Our New Certifications are Finally Here:
Our desire to offer certifications goes much deeper than wanting to be able to say that we "have certifications"... I know that sounds silly, but hear me out. The dream of offering certifications as part of our online platform has been at least 5 years in the making. It started with a troubling set of questions...
Why do education companies get to charge 3 or more times for the same content? That is, they charge once for access to the content, again when the content is labeled continuing education, again if the content is bundled with other content into a certification, and several companies even re-purpose content into other certifications to try and charge again? But, isn't it all just content? Why should any company get away with charging 3 or more times for the same content? And, why does any company get away with charging a crazy premium on content because it's given the title "certification"? There is no doubt that certifications have value. They are a means for professionals to advertise to clients and employers the completion of a set of continuing education. But, why should that convenience result in such a heavy tax on the professional? The additional costs involved in developing certifications, including accreditation, partnerships and branding are expensive, but not that expensive. Although an increase in price may be justifiable, a 10X increase in price is CRAZY.
Since these realizations we have been on a mission to continually elevate our content, refine our processes to insure more and more of our content is accredited for CECs/CEUs, and then further organize and expand our content so that we cover the content centers that would fulfill industry and professional expectations for a respected certification. In addition we maintain focus on improving the user experience (with some big changes with this launch), and we continue to refine our business model so that we can continue to offer our services with a "Netflix-style" low cost monthly membership. If you think this sounds like a juggling act... you are correct... and that is why this "little" project took 5+ years.
But, now they're here, and we have a lot to be proud of. Not only are we not charging 3 or more times for the same content, we are not charging per course, we are not charging per certification, we are not even charging for the app that makes it possible to easily complete courses and certifications from your phone. It is all included in membership. The content you love, has been approved for CECs, and those same courses count toward certification. And, we will continue to publish new courses and update existing content to ensure you have more content and more choices in the future.
Announcing Two New Certifications:
Membership gives you full access to BrookbushInstitute.com which includes:
Yes, but the workshop is only mandatory for the Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT) Certification.
The HMS certification was our first attempt to disrupt certification, and although many loved the new approach, our first attempt left room for improvement. Many of the features included in the new CPT and IMT certifications, were a result of lessons learned from the HMS. And, those new features are now part of the HMS too!
More Focused: The Human Movement Specialist (HMS) is now a certification focused on corrective exercise. Although, many people loved the concept of a totally customizable certification, the sheer volume of courses we offer was a little intimidating. Our data suggested that most individuals interested in the HMS certification mostly completed corrective exercise and anatomy courses. So, the HMS became our corrective exercise certification. All of the same courses (and more) are still available, but now choosing a certification is step toward choosing the courses you wish to complete.
From 80 credits to 60 credits: A more focused certification, means competency in a specific subject can be demonstrated with fewer credits. In the previous version of the HMS, the number of hours was set high enough to ensure minimum standards were reached in all areas. That is no longer necessary. We hope fewer credits for this certification results in more individuals completing the certification, and using that accomplishment as motivation to continue their education.
Customizable Recommended Course Order: Many of our colleagues were left with feelings of not knowing where to start, or they found the sheer number of courses intimidating. Other colleagues just found it hard to develop a path or flow that guided them to completion of the HMS certification. To address this issue, we have added a game-changing feature; the customizable "Recommended Course Order" (see image below). Now with a few clicks you can choose the certification you want to complete, choose between "by category" or "mixed" course orders, display an individual category, and/or remove finished courses, and narrow courses within a certification to just those that count toward the CEC credits you are trying to earn. We know this feature will dramatically improve the user experience, and we are just getting started.
You Still Have the Power to Choose: Our certifications require that you achieve a specific number of credits per category; the curriculum is not built from a fixed set of courses. This means as we continue to publish more and more courses, you will have more and more choices in each category. And, to feed your curious side, every certification (including the HMS) requires that you complete 10 elective credits, which can be fulfilled by taking any course within your scope.
If you have the HMS, you will keep the HMS: Although we have made some pretty large changes to the HMS certification, and may change the certification in the future, if you completed the HMS certification, you will not lose the certification. We would never retract a credential you worked hard for. You earned it, you keep it.
