REDMOND, Wash., April 25, 2001 — In Laura Robinsons classroom, students arent shy about demanding what they want.
“Students ask instructors to teach a customized curriculum — not one-size-fits-all training,”
says Robinson, a technical instructor for Intellimark, an information technology consulting firm.
Students arent the only ones making demands. Employers who pay for training services from Intellimark also ask more of instructors.
“Employers are looking for shorter formats, customized curriculums and options to supplement traditional classroom teaching,”
“In addition to classroom training, we offer a Web-based curriculum and self-paced training, and conduct brownbag sessions where we deliver overviews of technology, or specific presentations on subjects like Active Directory and how it works in Windows 2000.”
Times are changing for professional technology instructors. Not only is technology changing at a faster pace than ever before, the needs of trainees and the employers who will hire them are becoming increasingly diverse. The instructional skills needed to deliver this range of training options, and the need to keep up with a rapidly changing industry, make new demands on technical trainers like Robinson.
“Our students and their employers expect us to have real-world technology skills,”
“They also expect that weve done something to maintain our training certification, whether thats attending a course, testing our competency with the newest technology or delivering online courses — our customers expect us to do something proactive to keep up-to-date and to remain a trainer.”
Anticipating Change for MCTs
To address the changing needs of the professional training community, Microsoft recently announced several changes to its Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certification, set to begin with the start of the new program year in October. The MCT program accredits professional trainers who maintain their instructional skill set on Microsoft technologies.
Microsoft constantly reevaluates the program and implements new methodologies that will better serve the industry. The new certification requirements in the MCT 2002 Program are designed to ensure MCTs have the resources, skills, and knowledge to be industry-leading technology trainers. The requirements also ensure that MCTs have comprehensive, up-to-date technical knowledge and actively develop their technical and instructional skills.
“Microsoft is committed to developing the best technical trainers in the world,”
says Janet Sheperdigian, MCT Program Manager.
“This commitment means we must constantly reassess our methodologies and focus on both the current and future needs of the learner. As the speed of our industry continues to increase, we realized we needed to develop methods that would ensure that learners have access to trainers who mirror the industry by being active and continuing to evolve. Were changing our requirements to meet the technical and instructional needs we see coming down the road.”
In previous years, the MCT credential identified trainers who had the instructional skills and technical competence to teach at least one course. However, many MCTs have a broader base of technical skills, a level of competency the previous MCT credential didnt validate. By moving away from a course-centric certification program to a system that stresses active knowledge of Microsoft technology, the new MCT program allows trainers more flexibility. As part of the certification process, trainers can choose to engage in professional activities that meet the changing needs of the training industry, and more importantly, the needs of the learner.
Additionally, MCT certification seeks to identify a group of individuals who are actively engaged in teaching and professional development, and who are dedicated to maintaining a broad skill set.
“The MCT community will be the most up-to-date premier instructors in the industry,”
“These changes are aimed at raising the value of the MCT credential and its relevance for the customer and learner.”
New Certification Requirements
To identify the best trainers, Microsoft conducted a survey of active trainers, asking them what they did weekly or monthly to prepare themselves to teach.
“We took this list of courses and activities and boiled it down to 10 or 12 things that essentially identify a professional lifestyle for these trainers,”
“When active trainers look at the new program, they will see that we have simply valued and codified what they are already doing.”
“What I do in my job will already meet these requirements. One of the goals of the program was to tailor the requirements to how someone who was actively working as a trainer in the real world would perform their job. Instructors need to do something proactive to remain a trainer.”
The new MCT requirements include:
Maintaining premier certification. This certification can be Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) or Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA). These requirements guarantee that certified Microsoft trainers will have passed exams covering Microsoft platforms and operating systems, and that certified trainers will understand where specific technologies fit into the larger technology picture.
