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RIPE NCC Certified Professionals – Our Journey so Far

Sandra Brás — 21 May 2019
How can we try to support over 20,000 LIRs in 76 countries with a team of trainers? How do we ensure that our online certificates truly validate skills and expertise? In this Labs article, read about what the RIPE NCC is working on!

With a large service region to cover, our trainers spend most of their time on the road. We love (and we really mean it!) the personal interaction with our members during our face-to-face courses, but there are limits to how many courses we can offer. E-learning helps take our courses across our service region, and beyond. It supports those who live in more remote areas, or those who cannot travel to attend a course.

E-Learning takes off

We started our e-learning journey in 2014 through the RIPE NCC Academy, our online learning platform. It currently has three courses – the RIPE Database, IPv6 basics and LIR administration. The online courses have tutorial videos, exercises, tests and a lab environment. Over 1,200 people have completed our courses and earned their certificates.

The feedback we’ve received has been very encouraging – people enjoy being able to learn at their own convenience, and e-learning removes geographical barriers.

We love your certificates, but…

As e-learning became more popular, what we also began to hear from people who completed our online courses was that they wanted to have proof of their newly acquired skills to show their employers, to share with their networks. And they loved getting a certificate but… our current system does not check who takes the test. At present, there’s no supervision, so there’s no way to know how honest someone is while answering questions.

Could you do something about your certificates?

This feedback motivated us to ask members about our training and certificates, and how they are perceived. In 2016, we asked about what would be beneficial to our training services in the RIPE NCC Survey. The idea of having our certificates recognised by a third-party received a lot of support. And so, we started examining how this would work in practice.

We participated in a workshop on third-party accreditation and realised that this process would be very lengthy and expensive. Given the RIPE NCC’s position as an RIR, we realised that we could take on the role of accreditor and it was better to have the online exam proctoring carried out by a third party.

Validating our certificates

Our certificates have been around for a while, but what has been missing until now is the key element of validation. This includes validation of identity, ensuring that the test candidate took the exam without cheating and that the results do a fair job of reflecting the skill level of the test-taker. In short, ensuring that having a RIPE NCC Certified Professional digital badge or certificate carries weight is meaningful for both the test-taker and whoever they share this certificate with. And this is the key difference between our existing model and the RIPE NCC Certified Professionals programme.

Sounds nice, but how will this work?

You will not need to travel to take our exam. We want our members to have easy access to our learning opportunities. As a test-taker, you will be able to schedule the exam online, and take it at home using your own laptop. Of course, there will be certain measures in place – your identity will be verified by the online proctor, a secure browser is used in the testing environment, etc.

And hopefully, soon after completing the exam, if you’re successful, you will have earned a digital badge which will list the skills and knowledge tested. 

Where we are now

In early 2018, we started work on a professional certification model for our existing training courses. Before diving fully into the work, we held consultations with several RIPE community members during RIPE 76 in Marseille. Those interviews, opinions and comments were very important for us to start this programme. A lot of the people we spoke to had similar comments – the most important thing is ensuring the exams test practical skills that are actually applied in work situations. Only then would this professional certification be relevant for recruiting purposes.

This gave us clarity of purpose while reviewing our existing content, and we chose to create the first RIPE NCC Certified Professionals badge for the RIPE Database. We made this decision after follow-up conversations with the community members we had spoken to, which helped us adjust our initial proposal.

We are currently building our very first exam and creating questions while ensuring quality control. This includes having our content reviewed by several staff members, external stakeholders and RIPE community members.

Are you a RIPE Database expert? Take our survey!

It is vital for us to map our content to tasks actually performed on the job, to ensure that our exams test skills that are sought after. We carried out an initial Job Task Analysis to understand what skills RIPE Database experts need to be able to do their jobs effectively. We would now like to learn from a larger group which tasks are more relevant and how frequently they are carried out. This will help us in both creating more effective online learning material and in calibrating exam questions.

If you use the RIPE Database regularly for your job, we want to understand what you need to do in your job, what is important and so on.

If you have experience and use the RIPE Database frequently, please fill out our questionnaire here:

RIPE Database Learning Questionnaire

Participate in the pilot RIPE Database exam

We are currently working on testing a pilot version of the exam. This summer, we will launch our testing phase for the RIPE Database exam certification.

We will select the test candidates for the pilot based on their knowledge of the RIPE Database and their geographic location. To make sure the exam is properly calibrated, we would like people with different levels of experience and from varied locations to be a part of the pilot group, so if you’re not an expert with many years of experience, don’t worry!

If you are interested in becoming one of the first RIPE NCC Certified Professionals, and helping us develop this programme, apply here:

https://www.ripe.net/support/certified-professionals

We welcome your participation in building this new online certification programme. If you have any questions, reach out to us on exams _at_ ripe _dot_ net

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