As I was pondering this morning’s blog, I stumbled across a reference to a company I’d previously known nothing about — namely, Kryterion Inc., a purveyor of “Online Secure Testing” (as per the banner on their Web site) — in checking out some specifics on the SANS GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA) certification. It turns out that one of the principals behind the company is Dr. David Foster, a well-known pioneer in computer-based testing technologies (he ran cert testing development for Novell from 1990-1997, and helped create adaptive and performance based testing technologies still in broad industry use today, equivalent to a geological era later measured in “Internet years.” Dr. Foster also went on to found well-known psychometrics and test design firm Galton Technologies in 1997, and test security firm Caveon in 2003).
In a nutshell what Kryterion offers is a collection of online security technologies that permit the Internet to be used to deliver exams to certification or licensure candidates, without exposing content or exam answers to third-party sniffing or snooping. In addition, Kryterion bills itself as “…a full service provider of customizable assessment and certification products and services.” The company works with organizations of all kinds, including technology vendors, professional associations, educational institutions, and even governmental bodies to “…build and deliver everything from skills tests and simple online assessments to … comprehensive high-stakes worldwide certification program[s]” (I added an “s” to the end of this text snippet to make my quotation gramatically correct).
The really cool thing about the Kryterion technology is that it works for exam development, item creation and vetting, assembly and publishing of exams, and access to results reports using the same enviroment for exam creation, development, and refinement prior to public release that is later used to deliver (and proctor) exams for public delivery to authorized test-takers. The designers even include the ability for customers (technology vendors, professional associations, educational institutions, and so forth) to create customized Web sites that online test takers will use to handle registration, the test taking process (including pre-requisites management, test calendars and availability information), and even retake rules and conditions. In terms of a different type of Web technology, Kryterion offers a secure content management system (CMS) for certification or licensure exam creation, delivery, maintenance, and reporting — even to the point of offering transcript access to test-takers who’ve registered with a site and who possess account and password information necessary to access their prior history data after taking an exam.
I’m pretty darn curious to learn who (besides SANS) is using Kryterion’s services in the world of IT certification. To that end, I’m forwarding this blog to the Kryterion sales department to see what kind of response it provokes in-house. Although this appears to be the tip of a looming iceberg of entirely Web-based certification and licensure technology adoption, I’m guessing that Prometric and VUE are keenly aware of these efforts, and probably concerned about the long-term implications. Even though many people are lucky enough to live within an hour’s drive of a testing center in the developed world, why bother driving somewhere else when your own PC and Web browser can bring the test center to you? And outside the developed world where access to a testing center may involve one or more days of tedious travel, the “bring it to you” model clearly wins hands-down. I think I see the wave of the future…