again, that's another assessment portion for us to talk to the different individuals, the QA, CQC person, the lab technician to focus in on the different aspects of the test and represent it visually. When we do that, we'll bring the ASTM standard and literally go word by word through it as we do the procedure. And it's a great way to really look at each part of that standard and you know sometimes you'll find somebody will say ohh. You know we normally do it this way and gives that focus and we can always bring in those experts to say, hey, I'm going to give him a quick call and see what they meant as we're going through and filming that. Once we film, we go through, we build the e-learning course, write the assessments, the assessments and all of our courses are pretty careful to focus on details of the ASTM standard without getting too in-depth knowing that a lot of the folks taking this are going to be technicians and may not do all the pieces of that standard.
[00:18:46] Athena: And then we'll send that all to that technical contact and the committee is actually review all of the videos. So, there's a pretty lengthy development process behind any of this to make sure that we bring in all the expertise needed to make sure that the content focuses where it needs to and has the information needed even though the person designing it isn't familiar with the technical details.
[00:19:09] Kim: Relatable Athena, that I don't have any technical background about anything either. So, it is interesting to learn more about this, and you're just like, oh, that's really interesting. And it's helpful, I think, to bring a new perspective to things of, like, that doesn't even make sense to me. Like, is that really what we meant? And things like that? So, I think it's actually valuable to not necessarily be, you know, the subject matter expert yourself that you can bring that other people in and have a. Different look at it. So, I think that's an interesting and was relatable to me personally anyway.
[00:19:39] Athena: Absolutely. I think that is really helpful. When I go through and read all of these standards through, I'm going to ask all the dumb questions because it's completely new to me [Kim: Yeah.] and I joke that I'm. I'm very like easy to talk to in a party or hotel bar now because I know a little bit about everything.
[00:19:59] Kim: I love that and that's why I'm here on the podcast, I am asking the dumb questions, so that's why I'm here for part of this part of this. But I did want to ask a little more detail about what is actually included in the training that you're providing. So, you did talk a little bit that you have videos and things, but what would somebody expect as they're going through? Is it just all on demand or are there any live portions of it or what's included in that?
[00:20:23] Athena: For our construction training, it is all on demand at this point. Each course takes about an hour. And it'll go through each section of that ASTM standard. There's going to be imagery, there's going to be videos, there's going to be interactive reviews that might be sorting activities or flip cards or a scenario you can walk through to help make sure that the person going through it is following what's happening and not just clicking through. The videos are definitely a highlight because they are balloted and they really have that visual, especially during COVID. And we found that it was really helpful, and a lot of people were assigning all of these onboarding trainings, so that maybe somebody brand new who's never been in a testing laboratory could see what it's going to look like and kind of have an idea of the PPE they might wear or what that oven is going to look like before they get there. So that was really nice. Each course will also come with a quiz. The quizzes are usually…
[00:21:20] Athena:10 to 25 questions to go through and make sure somebody saw all of the information that they understood the procedure. It's not going to go to the depth that Brittney spoke about with the certification. That's a different level. So, this is really more of a training and preparation piece. That, of course, is going to come with additional laboratory time with your manager. It's not really going to replace that physical hands-on training that you'd get but is really going to help prepare somebody for that and hopefully. Prepare them with the really detailed and consistent training before they go into something like certification. I know we've all seen where you go into laboratory and Joe might train one way and Jim really likes to do this and maybe we'll use this pan instead of this one because it works better for the soil they're using, and this is going to really make sure it's consistent and meets the standard so that everybody has that basis.
[00:22:15] Kim: This is a question for both you, Athena, and Brittney. How often are these materials for both the training and the certification program updated and reviewed? Because I know some there can be some changes to standards on a yearly basis. Sometimes I think multiple times a year in some rare cases. So how often is this under review and? What's like the checks to make sure that everyone's getting the correct information there?
[00:22:40] Athena: For the e-learning, it updates every time the standard updates, so C31 has updated twice already this year and we've updated the courses twice this year. The way it's updated is going to depend on the changes. So, if you know millimeters moved over a space, that's going to be sort of a quick lift for us. If the content changes, we make sure we go through. We review both versions of the standard. You can do that really easily in Compass, which is nice, and then we'll go through and send it back by an expert to take a look and make sure that what we've changed makes sense, that a quiz question now isn't misleading because of this change that has happened. That process usually takes about. 6 to 8 weeks for us for our translated content that takes a little bit longer. We do offer some of our courses in concrete field and strength full immersion in Spanish and Portuguese, so that takes us a little bit longer to work on, but we try to get it out as quickly as possible and automatically push it to all of our customers. So, they have that training on whatever is the most relevant content for them.
