Troubling Trend: Attending Certification Programs While Working Full-time

In the pursuit of career advancement, there is a worrying trend of people enrolling in certification programs while managing full-time jobs. This trend has become particularly concerning with the observations from AIPMO trainers that an increasing number of participants are attempting to multitask their learning with work commitments. The visible signs of their struggle include constant camera-off during sessions, lack of interaction, and failure to engage in discussions, exercises, and case studies. This blog explores the underlying issues of this growing trend, the illusion likely fostered by the current certification landscape, and the real implications for professional development and workplace effectiveness.

Understanding the Certification Landscape

The certification market, tempting with promises of career progression, varies significantly in quality and engagement levels. This variety has set a dangerous precedent, convincing some that minimal participation is sufficient for learning and advancement. This misconception leads to a false sense of security and misaligned expectations, especially when faced with courses that are more demanding but ultimately more rewarding.

The Misguided Approach to Multi-Tasking Education and Career

According to the need-driven theory, people have different motivations to learn. Some may need education to better navigate adult life, while others may require it for a job promotion or to stay relevant in the workplace. Learning can also be a means to achieve self-actualization in life through professional course certifications, community membership opportunities, and recognition. Learners’ motivations for education may change as their goals and priorities evolve. In fact, it’s quite common for learners to have multiple goals in mind when pursuing educational opportunities.

Attempting to balance an intensive course with a full-time job often results in cognitive overload. The belief that one can passively absorb course material while attending to job responsibilities diminishes the essence of learning and the potential for professional growth. AIPMO’s observations highlight a concerning trend: participants failing to fully engage due to divided attention, severely impacting their learning outcomes.

The Problem with “Camera-Off” Culture

The passive engagement in virtual learning, evidenced by the prevalent “camera-off” culture, signals a deeper issue of disconnection from the learning process. This behavior not only hinders individual learning outcomes but also undermines the collaborative and interactive aspects of intensive courses, essential for deep learning and skill development.

The Illusion of Competence in Easy Exams

A worrying trend in the certification world is the presence of exams that require minimal critical thinking or problem-solving skills. Such exams may provide a temporary sense of achievement but fall short of validating true competence, leaving individuals ill-prepared for real-world challenges.

Effectiveness of Course Scheduling: Work Hours vs. Personal Time

Disengagement and the Breakdown of Team Exercises

When creating courses for adult learners, it’s essential to follow a reliable learning model. One such model is Wlodkowski’s (2008) model, which highlights the importance of linking learning instructions to the learner’s work context and expertise. The model also recommends implementing peer and self-graded exercises, providing study guides with multiple learning resources, and organizing mentoring sessions for learners. By following these types of models, adult learners can benefit greatly from a practical and well-rounded learning experience.

However, the consequences of disengagement extend beyond individual learners, affecting the entire learning ecosystem. In team-based exercises, the absence or lack of contribution from one member can compromise the success of the group, diluting the learning experience and outcomes for all participants.

Financial and Personal Costs of Misaligned Education Efforts

For self-financed learners, the decision to undertake an intensive course without fully committing can result in significant financial and personal costs, without the anticipated return on investment. This misalignment raises important questions about the true value and efficacy of such educational endeavors.

The Devaluation of Certification Programs

Certification programs that do not require genuine engagement devalue the certification itself and, by extension, the fields they aim to serve. This devaluation not only undermines the credibility of certifications but also threatens the professional integrity of those who hold them.

Rethinking Engagement: A Call for Rigorous Certification Standards

There is a need for certification standards that demand real, active engagement, including critical thinking, analysis, teamwork, presentation and leadership skills.

Accrediting bodies and educational institutions play a key role in upholding these standards, ensuring that certifications reflect genuine skill acquisition and professional readiness. AIPMO uses the motto “It’s not what you learn, it’s the impact you make” which is why real case studies apply the knowledge during the courses, which are part of the blended exam score and the participants take back the case study to apply in their work place.

Strategies for Meaningful Learning While Working

Professionals aiming to further their education must carefully select certifications based on their engagement requirements and personal capacity for commitment. It is important to choose certifications that align with your engagement requirements and individual capacity for commitment. McClusky’s Theory of Margin highlights the significance of managing the resources at your disposal to offset the demands of learning exercises and prevent a decline in motivation levels. These resources include time and location, and their effective management can help you overcome the challenges of group work and engagement, as well as maintain your motivation levels throughout the course.

Certification courses such as those of AIPMO demand complete dedication and hard work from participants during team exercises and intensive case studies. Full engagement is important for success without any compromise. Many Learning and Development departments understand the importance of such certifications and often participate in presentations, contributing to the scoring process. Witnessing the participants’ teamwork and presentation skills firsthand also allows them to evaluate the skills that are being developed in the employees.

Conclusion

The path of lifelong learning is both commendable and essential for professional development. However, this journey must be approached with intention and dedication. The value of a certification lies in the depth of understanding and skill it represents, rather than the ease of acquisition. As learners, educators, and employers, we must prioritize meaningful engagement and genuine skill development over the superficial appearance of qualification.

Reference

Wlodkowski, R. J. 2008. Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A comprehensive guide for teaching all adults. 3rd ed. Jossey-Bass.

Authors

  • Dr. Robert Joslin

    Founder of AIPMO and management consultant/instructor, with extensive record of publications in project management

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  • Wesley Bridgemohansingh

    Wesley is an experienced project management professional who has also worked as a lecturer in the academic field. He has taught project management at the undergraduate level and has contributed to the national infrastructure of his homeland, Trinidad and Tobago. In particular, he has made management-level contributions to developing housing and sports infrastructure.

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