What if you just want to try a few courses, finish some CECs, or take courses you enjoy? Any course you complete that is part of the mandatory course work for a certification, will be automatically counted toward that certification (once you choose a certification), and any course you complete will generate a CEC certificate on your dashboard. It's automatic; we want to give you credit. If you enjoy a more open learning experience, you can use the Course Home Page to choose any course.
Yes, but the workshop is only mandatory for the Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT) Certification.
The HMS certification is corrective exercise focused. This certification requires the completion of credits in the following categories:
This is not your conventional "Manual Therapy" certification. Again, we set out to disrupt education in the best possible way. As professionals ourselves, we wanted to create the certification we wish existed.
The IMT certification is manual therapy focused. This certification requires the completion of credits in the following categories:
We didn't just launch a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification, we tried to completely disrupt how certifications were offered. We started with the question, As working professionals, what would our dream certification look like?
The CPT certification is strength and performance focused. This certification requires the completion of credits in the following categories:
Yes, but the workshop is only mandatory for the Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT) Certification.
There is a common misconception that the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is an accreditor of Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certifications. They are not. They accredit testing procedures. Despite claiming to be a 3rd party accreditor of certifications, the NCCA does not evaluate the quality or delivery of content. A small percentage of certifications in the industry have acquired NCCA accreditation, but this only reflects that these certifications have developed tests using NCCA specific criteria. We believe that the NCCA, and some institutions accredited by the NCCA, use the misconception that “NCCA accreditation” relates to the quality of content, to imply that other certifications are less valid. This is at best unfortunate, and at worst may represent unfair business practices.
Before we continue, it is important to note that we support the idea of accreditation and have been accredited by nearly 20 organizations. We support attempts to enforce minimum standards of education quality, but we draw the line when an accrediting body tries to impose a rule or regulation that will detract from a student’s learning experience. Most often this relates to extremely high application fees for small markets (e.g. the Ohio State Board of Physical Therapy, or the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association expecting nearly $20,000/year), however, occasionally accreditors either intentionally or unintentionally add a rule that would create an obstacle for students. We did start the NCCA accreditation process, but had to withdraw when we realized that many of the NCCA policies would force the Brookbush Institute to change the platform in ways that would reduce the quality of education, and/or detract from our mission to increase the access, convenience and affordability of education. Those issues are discussed below.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the NCCA does not evaluate the content of any CPT certification. They only impose regulations with the intent of improving the “fairness” of exams (although, this is also questionable, and discussed below). Read that again. It is very possible to create an NCCA accredited exam, that assesses the knowledge of horrible content. For this reason, many of the accreditations we have achieved to validate our offering of continuing education credits (CEC) to our colleagues, should likely be held in higher regard. Many of these accreditations not only review course development processes, but content of individual courses. This includes, but is not limited to, accreditations like the BOC (NATA), FSBPT (ProCert), the Australian Physiotherapy Council, REPS Ireland, CIMSPA, Fitness Australia, etc. Based on our knowledge of the course content of many of the “NCCA accredited” CPT Certifications, we are willing to bet that fewer than half could pass more than one of the accreditations previously listed, and only a couple would have a chance at passing all of them. This is a profoundly serious issue. Having the NCCA accreditation results in the presumption of quality content, but if the content of many of these certifications was critiqued using standard instructional design review, most would not pass.
Perhaps the largest issue with NCCA accreditation, is their intent to create separation between content developers and assessment/test creators. This means your best educators and content developers cannot participate, or be trained to write test questions for the content they have developed. Many people do not realize that writing a good multiple-choice question, and a good exam, are skill sets associated with an individual’s knowledge and ability as an educator. Great exams are learning experiences unto themselves. A professionally written exam should leave the student with a feeling that the exam fairly assessed their knowledge and clearly highlighted areas that need improvement. Further, a great exam can serve the purpose of giving a dedicated educator one more chance to reinforce material. This can be done by writing questions that give weight to the most important topics, highlight common areas of confusion with well written distractors, and even clarify certain topics by writing questions in a way that force a student to think about a problem in a particular way. A great multiple-choice question is relevant, inspires thought, and challenges a student with a question and choices that they are likely to face in the real world.
