Introduction: Get certified from home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Enabling employees to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak has not only allowed employers to ensure the safety and well-being of staff with less impact on productivity and operations. It has also provided an occasion to upskill their current talents by allowing them to engage in career-building educational opportunities. Many employees have been allowed to set time aside to develop new skills and knowledge with a wide variety of professional development courses from a number of educational institutions capable of providing remote training.

But this is not all. After all, online courses were already widely available and used by professionals whose busy schedule makes it difficult to attend in-class training. Now there are even further opportunities, as remote testing options from certification bodies (e.g. GIAC®️, VMware, IAPP and Microsoft) have become available and provide a venue to support and encourage active learning at a distance as well as professional growth even during the pandemic era.

These certification bodies have adopted online testing for their certification exams

GIAC

GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) was founded in 1999 and provides programs and testing to validate the skills of information security professionals. The organization provides certifications in fields (such as cyber defense, incident response, auditing and industrial control systems) that provide a way for professionals to prove they have the knowledge and competences needed to perform in the chosen position. The GIAC Certification Roadmap can help those in the field of IT to determine what security certifications are right for their specific job needs or career goals.

In response to the COVID crisis and to provide IT practitioners with a safe way to continue on their professional path even amidst the closure of testing centers, GIAC has announced the possibility of scheduling remote proctoring through ProctorU for their exams. This new service not only allows the continuation of the certification programs during the pandemic but provides a great opportunity for professionals to study and certify wherever their lives and work brings them and whenever they believe they are ready to test.

VMware

VMware is a global provider of virtualization products and solutions that allow businesses to manage and protect their apps in the cloud with secure end-to-end communication. Solutions and products are offered for private and hybrid clouds, modernization, creating secure digital workspaces for remote workers and protecting data wherever they reside. 

VMware also offers certifications tracks that fall into five categories: Cloud Management and Automation; Data Center Virtualization; Desktop and Mobility; Network Virtualization; Digital Business Transformation; and Digital Workspace. These certifications are a good opportunity especially for IT professionals who work in data centers and support virtual environments. 

Options are available for practitioners at different stages of their career, ranging from the entry-level VCA VMware Certified Associate (for new IT professionals and executives tasked with choosing and implementing VMware solutions) to VCDX VMware Certified Design Expert, an advanced level certification geared towards those actually asked to design, build and manage VMware solutions and systems. 

VMware certifications (VCA, VCP, VCAP and VCDX) can validate skills and knowledge for professionals asked to deliver on the newest virtualization and cloud technologies available for their company IT infrastructure. To prepare, they can find material on the VMware Learning Zone, which has online courses, labs and videos. They can also look at the offers of third-party vendors for options that better suit them.

The good news for test-takers is that beginning in April 2020, VMware has added a remote proctoring option for all its certifications except for the VCAP-Deploy lab-based exam (that, however, will soon be available too) through Pearson VUE’s OnVUE online format. The option is available globally (with the exception of a few countries including China, Japan and North and South Korea) and will be permanently available in addition to in-center testing at the same cost as per in-person proctoring.

IAPP

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) is responsible for creating a globally-recognized certification system that promotes information privacy, security and best practices within the field. The IAPP offers a number of specialized certifications that can boost a career of professionals in the all-important fields of privacy and data protection. There are three current specializations available for IAPP certification-seekers: CIPP, CIPM and CIPT that respectively focus on laws and regulations, operations and technology.

With the spread of the pandemic, IAPP has now provided professionals with a remote option to certify from the comfort of their home. Also, IAPP offers a live monitoring option through OnVUE online proctoring. Interested candidates must purchase their exam of choice through the IAPP store and choose the remote delivery option on the Pearson VUE’s scheduling platform.

Microsoft

Microsoft offers a wide range of online certification programs that enable IT professionals and developers to validate their technical expertise through industry-recognized exams. By passing exams aligned to a specific certification (e.g., MOS, MTA, MTC, MCE), individuals demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft-related technologies.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent closure of many testing centers, Microsoft is providing, as an alternative, online proctoring via OnVUE in an online/webcam setting. It is also temporarily waiving exam rescheduling and cancellation fees, as well as extending by six months all role-based certifications expiring before December 31, 2020.

Preparation for the certification is also possible online via Microsoft e-learning courses, as the company and its learning partners are working to move all classroom-based courses to virtual platforms. Options are available from vendors online, as in the case of the MCSA Window Server 2016 certification or the MCSE Core Infrastructure or Productivity Solutions Expert certification. However, do know that each of the following MS certs and exams (MCSA, MCSD, MCSE) are scheduled to retire soon.

As Microsoft continues to expand on its role-based learning offerings, it has extended the retirement date of the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications from June 30, 2020 to January 31, 2021 to ensure that everyone who was preparing for the certification exams has a chance to complete the program.

Vendor online testing requirements

It is important that testers check the requirements of the chosen testing organization, but in general, there are a number of common ones that all candidates are normally asked to meet to successfully test remotely:

  • Set up the computer for the online proctored exam according to the given directions
  • Turn off any features that might interfere with the proctoring environment; this could include VPNs, virtual machines, streaming tools, etc.
  • Ensure to have a strong internet connection to avoid disruption of the testing experience 
  • Have access to a private, quiet place for the exam
  • Make sure to put away personal items, such as cell phones and writing instruments
  • Own a webcam to be monitored for the duration of testing
  • Have all allowed material ready for use during the test
  • Display a proper, valid ID for use on test day

Conclusion

Turning challenges into opportunities has been the goal for many companies and professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the coronavirus with its impact on businesses and operations has actually become a time to also concentrate on reskilling or upskilling workers. Currently, businesses are on board to invest in staff training as a means to retain and retrain their workforce to fill emerging skills gaps. This is a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee.

There are many remote workers ready to sharpen their knowledge and skills from home by engaging in professional development certificate programs. This article mentioned four: GIAC, VMware, IAPP and Microsoft. These are four more vendors that have recently joined those already offering online certification exams: those provided by Cisco, EC-Council, ISACA and CompTIA. Other certification bodies are also planning to join them soon.

 

Sources

  1. Remote Proctoring for GIAC Exams, SANS/GIAC
  2. IAPP to offer remote proctoring for at-home certification testing, IAPP
  3. Coronavirus: Security certification body puts exams online, Computer Weekly
  4. Microsoft Certification – About online exams with Pearson VUE, Microsoft
  5. Take your exam through OnVUE, Pearson Education Inc.
  6. Helpful resources for test-takers, Pearson Education Inc.
  7. Explore VMware Certification Tracks, Requirements, and Benefits, VMware, Inc.
  8. VMware Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths, Business News Daily
  9. VMware Certifications, ITCareerFinder