3 years I was awarded the MCSE: Data Platform certification and as per the recertification rules, I needed to recertify this year to keep it active. So shortly after Christmas I set about looking into what exams I needed to take and brushing up on all those new features in 2014 that I've yet to try out in anger.
It came as a bit of a nice surprise to find out that I was actually able to recertify by taking and passing a prescribed set of courses within the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). The idea being is that you work through a list of courses with each course being divided up into modules, and each with training videos/slides and a set of test questions to confirm that you understand that module. Once you pass all modules in a course, you move onto the next course and the next etc. Once you have completed all the courses completely at your own pace (I think you need 10 IIRC ) then you get in contact with Microsoft and once they validate that you have completed the necessary courses from your MVA transcript then they award you the recertification by resetting the inactive date on your certification.
Microsoft's explanation for offering this road to recertification is that you have already gained the certification in a controlled environment so you shouldn't need to do any more exams. Hence just completing a number of modules within the MVA is enough to be recertified.
Based on my experience with all the modules I took, this got me thinking that exactly what is the point of recertification. I recall that when the recertification process came out a few years ago, it was to ensure that people stay current with the latest information and changes with that technology. Which is fair enough and I totally agree with that. The problem I found is that you didn't really need to do any learning to pass each of the modules.
Within each section you can go straight to the questions and you are allowed to keep retaking the test questions until you hit the passing score. If you really do get stuck, then you can go and review the training material for that section. However, as you are told which answers you got incorrect from a finite set of questions for that section, it isn't going to take anyone long to muddle through each section regardless. As you can do this from the comfort of your armchair you are free to use any other source of information to answer the questions as well.
It really feels like Microsoft have gone a bit too far to make it easier and cheaper (free?!) to appease anyone complaining about the recertification process and the reason to recertify is actually lost to just being a box ticking exercise.
I'm not going to be popular by saying that in fact I'd prefer to take a controlled test, and pay for it. The point of the exam in the first place is to distinguish you and it is an asset for your CV and one that you are willing to put effort and often money into attaining. Paying for the exam ensures that those that really want the (re)certification keep it. Those that don't need it anymore won't pay to recertify. Taking a traditional exam (proctored or otherwise) ensures that you are keeping up to date with the latest changes to the technology which is what employers want to see. You only get one chance to pass or require a complete retake. When employers realise that current recertification is so easy, the certs will lose their credibility and professionals are not compelled to keep studying the latest changes to stay certified.
I don't know if this is some kind of intermediate solution before a longer term goal from Microsoft as it does feel like we are in a state of transition to something else far better. I really hope it is as I genuinely believe the current recertification process does little to keep you up bang up to date as it was sold previously when first introduced. I've not heard anything regarding an advanced certification since they pulled the MCM/MCA awards some time back and still wonder if we'll ever see a master level certification again. I hope we see some kind of MVA/Proctored hybrid type testing come out in the future to mix the best of both worlds. i.e. easy and cheap to access on demand but controlled and validated. I love the certifications and I think they are highly valuable but recertification is just broken I feel. Microsoft muted that one of the reasons master certifications were pulled because they couldn't recoup costs, but hang on, they can't be making any money from a free recertification process either?.
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