If the previous paragraph was too theoretical, or idealistic, then perhaps we can consider something simple, like “clarity.” Expressing ideas and writing with clarity is a skill that takes years of practice. Just ask any writer how hard it is, how much practice it takes, and how much time they spend trying to express their ideas in a way that bridges the gap between the writer’s intent and the reader’s understanding. It is not easy to write an exam question that is clear and concise. That is, write a test question that tests a student’s knowledge and not their ability to comprehend a poorly written question. A perfectly clear question leaves no room for confusion about what is being asked. We want to ensure that the reason a question is answered correctly or incorrectly is 100% dependent on the student’s knowledge of the topic. That is, the correct answer is clear, and each distractor (wrong answer) would “bait” individuals who do not deserve to pass, based solely on their knowledge. Every question that is answered incorrectly by an individual who has the pre-requisite knowledge, is likely to be an issue with how well the question was written.
To increase “fairness” the NCCA demands that the content creators are not involved in exam writing, forcing the writing of exams to be outsourced. Considering the number of individuals whom the Brookbush Institute (BI) has interviewed, hired and trained for the BI writing team, we can say with near certainty, that the number of individuals with a combination of professional experience in the field and experience writing quality exams is prohibitively small. And, those who do have this combination of skills are likely to be very expensive to recruit. Most companies handle the outsourcing by recruiting volunteers who may have significant experience in the field, but are unlikely to have any knowledge of education theory, item (multiple-choice question) writing, or even experience with technical writing. So, despite that the NCCA means well, in their desire to create "fair" examinations, they have created a policy that forces certification companies to either accept exam questions written by individuals with no exam writing experience, or increase education costs to recruit the few individuals with dual experience. I am not sure how the NCCA considers low quality questions and increased cost to students “more fair”. Is it any wonder why so many of the certification exams in the industry are so poorly written?
We should also consider whether the separation between content development and exam creation is necessary in our industry. It is likely a mandatory prerequisite to have formal exam creation processes when developing a test like a board exam for a licensed profession. Especially, when that board exam is the last step of a degree program offered at one of a dozen, or 100s of accredited (based on content) degree programs. The National Physical Therapy Exam is a good example (NPTE) of a single exam that all entry level physical therapists must pass, even though students are educated at one of more than 200 CAPTE approved physical therapy programs in the USA. Passing the exam is a mandatory pre-requisite for practicing as a physical therapist in the USA, dictated by law. In this case, you want to create an exam that is based on generally agreed upon standards, not biased by input from any one program, and every measure is taken to ensure the exam is fair, because after all, livelihoods and patient safety is at stake. However, this is not how the fitness industry developed. Certification in our industry is nothing more or less than a recognizable “stamp” from a brand or company, signifying the successful completion of a set of brand specific educational content. Certification is not even necessary to work as a personal trainer in most states, as most states do not have any legislation prohibiting an individual from practicing personal training without a certification. What dictates the need for certification in our industry (in the USA and Canada) is employer preference, and the ability to attain liability insurance. This brings us back to the question of whether the NCCA accreditation is necessary. Because certification content is not uniform in our industry, tests cannot be uniform either. At this point, for example, we cannot expect that the Brookbush Institute, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and the American College of Sports Medicine, etc., would have identical exams. Further, the NCCA is doing nothing, and recommending nothing that would aid certifying organizations in developing uniform standards in the quality of content, or the content-centers covered. Ideally, tests are an assessment of the student’s knowledge of the certification content. Since content is not uniform, the best assessments will accurately reflect the learning objectives of the individual certifications. The best way to insure congruence between learning objectives, course content, and the assessment/exam, is for the content creators to write the exam. This is actually the standard methodology throughout education. Consider all the exams you took throughout your schooling; chances are they were written by the teacher’s teaching the course. Again, the addition of NCCA accreditation is doing little more than reducing congruence/validity between course content and assessment/exam.
It is worth mentioning here, that one of the intents of the NCCA accreditation process, is that competence is the only pre-requisite to take an industry exam, and that a certification cannot force an individual to buy a textbook or course. The idea is that in a world that was “ideally fair”, that competency would be the sole determinant for attaining a credential (as opposed to brand specific knowledge). Although this idea is nice in theory, there are two major flaws with applying it to the fitness industry. First, as mentioned above, content is not uniform across certifications from different companies. Second, the NCCA does not seem to have any interest in policing this policy. If this policy was held as a requisite to maintain accreditation, certifying organizations could not write exam questions specific to trademarked, unique, or creative content. All exam questions would have to pertain to a standard set of knowledge that the industry agreed was essential (for example, exercise physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, etc.). But that is definitely not the case in our industry. For example, if NCCA policed accreditations according to their own guidelines, how does NASM ask about the OPT™ model, or ACE ask about the IFT™ model, or ACSM ask about their specific criteria for risk stratification? We are not implying that these certifications are doing anything wrong, in fact, we believe these are the strengths of those programs; however, we are implying that the NCCA does not hold to their own ideals.
