Well hello there! Jim has very kindly passed the baton to me and as he enjoys his very well earned retirement I now have the task of trying not to fumble it! So bear with me as I write my first ever blog!
So who am I? I’ve been an associate tutor for RRC since 2007, mainly teaching online or “up north” heading up the Newcastle training centre in the land where coats are optional in pretty much all weathers. I studied for my diploma almost 20 years ago and that is what made me think about the topic for this blog.
NEBOSH Assessments – A New Hope.
Once upon a time, in a Galaxy far far away students complained about the NEBOSH exams. “We don’t understand what NEBOSH mean” they cried and “it’s crazy that we have to memorise everything – that’s not real life”. As tutors we nodded sympathetically, offered as much help as we could with exam technique, reinforced the importance of “understanding the material” over “memorising the book” and that was all we could really do. NEBOSH meant exams. Long exams.
Then NEBOSH listened – the dreaded “command words” were replaced in the certificate and students rejoiced – but only a little (we are safety people, we don’t like to go daft, someone may get hurt).
Then the world was turned on its head (there was a virus, you might have heard of it) and NEBOSH started to introduce “digital assessments”. I’m using my terms really carefully here because in my humble opinion they are not “open book exams” they are “scenario based assessments” carried out in a place of your choice and uploaded to NEBOSH.
Then the murmurings started. “It was easier in my day” said some, whilst others cried foul and stated that there would be cheating and that it was a bad bad idea. But was it really? Is change a bad thing?
I can say in all honesty that when NEBOSH changed the practical element to a project rather than an exam I said exactly the same – there, I’ve admitted it, I was a cynic. But on reflection, when do we ever ask someone to assess a workplace, without asking a question of a living soul, then sit in a room and write a report to management with only a biro and no access to resources? Wasn’t it better to assess the skill we actually require of safety practitioners and give them the time and space to do a good job rather than a rushed job of that practical. I think that is a much better test of skill.
If you take that thought process forward, when do we ever ask an advisor for cast iron guidance and not allow them access to books to check facts where needed? Would you rather have someone “bluffing with confidence” answering under time pressure or an advisor providing a measured response? It’s that thought process that brings me to the opinion that the scenario based assessments are a natural progression and one that much better reflects the role of an advisor.
What About the Cheats?
What about the cheats? Well my Mum told me that “cheaters never prosper” and the NEBOSH ethical practice report published recently NEBOSH Ethical Practice Report – NEBOSH suggests that this remains true. There have always been those who would rather try to cheat than play by the rules (I remember a person who when caught with a phone in an exam used the defence of “well I didn’t cheat because the WIFI wasn’t good enough”) but the move to digital assessments has enabled new, whizzy-clever systems to be deployed to detect malpractice in its many forms.
So what “malpractice” has been detected? NEBOSH reported that in the first quarter of 2021 there were 597 potential malpractice incidents. The closing interviews carried out by tutors picked up nearly 200 potential incidents and other systems detected students receiving outside help from “others”. In that quarter 324 individuals and 5 organisations faced sanctions and 599 penalties were issued. As a penalty can be anything from a paper being cancelled to a lifetime ban that is quite a blow for the cheats – and yes some did receive a lifetime ban, others were banned for a period of years. What is perhaps surprising is that 44% of the completed investigations were not on the “open book” exams – cheating is not an “open book” issue, it has always been there.
I’m quoting NEBOSH here (and as I’m citing that ethical practice report it’s not plagiarism) but “there are no easy routes to a NEBOSH qualification”. For those insisting that it was “easier in their day” that’s unfair – what we are looking at here is progress. I completed my diploma in 2004 and I’m so long in the tooth that I did the dip 1 and dip 2 version that many of you blessed with youth will never have heard of. Since then I think there have been 3 or 4 revisions of the diploma syllabus and/or assessment criteria – change isn’t new, nor is it a bad thing. Without change the qualifications risk becoming less relevant and overtaken by other assessment forms, and that would devalue all of our hard work now wouldn’t it.
RRC Lead Tutor