[00:23:47] Brian: How do you handle those changes from the video, though? Are these deliverables for eLearning? Is it a bunch of segmented steps in the procedure, or is it a beginning-to-end kind of video demonstration?
[00:24:02] Athena: Depends on the content. So, some areas, if it's a really extensive procedure or there's many options, we're going to have segments if it's something fairly straightforward, it'll be one video when there is a change, we have a great in-house media team, they will go through. Sometimes we have to go out and refilm and that takes longer. If that's the case, we will be very straightforward that this video is still the past version. It's pretty rare that that happens. A lot of times we'll have film when we went on site that we took and we can sort of piece it together, use some images and voiceover to sort of make that work. We also have a really great animator on our team. So now more and more if there is something that we know we have to go film, we can fill that gap with animation for now and be able to use that as a way to show what we need. But I'll be honest for the standards that we have right now, we don't really. Usually have to make huge changes to the video. It's usually. More guidance towards reporting and calculations and things like that change.
[00:25:06] Brian: Yeah, it seems like you've got a lot of these standards that are long-standing ones that are reliable and when they make a change, it's usually something kind of minor, maybe some clarification rather than different equipment or different procedural steps. So, you alluded to I think what we also wanted to discuss, which is some of the confusion between eLearning and these online certification programs because when you have those questions, those knowledge checks. In your eLearning, sometimes people want to and I don't know if this is intentional or not. They want to take the leap and say that they have become certified now by having answered these eLearning questions. Brittany, has this ever happened that somebody's reached out to you and said why don't I have a certification because I've taken this eLearning through ASTM and you are both ASTM employees? So why is there a difference in? What's happening here? What? Like what kind of? Or maybe that's not how the confusion arises, but maybe you can tell us cause I'm sure that there is some case of something like this.
[00:26:13] Brittney: Oh, definitely yes. So, I have had instances where people have contacted us at our e-mail which is email@example.com and they've completed one of our eLearning bundles and they've actually misplaced some of the generated certificates they get from that, and they think that that certificate means that they are certified. But the intent of the e-learning programs, as Athena mentioned is not to meet certification requirements. The quiz questions, they don't necessarily cover the standard to the amount of rigor that we would expect for a certification exam. And so really, if you do our eLearning, that does not mean you're certified. Another way that sometimes people are confused. When they are looking to purchase eLearning bundles, sometimes they think that purchasing that bundle for like their group or their team would mean that they after completing that, are certified. So, when they start the initial process of discussing purchasing, sometimes it can be a little confusing exactly what product they want, and sometimes they get slotted over to eLearning when really what they're asking for is certification.
[00:27:31] Brian: Yep, I'm sure that happens all the time and people misuse the words you know, certification, accreditation somehow training gets mixed in there. I don't know why or how because you know, they get confused even between training and competency evaluations. Right. But if you just think about the dictionary definition of training, it's the teaching someone how to do something right. Or learning something new that they didn't know before, but they did not, that doesn't necessarily provide a competent person at the end of the training? That's the beginning, right? So, it should be pretty self-explanatory, but I know it's not. Maybe Athena. Maybe there needs to be a module in e-learning about terminology so that we can what I'm sure that will be very popular. [Athena: Yeah. We’ll work on that one.] People love terminology, but it's really important.
[00:28:25] Brittney: Some of the most confusing terms for people that I interact with are accreditation can be confusing, registration, certification, and then specifically what is the difference between a certificate program versus a certification program. So yeah, you're right. Maybe at the end, we need to create a module that kind of goes over those differences. But I also just wanted to try one in that our certification programs, they don't require specific training. So, you don't have to take our eLearning in order to complete our certification. There actually aren't any specific education or work requirements for these programs. Obviously, we would want you to be you know. Actually understand the standard so that when you take the exam you don't completely bomb it, but there are no actual specific requirements for that.
[00:29:19] Kim: But going back to the terminology discussion, I did want to share for our listeners and I don't know if our guests know, but we do have a podcast episode that kind of goes into depth to terminology. Talking about accreditation, certification, and different related terms. So maybe Brittney, you can pass that along as a resource, so you don't have to keep repeating yourself with these conversations. But that was season 2, episode 20. If anybody is interested in that. And I haven't linked in the show notes.
[00:29:47] Brian: Thanks. Yeah. I think one of the reasons why there is so much confusion out there between training and certification programs is the way the industry is handled it historically. Because typically what has happened is someone will sign up for a certification and they assume that there is a training module attached to that. So, they'll say, OK, I'm signed up on this day and they'll know they'll go into this thing, and they'll be a day of training or refresher on all of the requirements. It's almost like they're being trained on how to pass the certification program, which it from an accreditation provider’s perspective that concerns me, but I think it is customarily what happens is that the people who sign up for it, they'll get some sort of refresher on it and then they'll have the demonstration or maybe just the written exam to follow, depending on how that program is. And that probably led to some of the confusion that people have when it goes to the eLearning and the certification online. What do you think, Brittney?
