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Tracy Van Niel
Senior Member
Username: tracy_van_niel

Post Number: 143
Registered: 04-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 08:34 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Has anyone else seen the news release regarding this program? An e-mail was forwarded to me yesterday by our HR person asking if I was aware of the program. I checked CSI's website and see that it is posted on there as well. CSI has partnered with AEC Daily to provide on-line certification courses for studying for the CDT exam. I asked our HR person if there was a charge involved and she told me that it was her understanding that it was free.

I can certainly understand that this would be a good idea for those people who want to take the test and their chapter does not provide a study course, but it seems that the Institute is now in direct competition with the local Chapters who do provide study courses.

My chapter provides a study course for candidates to prepare for the exams every spring. And, understandably, it's not free, it's offered at a reasonable cost to the attendee.

I believe that there is a benefit to participating in a class with other attendees because questions can be raised by others that might make a topic more clear for someone else. But, I'm afaid that companies weighing a fee paid seminar versus a free on-line seminar will probably pick the free one. Which means that we, as a Chapter, could now potentially lose income from one of our yearly education events.

Is there any reason why some of the money spent on implementing this program with AEC Daily couldn't have been spent on giving the individual chapters more and better information on providing their own study courses?
Lynn Javoroski
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 248
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 11:03 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We were discussing this very thing at our Board meeting last night. I agree; it does seem that Institute has, once again, undermined the work of the chapters.

I also agree that there is greater benefit to participating in a class with other learners as well as teachers who have experienced what the learners are attempting! Like Tracy's chapter, ours has classes and we are afraid that we will lose that chance to get the CSI name out to the construction community by offering the opportunity to study and take the exams.

I am going to email my Institute Directors and ask "why"? Or maybe I'll just send this link...the question is here. If CSI is a "grassroots" organization, why is the top trying to take over the benefits offered by the bottom? Shouldn't the top be trying to serve the bottom - offering sustenance and nourishment (and not just bulls**t fertilizer)? Shouldn't the top be supportive of the efforts of the bottom and not be undermining it?
scott keener
New member
Username: keener

Post Number: 1
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 11:41 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Our chapter's certification and training effort is one of our strongest - and most visible - assets. We don't rely on it for revenue (modest compared to the effort it takes) but we do enjoy a certain gravitas that comes from offering something of real value to the community served by our chapter.

That said, it looks like AEC/CSI may have an effective thing here. There is a huge challenge for us as a chapter to spin it so that the world knows we are ADDING VALUE to the free online course. But I'd have preferred that our chapter certification chairs knew this was coming. Shame, shame, shame on the institite for keeping us in the dark. It's disgraceful that we found out about it accidentally, along with the rest of the world.

I am so glad that our chapter certification chair has a thick skin.
Richard Howard, AIA CSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: rick_howard

Post Number: 62
Registered: 07-2003
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 11:58 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Several of the CSI chapters I have belonged to over the years held certification classes at no cost to those registered for exams. Some people from other chapters travelled an hour or more to take advantage of classes not offered in their area. Classes were taught by certified volunteers at their respective offices. The chapter or instructors subsidized the incidental costs in order to promote CSI and certification.

The cost of classes and exams should not be an impediment to those seeking certification. However, the downside of free classes is that people tend to feel less obligated and invested in the process and attendance can be erratic.

In Cincinnati, we felt so strongly that getting members certified would benefit the chapter that we considered subsidizing a substantial portion of the exam fees to chapter members successful in achieving certification.

There have been online study resources available, such as the study guides provided by Spec Guy, for registrants who have a problem making evening classes and need to work on their own schedule.

Such online resources cannot replace the value of meeting in a group where participants can share experiences and have a live instructor who can answer questions as they arise, but they are a necessary alternative for those unable to attend regular classes.

Perhaps CSI could kick back a few CSI bucks for each exam candidate signed up for classes or provide training materials to chapters providing training and doing the grassroots promotion of certification. That might be money well spent.

You would think that since we are all trying to accomplish the same thing that there could be better coordination and cooperation. As the link between institute and chapters, our Region Certification Chairs ought to demand it.
David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 565
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 01:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Why do I always find out about these things "through the back door"? If it weren't for 4specs.com I would be lost!

We have a strong certification program in the Puget Sound area. Our classes are well attended and even make money for our chapter. The instructors are top notch and well respected professionals.

I don't think the online CDT will be much competition. In fact we may even pickup some people after they fail to pass the course while studying online.

What is this rumor I hear about CDT certification now having to be renewed every 3 years just like the upper level certifications?
Bill Buchholz (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 - 09:26 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

As a past Institute certification committee member (2002-2004), here is some information to mull over. About 3 years ago the Institute did an exit poll of everyone who took the April exams. Here are some results of that survey. (Note especially questions 1, 2, 3, and 8, 9, and 10).

1. Of 762 exam respondents, 303 were not CSI members.

2. 358 had never attended a CSI event.

3. 346 had learned of the exams from an employer/teacher.

4. 471 were part of the designer team.

5. 467 had the cost paid by their employer.

6. 383 found the study guide very helpful, 296 found it somewhat helpful, 55 did not use the study guide.

7. 224 started preparing more than 8 weeks prior to the exam, 287 from 4-8 weeks, and 179 from 1-4 weeks ahead.

