Traditionally, we have created exams with development language support for Visual Basic, C# and C++. A recent revelation if you will, of the 70-502 WPF exam, showed that not all technologies support all 3 languages. There is no designer support for WPF in Visual Studio 2008 when it comes to C++ projects. Apparently there won't be any included in the near future either as the C++ product group have stated in public forums that they are "refining the product direction", and will increas their support for native development.
But what impact does this have on certification exams? Well, simply put, it means we don't create a version of 70-502 for C++ developers.
So, naturally this has me thinking about our language support in a whole other frame of mind. Are we doing justice to those who want to be certified by only covering the 3 major languages in .NET? In other words, how many would like to see J# added? Do you still us it at all?
What about Iron Python? Are there enough developers using it and want to get certified as an MCTS or MCPD using that language?
My initial reaction is that there are not enough people writing apps in those languages to warrant the language conversion, but, I'm not out there writing code anymore so I have to ask that of the community.
We also need to keep our eyes on languages such as F#.
Another reason that I wander down this path is because we are seeing more and more groups within Microsoft expressing an interest in certifications for areas not otherwise covered. For example, we are creating a certification for Windows Embedded CE developers. The product group and the subject matter experts we had in Redmond for the design and item writing sessions were excited about this. To be honest, it was a market I didn't think would value certifications. I was wrong.
I am also in discussions with some other groups in Microsoft who want to start using certifications as well. I'm not at liberty to discuss them in any detail yet as we are in early discussions but suffice it to say, these are areas that could benefit from certification, but have not seen a value in it until it now.
Does this mean that the tide is turning in the industry and once again, we are seeing an interest in certifications with more value being placed on them? I can assure you that we take certification very seriously at Microsoft and are looking at ways to increase the value and to constantly make the exams test real-world skills rather than making it possible to read a book and pass the exam.
Are we getting it right? I like to think so. Is there room for improvement? I like to think so. In fact, I know there is.
We have a public beta on a new performance testing engine for the IT Pro audience that requires the candidate to complete tasks in a virtual environment. Not a simulation like we have been using where you are restricted to certain paths but an actual real, fully functional, operating system as if you had it on your own computer. I hope the tests prove successful and that this is a technology I can look into for future developer exams. Imagine having to actually write code or debug in real time for an exam.
"I have a dream"