[00:30:53] Brittney: That is something that concerns me greatly as well. Athena and I have actually had quite a few conversations about ways that we can maintain that firewall between training and certification. We certainly don't want to teach to the exam. Of course, we want to offer support, but our certification programs, our training programs, we don't want there to be this like co-mingling of questions and content and things like that. They are separate. We want to keep that firewall.
[00:31:25] Athena: Yeah, and that we really, we really work on that within our office to make sure that there is that division. We're working much more closely with different technicians in the laboratory and with experts from the committee to build the eLearning portion. Brittney’s working with different experts to write the different questions and validate them on her end, really to make the training a tool for your laboratory, your field technician to onboard to learn, hopefully, to prepare them for something like that certification. And to be that competent employee you need. So, they just sort of fall at different levels and different points of an employee's sort of lifecycle.
[00:32:03] Brian: Yeah. And I and I love, you know, if anybody missed this earlier, Athena was talking about how you can access these modules remotely. So, if somebody could pull it up on a tablet or smartphone in the field, I think you refer to D75. So, a sampling standard, which could be really handy for somebody who says, I know this changed, but I used to be chair of that subcommittee, by the way, [Athena: Oh wow.] and it had undergone some drastic changes, really good ones from an extremely knowledgeable producer of the material. So that's a good one. If somebody not sure they can see information, probably some videos I assume, and that one haven't seen the module myself, but I'm sure it's good. I have seen others as a subject matter expert that I was really impressed by. So, I think ASTM has done excellent job putting those together. And I do also want to emphasize the point you made earlier about how it's important to have people who understand the process of delivering e-learning and delivering certification rather than somebody who just know how to run the tests or know how to run a laboratory.
[00:33:24] Brian: Kim, you mentioned it earlier, how often you are called upon to provide sane advice or professional advice on things like communication, because that's your expertise and I think a lot of times laboratories are so busy and they are so devoted to their normal everyday activities that they don't think about like oh, maybe I'm not the best person to provide this training or maybe. Maybe I should call on somebody who actually knows how to deliver effective training and understands the science of learning because it is a science. Just because you're a subject matter expert, doesn't mean that you're effective at training people. So, if you missed that point earlier, I just want to emphasize that again so that people don't miss it. Athena, I have another question for you about - maybe this is another point of confusion- but ASTM over the last couple of years, probably longer. It has embedded videos into some of the standards, right? [Athena: Yeah.] So little, short, I mean really short clips on techniques. Is there any integration between that deliverable and eLearning?
[00:34:40] Athena: Yeah. So, the videos that ASTM produces are key features of the eLearning. There are different ways we deliver them, and we've sort of increased the different ways we can deliver eLearning and video to our customers over the years. And if you subscribe to eLearning in Compass, you can click and view a full eLearning module or you can view the videos and compass as well. So, there's two ways to view them. There are some videos that are maybe a little bit longer. That might be in the eLearning, but those are two ways to view them, and you can definitely view them in the eLearning. Another thing we have added, and this is very much to your prior point from a learning perspective, one of the things we've noticed for delivery to our learners is sometimes having to log into a different place is tough, especially for bigger companies because all of their HR training is in their own system. So, we are actually able to now deploy our current training to other people's. Umm. Learning management systems. So those videos and that eLearning can be within their own system and tracked by their managers instead of having to learn. To log into our system to pull reports, they can do it with everything else that they do to make that. A bit more seamless and take some of that work off that maybe somebody who's an expert would have thought of this delivery method, but you know, we were able to offer that to hopefully just save everybody time.
[00:36:01] Brian: Yeah, for sure in Brittany, when it comes to writing exam questions. Back at AASHTO re:source, you had some experience reviewing amateur internal written exams from people who were testing, you know, managing testing operations, but maybe you weren't so great at writing exam questions. What's the some of the key differences between some of the exam questions that you have seen written by people who don't really understand some of the principles of delivering effective learning and evaluating whether the learning was effective and somebody who is knowledgeable about that?
