Last week we started an interview with Ruben Garcia, founder of Innovative Exams which offers an alternative to traditional IT testing centers. Here’s the rest of his story:
Ron: Everything is done remotely. If the student runs into any foreseen problems during the exam, how do they get it resolved, and have you seen any issues?
Ruben: We don’t have a perfect record, but I wish we had. Technology is never perfect, right? We’ve certainly seen issues, and majority of issues get resolved immediately. We have a very good process, so when somebody is taking the exam on our system, it’s not as if there’s nobody on the other side. It’s a very interactive process with a person that’s available. If the candidate has any questions, we’re there to help. If there are any technical problems, we know of them before the candidate, and we get great support from Red Hat. That’s the critical piece about it. We have a great partnership with Red Hat, and they are as committed to making this work as we are. When technical issues do arise, we have an 800 number with a Red Hat employee on the line, and they can fix those problems immediately. But the experience for the candidate has been very pleasant, and the technical issues we run into are very minimal.
Ron: I’m sure you have some customer satisfaction surveys, so what have you heard from the students themselves about what they like about IES exams and what they have for complaints?
Ruben: We haven’t received any complaints from candidates. That’s very positive. We haven’t seen any emails from candidates saying, “Hey this is what I didn’t like about your system.” If typically somebody has a complaint, they’ll tell us in the chat window, etc., but we haven’t seen much of that, which is good, and I’m really happy about that. The feedback has been actually very positive. We’ve had a couple of candidates call in after their exam was completed. They give us a call, call the helpdesk, and say, “Hey I just want to thank you Everything went well. I’ve been trying to take this exam for a long time, and I finally did it because I didn’t have to take it at a testing site or try to find where that exam was available.” We’ve had some folks call and say, “If you need a testimonial, it rocks. It was a great experience; I’m willing to do a video testimonial for you.” That speaks to the technology and the flexibility. It’s been very positive.
Ron: That’s always good news. Not hearing any complaints is a rarity. You’re lucky. In terms of this past year, 2012, how many students have taken exams with IES, and what sort of growth are you seeing now?
Ruben: I wouldn’t be able to give you the exact numbers. That’s something you’d have to get from Red Hat. It’s Red Hat proprietary information. I can give you an idea on the growth. We’ve started to implement the testing stations in May this year, and we’ve got ten locations now. I’d say we’re seeing the volume double every month because we’re at the beginning of the program, and we’re going to have constant growth over the next several months, but it’s very early to say. But I feel very positive that the more locations we add, the more flexible we make it for people to take the exams, the more candidates are going to take IES exams.
Ron: Are there any more vendors you’re bringing on board for IES? Obviously you could take multiple types of exams on IES across tech vendors.
Ruben: Yes we’re implementing some new testing programs on the tech side. We have the Certified Interactive Web Professional that’s currently being implemented and will hopefully be available by the end of the month. From a corporate perspective, we have a lot of Accenture IT exams as well, and we’re implementing some other clients that are non-technology, for example, National Registry of Food Safety professionals. But I do hope that we continue to add other technology clients this year.
Ron: Have you seen any particularly innovative uses of IES and from your kiosks out there? Anything that sort of surprised you and was creative?
Ruben: I’m not really sure what innovative means from the client perspective, but from the candidate perspective we’ve seen a lot of growth in administration and exam volume in locations we didn’t expect to see it. We’re in a lot of community colleges, and some of those colleges have large campuses, multiple campuses, and they’ll have a testing center. What we are seeing is that a lot of candidates are choosing to not take the exam at the testing center and they take it at the kiosk. I think one of the reasons they take it at the kiosk is that the experience at the kiosk is a lot different. It’s a lot less pressure. They typically, as in the Red Hat exams, take it at the end of a training course, and you really don’t have a lot of time to study. You do the training, and then you take the exam immediately right after the course. But the candidates are choosing the kiosk for the flexibility and being able to take a bit more time to study and to take it when they’re ready.
Ron: How is the RHCE testing done? I actually haven’t done it myself so I was wondering.
Ruben: My understanding is that the way it works for a training event, they’ll have 10 students training at the same time. The training happens from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday that trainer becomes a proctor and basically sets up an environment where those students can take those exams. They have to take those exams at the end of training. They all have separate workstations, and they essentially use that same training room, and they convert it to a testing room for that last day. That’s a very stressful situation to take the test on the last day. It makes it quite difficult. Just being in that room with other people, that adds stress as well. By giving that person the option to take the test during their own time, maybe they just need a couple of days to study to refresh all that information and to go through all the material from the past four days and to take the exam at a later date. I think that’s what candidates are looking for. It’s not to say that some folks just do want to take the test and are capable to taking it right after their training session.
Ron: I sort of understand where you’re coming from, it’s a lot of pressure, and it’s not going to appeal to everyone. Some people just want more time to digest information and mentally prepare themselves for the exam. And they get a lot more privacy with IES. What do you see on the horizon for IES and remote proctoring?
Ruben: I think that’s a good question. I think remote proctoring and the availability of Individual Exam Sessions, we’re at the infancy of this technology and this model. Where I see it going is it’s going to encroach on the testing center model, and I think more people are going to take the exam using remote proctoring technologies. It’s not going to replace testing centers, but I see it growing and more as candidates are going to opt for that model.
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