To obtain a CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+) certification, one should pass two exams
- Essential exam (CTT+ Essentials – TK0-201)
- Video exam (officially called: CTT+ Classroom Performance Based Exam – TK0-202)
I passed the first exam before, and here I want to explain how I passed the second exam (video exam). As you may know, the video exam is basically recording yourself and your class for about 20 mins while you are teaching them. Then you submit the video with a form (you have to fill it carefully) to CompTIA (through a different website than the original CompTIA website).
The hard things about this 20-minute video (actually it’s 18 to 22 mins to be more specific) are:
- You must gather five or more people for your class. This step was easy for me because I already had a class for a semester. I was teaching them C# with Unity.
- Deliver all the requirements for the video session within 22 minutes. That includes telling your students the learning objectives, explaining a concept, asking them lots of small questions (this is particularly important), giving them an exercise, solving it, answering student’s questions, and recapping the materials all within 22 mins. This was the hardest part. My video was 21:56 minutes!
- You cannot edit your video! (except a single time and it’s only and only to allow learners sufficient time to practice a new skill).
To start preparation for your recording day, read the form (called Classroom Trainer Exam). It’s an MS word document that contains questions and spaces for you to answer them. You don’t need to answer the question at this stage but read them to know what points the judges are looking for. For example, one of the questions goes like this:
What are the learning objectives for this module, as stated in the recorded performance? The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.”
From this question, you get the idea that the judges expect you to let the learners know about this objective at the beginning of your learning session (i.e., your video). You can use slides, write them on the whiteboard, or simply tell your learners the objectives.
After you are done reading the form, start “designing” your video session. That means deciding over the concept you want to teach and writing down what you are going through during this 20 mins. I chose to teach C# “Switch Statement” concept to my class, and I spent several hours to design my session (the high-level step-by-step breakdown of my training session for video submission):
- Introduce yourself.
- Learning Goals (show on a slide and talk about them quickly).
- What will be covered in the next 20 mins?
- Explain the pain of if-else-if (by using the example code). // This is the motivation part.
- Introduce Switch statement and refactor the previous code to use the switch statement (instead of if-else-if)
- While refactoring, ask students where they have seen ‘break’ before? (loops, jump out of the loop).
- Explain “default” is for the last else statement.
- Take out one of the “break” statement and re-run the program. Show its effect.
- Exercise (Kafka Coffee Shop). Group people (a table à a group).
- Solve the exercise by live coding (if time allows or show the solution, if not).
- Make sure you have break or return in each case (if it’s not a fall-through case)
- Make sure your switch variable type is an integral type (so you cannot use double, float, etc).
- Although optional, it’s a good practice to use the ‘default’ section.
- Using long if-else-if is hard to read and painful.
- The remedy is the switch statement.
- In each ‘case’ statement, you should have either break or return.
Then I imagined myself teaching the class and wrote down everything I would say or do during the session. It was like writing a screenplay. I was writing not just what I wanted to say but how to say it (intonation), where to place the camera, when to show visual studio code editor, or even my body movement during the lecture! (to capture student’s attention). There was lots of editing and back and forth while writing it. I was standing and rehearsing the paragraphs to see whether they would be crystal clear to the learners. After I was relatively happy with the overall screenplay, I started recording myself, delivering the entire screenplay at once. My performance required live coding (writing C# code in visual studio) in front of the learners. So I went through that too. The first time I finished my performance, I looked at the timer and was shocked! It was way above 22 mins. So, I cut down the learning materials and their scope significantly. I made the code examples to-the-point and brief. I practiced many times till I mastered the delivery and got the timing down to 18 mins.
I thought I’m done, but not really. Another big step was to figure out the best tool to record the video.
What Camera to Use for Video Recording?
The next step was to figure out which technology is the best to record the session. I had no knowledge or skill in video recording. The first thing that came to my mind was to ask a friend to lend me his consumer-grade photo camera. However, it turned out to be an awful decision. You know why? Because the auto-focus feature of the photo camera made a continuous loud noise! When I turned the feature off, the whole screen got blurry. So, I gave the camera back to my friend. My second option was to rent a professional video camera (they have auto-focus feature but without noise). It was too expensive, so I didn’t. I decided to use my smartphone instead! Its video was clear and had no auto-focus noise at all! The sound quality was kind of OK provided that I talk loudly and turn off the ventilation system of the class. I made sure that I can record at least 40 mins of HD video with that (some smartphone models do not allow you do record more than 30 mins). Why 40 mins? Because the whole session might take more than 22 mins and then you would cut the group practice part out to shorten it to 22 mins or less.
I told my students about the recording session in advance and got their consent. I also found a volunteer to hold the camera (you can use a tripod).
Note: You must give the consent form to students to sign. Judges want to see that.
On my big day! (the video recording day) I asked the cameraman to sit in the front-left corner of the class while I was mostly standing in the front-center close to him (so my voice be clear to the camera).
Note: According to CompTIA, the ideal scenario is that the instructor to have her station (desk and laptop) at the front-left corner of the class and the video recorder to be in the front-right corner. The whiteboard or slides should be clear to judges when it’s needed. Also, CompTIA judges expect the instructor to move in the class and does not ‘hide’ in her ‘bunker.’
Note: in the video, you should display the students at least once so the judges can see them and the learning environment).
I asked the cameraman to loosely follow my upper body and show the whiteboard/slides clearly when needed. With my command, he started recording. I started talking by introducing myself, then explaining the learning materials and continued exactly according to the plan. Everything went smoothly. No hiccups. No diversion. No technical issues. The video length was 30 mins and 18 seconds, including the practice time.
During my performance, I asked several small questions, but I should have done it even more to achieve a higher score.
