[OSGeo-Discuss] Certification only; stay out of training :-)

Jody Garnett jody.garnett at gmail.com
Mon Jun 13 01:41:27 PDT 2011

> > Indeed the main benefit of certification here would be as an income draw to keep
> > OSGeo going.
> This is also interesting: currently we are using the surplus from courses to partly
> finance our (mainly QGIS) development. I do not think redirecting these resources to
> OSGeo would be a clever think to do. There is scope for competition between OSGeo and
> individual project, which is no good.
I don't think anybody is interested in the foundation competing with existing training courses. (Indeed training is one of the few places where any cost recovery on the udig project occurs).

That said if you don't want OSGeo competing in training - how would you like to pay for the foundation? I am not sure if your organisation sponsors OSGeo? I don't think my employer does (preferring to volunteer marketing effort); and I don't personally sponsor the foundation (preferring volunteer effort myself).

So this is the nice part about certification:
- it would make your training courses stronger (ie more attractive to customers)
- it makes training an easier thing to sell (take training as one step towards getting ready for certification)
- it would make QGIS more attractive (as a technology in which certification was available)
- it provides the foundation with a revenue stream that does not compete with any of the member organisations
(Indeed certification is a "service" that very few organisations could offer credibly?)

>From the QGIS standpoint the benefit for you really is focused on those first couple of points; certifications would be an additional activity the foundation could perform that would make your training courses more valuable.

My own thoughts on this (using your project as an example):

1. Testing criteria
- organisations offering QGSI training are asked to supply criteria to use for the certification process
(If your organisation wants to be involved this is where you would take part)
- the foundation pays for someone to write the test material for a specific qgis release (perhaps you? perhaps another vendor?)
- the test is passed around to those supplying QGIS certification criteria for review; production of an answer key etc...

2. Next time you do a training course
- offer your customer the option of either:
a) taking the certification tests at a later date (you can pass on the foundation contact details; and get a 30% cut in thanks for the referral)
b) arranging for a "bulk purchase" where you can offer your customer a discount for doing it then and their (perhaps give the customer a 20% discount to make it more attractive). You would need to play with the numbers to make this attractive (so customers don't just ordering the test for their top people).

3. Each month the foundation hires one of the organisation that defined the testing criteria to mark the tests
a) a month is chosen to have enough tests together in one spot to make effective use of time
b) the organisation hired should be a set rotation to be "fair"
c) the organisation hired should probably not be responsible for the training of any of the students being marked in order to keep this as independent as possible

4. Marking should be brutal
a) the idea is to force a spread so that potential employers can actually respect the certification
b) cover open source activities (bug submission, contribution to documentation, participation on the user list). If it is any kind of advanced certification this goes into building the application from source code, applying a patch and building locally (can submit a screen snap of the result), links to accepted submissions etc...
c) How brutal? How about if they get everything right they end up with 80%; the last 10% is there to allow markers to recognise "outstanding" 
d) if you really want to soften the blow you can provide different levels of certification out of the same test (confusion may not be worth it; easier to fail people and ask them to try again)

5. Updates to certification should be cheaper and repeatable
a) as each release comes out the certification criteria should be updated
b) a cheaper rate for "repeat customers" should be available - to encourage this both as a revenue stream - and as a certification process that employers can trust to be update to date. Why hire someone certified in QGIS 1.6 when QGIS 3 has been released?
c) the cheaper rate should also be available to those repeating the same test (partly to soften the blow due to the expected failure rate)

The other scenario for using the certification tests is:

3) Next time you hire someone
a) Buy a "bulk purchase" of tests
b) Ask applicants to take the test; and submit review (this is nice for them because it is on your dime; and nice for you as you get an objective evaluation)
c) The foundation arranges for someone to mark this pronto as part of the service; probably only returning details on the top five candidates
d) The foundation could change more to access test results in detail

The final scenario is "discounts":
a) arranging some kind of discount for graduate students (perhaps if their professor helps with the marking it could be arranged at the school level).
b) I hate asking graduate students for money; graduate student money is better spent on beer :(
c) arrange some kind of discount for "osgeo volunteers" perhaps with an email from a recognised osgeo committee chair (project steering committee, education committee or something). Because I don't mind asking graduate students for volunteer time ...
d) Being tough enough not to offer discounts to usual suspects (project developers, osgeo sponsors, people we really like ...). The more discounts that are around the lower the perceived value of the certification; we should try and get people to pay full price once; and then pay to retake the certification (either because they failed or because a new version of QGIS came out).

I am being very strict about not using the word volunteer in the above activities; your company/organisation should be paying for your involvement. And the foundation should be hiring someone to set the course materials, perform marking etc... This is very much pay to play.

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