Delivering at least 10 days of Microsoft official curriculum and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) training courses. This requires certified trainers to be actively involved in instruction for at least 10 days a year. Microsoft recognizes that many trainers are independent and have other sources of income and responsibility. But the MCT program seeks to identify active trainers. MCTs are required to provide training of Microsoft curriculum in some capacity every year.
Earning technical and instructional continuing education credits. MCTs will now be required to accumulate 20 continuing education credits a year — 15 technical, five instructional — to renew their certifications. Just as lawyers, doctors and accountants must stay on top of emerging procedures and laws, MCTs must stay abreast of training and technology developments by taking exams and attending conferences and seminars. These technical and instructional credits are designed to be flexible to allow trainers to apply their time and professional development across technology areas and focus on areas they feel best address their needs and interests. Microsoft will evaluate the continuing education credits annually and apply new requirements to keep the MCT professionally relevant.
Its not just the certification requirements that are changing, according to Sheperdigian .
“We are producing new kinds of training content that will come out faster and appear in different modes and formats,”
“Trainers and training centers will need the ability to put these products together to match specific learner needs.”
Also, to make sure that Microsoft provides the MCT community with the appropriate resources to maintain this high standard, certified trainers will be offered downloadable trainer kits. Microsoft will also increase its communication channels with the MCT community through updated Web sites and newsflashes. The new certification requires a yearly program fee, which recovers the costs of downloadable courseware, technical support, operational costs and trainer readiness programs.
“One reality that these changes reflect,”
“is that fewer people today go to five-day sit-down classes. Learners want their training in multiple formats. Thus trainers need to become more agile in their knowledge base, and a lot more flexible in how they deliver content both inside and outside the classroom.”
The Benefits of Change
Sheperdigian identifies three groups affected by the changing requirements.
“First, there are the learners who take the courses. Then theres the MCT community. And then there are the owners and managers of Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (Microsoft CTECs). I believe each will derive distinct benefits now that the bar has been raised on MCT certification.”
Learners will know that the MCT-certified instructor providing their training has a broad, deep set of skills as well as perspective across the entire Microsoft product line, according to Sheperdigian. Students will also know that their trainer is actively teaching and is part of a dynamic community.
The benefit to an MCT certified instructor is huge, says Sheperdigian.
“In general, I believe that the new program will make MCTs more attractive in the market,”
“And thats good for everyone involved. Microsoft CTECs will benefit also, due to the fact that their trainers will be better prepared and more up-to-date.”
Maintaining the Value of the MCT Certification
Rod Fournier is the kind of guy who starts a conversation with a sports metaphor.
“Its like the National Football League, or the National Hockey League,”
“They make rule changes every year to speed up play, or to make things better for participants. I think its good that Microsoft raised the bar with the MCT program. I think the program needs to go through some of these type of rule changes from time to time.”
Fournier is the owner and president of Net Working America, a technical training and consulting firm in Michigan. Hes also one of five instructors who work at the company, and boasts an alphabet soup of training credentials: LCI, CTT, MCSE, MSS, LCP, ASE, SCSE, A+, and, he notes, “an internally caffeinated MCT.”
Fournier thinks the primary benefit of the MCT changes accrues to students.
“Its the people who actually take the classes who will benefit,”
“They will have someone in front of the class whos actually up-to-date with the technology, not someone whos living in the past.”
But theres also a benefit to the MCT community, says Fournier. The MCT will retain its value as a credential, and thats good for individual MCTs.
“The new requirements will recognize those trainers who are actively involved, passing tests and getting instructional and educational credits,”
“I think these changes have the potential to raise up the training industry as a whole. And that includes Microsoft CTECs.”
The new MCT certification requirements are part of a
“continuing process of improvement,”
“As instructors, when we go into a classroom, we dont just teach the class once and then say, OK I did that perfectly. As instructors we constantly need to think how can I do that better next time, give a better explanation or use a better analogy. Improving yourself is an active process. I think the MCT program is an active process, and the changes that Microsoft has announced tweak the program in ways that deliver long term benefits for everyone involved.”