Note: Judges would fail you if you don’t ask these small quick questions. They expect your training session to be quite interactive. You should not lecture the students. If you talk nonstop for 5 mins without asking any question, you’ll probably fail.
When I got home, I copied the video from my smartphone to my PC and played it. The sound volume was too low all along, and the quality turned out to be horrible at some points during the recording. You could hardly hear me. There was lots of background noise, although I turned off the ventilator. I was quite worried.
Software to Edit and Enhance the Audio Quality
After searching and trying several applications, I managed to edit and enhanced the audio quality with Adobe Rush CC. It was easy for a busy and amature person like me. Its surprising feature was its audio enhancing capabilities. It dramatically increased the volume and magically removed the background and artifact noises. The whole experience with Adobe Rush was point-and-click. I guess they call it adobe ‘Rush’ because it’s for people in a rush who don’t have time to deal with gazillion buttons, menus, and options. I only used its free trial version. It still allowed me to export the video to mp4 (you can only export three times with the trial version.) You can see the submitted video here.
How To Fill The Classroom Trainer Exam Form?
Be careful! Your score is not just about the video! The CompTIA judges read your answers in the form carefully and will fail you if you have written it poorly.
The following is the completed ‘Form C’ I submitted to CompTIA (I have removed my personal info from it.) The words in bold are my answers.
Form C: Submission Documentation
Planning Prior to the Course
2. What are the learning objectives for this module, as stated on the recorded performance?
The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1A)
– Describing Switch Statement
– Identifying scenario(s) to use switch statement (Why to use it).
– Create and Implement switch statement.
– Avoiding common mistakes in using switch statement.
3. What are the relevant characteristics of the learners including their level of expertise in the content area? (The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1A)
The students had various backgrounds. Most of them were working in retail stores (Walmart, Winners, etc.) with no technical skills/knowledge. Some were unemployed. Few of them had bachelor’s degree in art and management. Two students had PhD degrees in science and engineering but were unemployed. I had been with these students for more than two months before I video-recorded this session. About half of the students had kids to take care of and were very busy outside of the class. The other half had lots of time to practice. The students were between 25 to 40 years old. I consider this information before preparing/adapting the course materials.
4. Specifically, how did you identify these characteristics? How did you gather the information? The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1A)
I had two sources of information to gather these characteristics. The first source was from the questionnaire before starting the course. I had no direct access to the questionnaire, but my manager informed me about the demographics of the students. The second source was talking informally with students before and after initial sessions of the semester, especially the very first session.
5. What did you do to prepare for training this particular group of learners for this specific recorded session? If you adapted the material or made adjustments, explain what you did and why. If you did not need to adapt it, explain why it was not necessary. NOTE: Your response to this question must match what scoring judges observe on the recording. The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1A)
Knowing about their background/demographic, I avoided jargon and simplified my terminology. I also came up with examples that are familiar to learners from all walks of life. Examples and exercises that they can understand. In the recorded session, you can see I used “Suri Sushi Restaurant” example for switch statement. Also, for the in-class exercise, I used “Kafka Coffee Shop.” If the audience were well-educated in computer science, I would use a different example (I could use computer networking-related examples). I also perform another adaption. I changed the presentation of the course material such that it became feasible to present it in about 20 minutes. After the recording was done, I continued my lecture and gave students additional exercises and concepts. But the 22 minutes recorded session was self-contained and complete.
6. Describe what you did to organize the class particularly as it relates to the portion of the course shown on the recording. NOTE: Your response to this question must match what scoring judges observe on the recording. The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1B)
I asked the learners to move to different tables, sit beside each other and form groups before the session starts. Each table formed a group. You can see that on the recording when it comes to “Kafka Coffee Shop” exercise, I emphasized to the learners that each table is considered as a group and they want to help each other to solve the exercise. Also, like always, I set up the projector and my laptop. Also made sure all software (such as Microsoft Visual Studio, PowerPoint) involved in my lecture would work properly.
7. What might the learners have expected based on the pre-course announcement? How did you confirm what their expectations were and what did you do to meet them? NOTE: Your response to this question must match what scoring judges observe on the recording. (The response to this question provides evidence related to “Planning Prior to the Course.” (SubDomain 1B)
A couple of days before the session, I reminded the learners the learning objectives of this specific session on the online forum. As I have been their teacher for more than two months, I had a thorough understanding of their knowledge level and possible difficult areas. When preparing the material for the session, I made sure the learners have all the prerequisite knowledge. I made sure the examples are appropriate and understandable for the learners according to their demographic. At the beginning of the session, I explained in detail the learning objective – both verbal and visual (on the slide). After introducing the new concept, I connected it to the previously-learned materials. I implanted an exercise after teaching the new concepts so they can practice them. During the lecture, I repeatedly provoked/encouraged them the opportunity to ask about the subject.
8. If this 20–minute segment is part of a longer course, how does it fit into the larger context of the training course?
Yes, this 20–minute segment was part of a 3-month course. There have been two months of the class before the recording happened. Each class session lasts 2:30 hours, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm. There are three sessions per week, and as I said, the whole course lasted for three months. In the recording, it can be seen that I have connected one concept (switch statement) to a concept that I taught previously (if-else statement). In the exercise I gave to the groups, they were using previously learned materials in conjunction with the new material I taught in the session.
9. If you have stopped the recording indicate the reason for the stop. (See the How to Prepare guide for the rules about stopping the recording.) Be sure to explain what activities occurred during the time the recording is stopped. NOTE: A portion of the activity must be visible on the recording in order for the scoring judges to consider it as part of this performance assessment.
Yes. I have stopped the recording because I gave students an exercise on the newly learned concept to solidify it. Students spent about 8 minutes on the exercise. As you can see in the video, I started walking through tables to give hints/help students with the exercise, check their progress, answer their questions and to see where possible issues and misunderstandings could be.