BICSI to track attendees at winter conference

BICSI (www.bicsi.org) plans to test a tracking system that will monitor attendance at conference classroom sessions at next month's 2006 Winter Conference in Orlando, FL.

BICSI (www.bicsi.org) plans to test a tracking system that will monitor attendance at conference classroom sessions at next month’s 2006 Winter Conference in Orlando, FL.

Through the system, attendees who come to the conference to seek continuing education credits (CECs) for renewal of BICSI credentials will be monitored via a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip that will be placed in their conference nametag badges. The chips will provide an electronic record of each time an attendee enters the conference hall to attend a session.

Holders of the BICSI credentials Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD), Network Transport System (NTS) Specialist, Outside Plant (OSP) Specialist, Wireless Design (WD) Specialist, Information Transport System (ITS) Installer, and ITS Technician must accumulate certain numbers of CECs-the numbers vary for each credential-within certain time periods to maintain their status.

“We will put a radio chip in your badge and see how many people go to a session,” said Christine Klauck, director for BICSI’s U.S. Northeast Region, who talked about the test during the Northeast Region Meeting on October 20.

The RFID system will inform BICSI just how often conference attendees attend the technical presentations that teach about cabling design, installation, and maintenance.

The system is being described as a “first-run assessment” for tracking attendees at conferences. According to a BICSI press release, the RFID technology system is designed to ensure that credential-holders who come to the conference will receive CECs “that correlate with actual attendance.” Traditionally, attendance at a conference has netted a BICSI credential-holder a specified number of CECs regardless of the amount of time spent in technical sessions. For example, the 2005 Winter Conference was worth 15 CECs toward recertification of the RCDD designation, 14 toward the NTS Specialty, 10 toward the WD Specialty, and eight toward the OSP, ITS Installer, and ITS Technician Specialties.

The test will help BICSI become accustomed to the practice. After the information is gathered, BICSI may produce a report that would indicate the number of CECs that would have been awarded based on conference session attendance. After the test in Orlando, BICSI will determine if it will use the tracking system at additional conferences, Klauck said.

“This is just a trial, to see how it works,” agreed Edward Donelan, treasurer and incoming president-elect for BICSI.

The planned study has touched a nerve with some BICSI members and conference attendees.“I feel it’s important to further my education, but I feel this measure is invasive,” says Carol Everett Oliver of Everett Communications and chair of BICSI’s Exhibitor Advisory Committee.

Others, however, say the test represents a positive step for BICSI. Craig Joyce of the contracting company Joyce Sales Group LLC (www.joycesalesgroup.com) attended the Northeast Region Meeting and said it is time for BICSI to mandate that attendees come to the classes.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Joyce. “If they don’t do something quick to qualify being an RCDD, it will become watered down. You can get 15 credits just to fly to Orlando. There’s a lot that attendees should be doing that they are not doing, and I’d like to see that if they are going to get education credits, they have to be in the classroom.”

Klauck said BICSI decided to look into the RFID system following disappointing attendance levels at the fall BICSI conference held in Nashville, TN. Many people registered for the conference, she said, but a surprisingly small number actually attended the show’s conference sessions. “It [the conference hall] could have been fuller, as far as we were concerned,” said Klauck. “After that, we decided this would be a step we would look into.”

Klauck said BICSI is still very much in the experimental stage of this project. It remains to be seen just what BICSI will do with the information that it gathers.

“We are not yet definitive as to how the collected information will be used; it is still too early to tell,” said Klauck.

But one thing seems certain: BICSI wants to explore how session attendance could be tied to an attendee’s ability to receive CECs for a given conference.

Klauck said other professional organizations, such as medical or engineering associations, have had similar programs that track conference session attendance. “This is just a new technology that will make it simpler,” said Klauck.

“This will bring credibility to being an RCDD,” Klauck said. “You have to do something totally different than network. It will give you more credibility, and make the organization more credible.”

BICSI plans to launch an aggressive communication effort that will inform members about the upcoming test. Members will be notified about the process through BICSI newsletters, e-mail broadcasts, the BICSI Web site, and conference-confirmation letters.

-Brian Milligan

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