8. What method did you use to study for this exam? (Mark all that apply)
a. 617 Independent study
b. 287 Study group
c. 280 Review course
d. 56 Online study course
e. 31 Other

9. How much independent time did you spend preparing for this exam?
a. 231 15 hours or less
b. 229 16-30 hours
c. 142 31-45 hours
d. 86 46-60 hours
e. 73 More than 60 hours

10. How much time did you spend in the review class or study group preparing for this exam?
a. 231 Did not participate in a study group.
b. 11 No class available in my area.
c. 77 Less than 5 hours.
d. 221 5-15 hours
e. 220 More than 15 hours

Perhaps the Institute should have asked the chapters what we needed, but it appears as though the Institute is trying to serve a large number of non-CSI exam-takers who are doing independent study. I think the question for chapter education committees is how do we reach out to all these people who are not members and bring them into the group. Personally, I think chapter study courses will always be the preferred method of study for many. There's nothing like being around a live instructor and other students for a lively informative discussion.
Tracy Van Niel
Senior Member
Username: tracy_van_niel

Post Number: 144
Registered: 04-2002
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 08:44 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Those are certainly very interesting statistics, but I would like to add that the majority of people who attend my chapter's study courses are NOT CSI members. In most cases, they work at a firm that employs at least one or more CSI members (who have already passed their tests).

Also, I believe the independent study versus study course question is misleading ... everyone from my firm who has taken the CDT or other exams has always studied on their own ... in addition to attending the study course classes. I suspect that is true of everyone who attends chapter study courses ... you typically cannot expect to pass without doing additional independent studying. Perhaps the question 8 should have been worded ... independent study without also attending a study course.
Colin Gilboy
Senior Member
Username: colin

Post Number: 10
Registered: 09-2005
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 05:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Wow - these numbers really amaze me. I would never have guessed the percentage of non-members taking the test was this high.

While I can understand the chapters' concern for their classes, the local chapter can focus on getting the larger architectural firms to support their employees getting a CDT certificate. This is not a yearly expense, but a one time expense from their perspective. Even if the employee only did the online course (the first time) it would still be a feed to CSI in the long run.

This new pool of CDT-interested people can be the new pool of CSI members as they gain experience and move up in the firm to where the firm will pay their dues.

The local chapter can also modify their course somewhat to work with the online course more as a review and discussion of the material rather than as a course teaching new material for the first time. The local course in larger chapters could also be split into 2 sections, one for the design side and one for the industry side.

I know I learned a lot from professional members, and this can be a way to get more industry members educated in the construction process.

I also certainly hope that the Institute provides the local chapters with the names of the people taking the course so they can be invited to a local meeting to meet others.
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 148
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 06:30 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I am currently serving as Institute's chair of the Professional Development Committee; however, my response has not been vetted by Institute and represents my own view rather than the "official line."

There will be a push at the Institute level to get more professional education available over the internet. There are sound reasons for this, and some people have touched on some of these reasons. Teaming with AEC to do this enables CSI to get these courses to a wider market faster than if we attempted to do this ourselves.

It is my view that the CDT represents a basic body of knowledge that everyone working in a design firm as a design professional (engineer, architect, specifier), intern, or paraprofessional ought to have. It is my experience that many people with less than 10 years of experience are woefully lacking (unless they are writing specs or have a close working relationship with a specifier). The quality of documents issued by A/Es would, I believe, dramatically improve if offices would require their employees to pass CDT within a certain time after their hire.

Are CSI chapters prepared to deal with not just 10 to 15 people (I did have between 20 and 25 one year when I taught these classes in Honolulu through the University of Hawaii's School of Architecture), but with 50 to 100 people? Are CSI chapters prepared to reach out to people who need this information who may live 50 miles, 100 miles, 200 miles from the nearest chapter? What about people on Maui or Kauai who don't live that far away, but would have to fly to get to a class? or members in Guam whose nearest chapter is a 9 hour flight away? What about people with other commitments which simply cannot be ignored (a single parent with kids and kid schedules)?

I have been involved in CDT education for most of the last 15 years. I truly believe that a good instructor with a class of 15 to 20 people can really enhance the CDT material (I have learned a lot from my students over the years). It is good education and good networking. For many, a class provides a structured study experience with some built-in discipline, Participants will learn that the CDT stuff isn't just an academic exercise, but it is really the basic way we should do our jobs. And when you have a handle on the basics, you can extrapolate to the unusual and downright weird with some degree of confidence. You learn that architects are trying to do it right and product reps can be really helpful and contractors want to get documents they can use and on and on. The war stories I have heard over the years remind me that we are engaged in a complex process with mutual responsibilities and duties and even when you think you know what you are doing, you may not know after all. No, I am not a big fan of "distance learning" as the next educational paradigm.

That being said, there are people out there who need and want this material, but just can't get to a class no matter how much added value the instructors and students will bring to the experience. CSI and AEC are reaching out to those people, and I believe that our industry will be better for it.

How can chapters continue to make money? They should be upfront about the on-line opportunity. They should also emphasize the value added to the learning experience by studying with a group and an experienced instructor. Instructors should be people who don't just read the PowerPoint slides, but add information from their own experience and perspective. There should also be some differentiation between the "standard of practice" represented by the CDT material and local practice. Emphasize the "party line" (folks need that to pass the exam), but pass on the practical considerations of local practice.

A chapter should be able to justify the cost by providing an enhanced educational experience beyond what an individual will gain by doing the course on line. My position is that if they can't, they probably shouldn't be offering a class in the first place.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 432
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 08:34 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I understand the concerns of some chapters, and note that the Boston chapter has had an excellent study class for some years. A couple of years back, my firm sent quite a few people to those classes. However, we also have nearly half of our employees in small offices all over the US. In particular, we have employees in the Inland Empire and Monterey Bay in CA; and in Baton Rouge, LA who have not been able to tap into classes nearby them, and who have repeatedly expressed a desire to get their CDT and are looking for a study group. I might add that this is one step we have specifically identified that employees can do to enable them to advance within the firm. The prospect of an on-line course would be a big advantage to us.

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