Next, the NCCA adds many layers of unnecessary bureaucracy to exam creation. They expect that exams are developed from panel consensus, industry surveys, and are reviewed by psychometricians. Not only do NCCA accredited institutions have to accept exam questions from volunteers, but every step of the exam development process has to be approved by a board, based on survey data collected by the certification company, and then has to be tested by a psychometrician for statistically significant accuracy. Further, the NCCA’s policies almost force that all exams are taken at a testing center. Although they suggest that a secure online exam is possible, they also admit that no company has achieved NCCA accreditation without forcing exams to be taken at a testing center. (Note, this is obviously another area they are not policing, as many NCCA accredited certifications do allow online testing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic). Whatever the intent of these layers of bureaucracy, the result is incredibly slow to develop and incredibly expensive exams, that lose validity with every step away from the content creator (presuming content creators are experienced educators and subject matter experts). Forget experienced educators spending 2.5 hours to write beautiful 10 question exams at the end of well-designed modular courses. With this process, it may take months to finish any exam, cost 10s of 1000s of dollars, and the student is forced to schedule and pay for an exam at some inconvenient testing center. And, can you imagine what it would take to fix a typo, remove a question that is confusing students, update a question to improve clarity, or add a question based on a recent course update. As an institution that has nearly 3000 published test questions, we can attest to the fact that changes are made frequently. No matter how well intended or skilled the exam creators, having 1000s of individuals take exams reveals hidden flaws that should be addressed immediately when found. We know that every year, if not every month, our exams improve, thanks to feedback from our colleagues. If the Brookbush Institute went through this travesty of a process that is NCCA accreditation, it would be the end of beautifully written exams, then end of near instant updates to content and exams based on real-time feedback, and because exams would become so expensive to create, it would be the end of short (1 – 4 hour) modular courses with short exams, the end of taking exams anywhere (desktop or mobile), the return of a horrific single-shot final exams, and the end of one-low monthly membership price.
Some of you are likely thinking, “Why are these issues not more widely known?”. Well, just to find out about the NCCA accreditation process requires the purchase of a $1000.00+/year membership to the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE), before you can apply for the actual NCCA accreditation. Further, our experience with ICE, was weeks of e-mails and messages to finally get someone on the phone to answer questions about whether the NCCA accreditation was the right decision for our company. Not to mention, the attitude of the representative we finally spoke too was genuinely bewildered about how we could question the processes. These issues result in the NCCA, either purposefully or incidentally, hiding their practices behind a pay wall, and “NCCA accredited” institutions having zero motivation to spend the time or money to develop content like this article, because they benefit from the misconception.
We will continue adding to this article as we continue to battle back against processes that are inhibiting improvement of education in our industry. Until then, we can promise the Brookbush Institute will not be continuing with the NCCA accreditation process, and our members do not have to worry about us changing our platform to match their criteria. Further, our certifications are accepted by most employers, are well-respected in the industry, and may be used to attain liability insurance. Brookbush Institute certified professionals can even get a discounted rate with Insure Fitness in the USA and INeedAPolicy in Canada. A small, humble brag, many large employers were anxiously awaiting the launch of our Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification, because the Human Movement Specialist (HMS) Certification (launched 2 years earlier) had helped so many of their current personal training staff. We do look forward to continuing to push forward, improving access, convenience, affordability, delivery, and accuracy of educational content in our industry. We hope that we continue to get closer to building the platform we all wish existed, thanks to our wonderful colleagues who have supported us every step of the way.
We are a USA based company. Many employers in Australia respect our credentials; however, we will need to do more research on how this certification may contribute to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). Currently, it is likely best to consider our credential as something unrelated to the AQF. On a side note, many of the courses included in the CPT certification have been approved by Fitness Australia
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