[00:36:41] Brittney: I think in most cases it kind of comes down to questions that are considered gimmies. So, whether that's a heavy reliance on true/false questions, and don't get me wrong, you can create true/false questions that actually require additional thought where you would, you know, answer if it was true or false. So then provide an explanation like that can definitely work, but typically exams that are entirely true, false questions. They don't necessarily include. Different complexity of question types and then also when you're going through your exam, you're going through your question bank. Sometimes you'll have a preceding question that really tells you the answer to the question that comes after. I think that's a pretty common thing that I've seen as well, and also just confusing wording sometimes in your question, stem. You know it's. Like either actually includes the answer in some ways, like let's say that you were talking about a question that dealt with a particular…
[00:37:55] Brittney: Particular values. So, let's say the question was dealing with temperature, temperature of the oven, and it was a fill in the blank and it said the oven temperature must be maintained at blank degrees Fahrenheit and then in parentheses, it actually gives the degrees Celsius [Brian: Oh boy.] like that's a gimme right? Because you can just convert that and go oh, the answer is obviously this. So, you just have to be a lot more aware of how you're building the questions. And what comes before and after the questions and your exams, you have to take a complete look at everything included.
[00:38:31] Brian: That's a good tip for people. Those kinds of questions can be really handy even if somebody has their own internal training program. Just doing these little knowledge checks here and there, not asking those leading questions. My favorite poorly constructed exam that I think we've ever seen was the true/true exam where it was basically a list of just statements that were just pulled right out of the standard. So, like different sections and with a T&F next to it. And they were all just directly copied. So, they were all true and somebody presented that as an equivalent to a certification. Obviously, we didn't accept that, but those are the kind of things that if you don't know how to do it. That may have been perfectly reasonable to that person, you know. But we were a little bit more experienced and Brittney is extremely experienced in this area, so. I think that that probably is showing through pretty clearly to people who are taking the certification courses. Kim. What did we miss?
[00:39:29] Kim: I will say Brittney did not get to answer the question of how often that the certification program is updated to keep up to date with the standards.
[00:39:39] Brittney: Right. So, we kind of have both an informal process and a more formal process. So informally we definitely get alerted when there are changes to the standards that are made and we can kind of do a quick review based off of the list of standards that we have included and make sure that the changes don't affect any of the sections included in the exam. But we also every six months do a much more thorough review where we look into any standards that have changed. We look into all the questions. And make sure that you know we don't need to change something. Luckily for most of the test methods, and I think Brian mentioned this earlier, they're long-lived standards. They don't make very many changes to them. They're widely accepted and used. So typically, we haven't seen any like major procedural changes, things like that. Normally there are editorial or changes in notes, things like that.
[00:40:38] Brian: Athena and Brittany, thank you so much for your time today before you go. Athena could. What if I want to learn more about the e-learning program and ASTM, where can I go?
[00:40:470] Athena: Yeah. So, you can just go to go.astm.org/train or if you Click to the STM website, there's a training section. You can go there and learn more about what we offer or reach out to me.
[00:41:00] Brian: Where can people learn about certification program or sign up?
[00:41:03] Brittney: You can actually use that same link that Athena mentioned and if you scroll to the bottom there's a section called Credentialing Program and there's a piece for personnel certification where you can learn about the different programs we offer. And then there's also a link for the registry, which is if you did go through our certification, this is where you could click, and someone could verify your certification status.
[00:41:28] Brian: That's great. I didn't even get to that part that I tried not to go too deeply in the certification because I'm interested in that topic, and I could probably ask you a question for two hours about certification. But having a verifiable directory I think is critical for any certification program or other credentialing programs so that specifying agency, accreditation body, one of the clients even of a third-party testing lab. If they have a technician that's been working on one of their projects that they could verify those credentials or, you know, or if it's a certification, of course, that'd be good. And you mentioned credential, that's another term. So, what other credentials other than certification are there or is that it or they're going to be future ones?
[00:42:15] Brittney: Well, we do also have certificate programs that we offer digital credentials for and those are also included on our credentialing registry. And then Athena, I don't know if you want to speak to sort of some of the things that you guys have in the work with digital credentials.
[00:42:33] Athena: Yeah. So, when you finish each e-learning course with ASTM, you get a certificate of completion just to show that you took the course. And that is available for anybody who's taken any course. And if you complete a whole program, so say you take all of our aggregate-based soil training and complete the six courses in that grouping, there is a digital badge to show that you've taken that and that can be shared like the other credentials on your LinkedIn to show that you've met that.
[00:43:02] Brittney: Yet, but just so that there's no confusion, I will stress that the credentialing for the personnel certification that is different, it looks different. [Athena: Yep.] And so, there are still two different things.
[00:413:14] Athena: Yep. And for the training piece, you're not going to have that registry. It's just a proof that you've attended and passed your quiz that's not going to certify you for anything.
[00:43:25] Brian: Thanks again, Athena and Brittany. Thanks again and look forward to some new offerings by ASTM, both in e-learning and certification.
[00:43:34] Athena: Thank you so much.
[00:43:35] Brittney: Yes, thank you for having us.
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