After a six-year hiatus from her career, Mini Antony was ready to go back to work. Taking the HR Certification Test Prep online course gave her the boost she needed.
Last fall, when Mini Antony enrolled in the online HR Certification Test Prep course offered by the College of Continuing Education, she knew what to expect: high-quality teaching, excellent materials, and timely feedback.
"I had taken a course with the instructor, Larry Morgan, several years before, and I learned a lot," she says. "After that, we stayed in touch, and he became a kind of mentor for me. So I was only too happy to sign up for another course."
As a management consultant in her native India, she had focused on human resources. Then she married, moved to the U.S., had a child, and took a six-year career hiatus. By 2009, she was ready to return to work.
"My previous experience was process-oriented. I was unfamiliar with aspects of American HR practice, such as labor relations, risk and safety, and compliance issues," she says. "The course not only prepared me for the test, but it familiarized me with these areas."
The 12-week course, which is officially endorsed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), prepares students to sit for the internationally recognized Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) exam.
Students interact in a structured virtual environment, and they have the flexibility to log on to the course site at any time of day. Materials include downloadable podcasts and PowerPoint lectures.
Although the test prep course is also offered "on the ground," the online version is popular with students. "Not everyone can attend class in person," says Linda Halliburton, director of Continuing Professional Education. "Only 76 percent of our online students are in Minnesota. The course draws students from all over the country, and about eight percent are overseas. One recent student, for example, was working in Abu Dhabi."
For Mini Antony, who lives in Boise, Idaho, the online option was cost-effective and convenient. "The materials were very well-organized," she says. "And Larry's feedback was very helpful and almost instantaneous--he always replied within 24 hours. Because he's an HR professional with years of experience in the field, he was able to clarify any misunderstandings or confusion."
Both the online and the in-person versions of the HR test prep course also offer students a chance to network and share their real-life work experiences. This was a big plus for the Idahoan, who found her classmates' comments and feedback helpful. "I learned a lot from them," she says.
After finishing the test prep course, she passed the PHR exam in January 2010. The success rate for CCE students is over 90 percent--in fact, every student who took the PHR exam last fall passed. This compares with a national success rate of 60 percent. "Our students feel very qualified to sit for the exam," Halliburton says.
Passing the exam and earning the PHR certification gave Mini Antony the boost she needed to re-enter the workplace. In March 2010, she applied for a job as an HR analyst with the City of Boise. In April, she was hired. "I consider this an achievement considering my long sabbatical from my career. I'm sure that having the certificate helped me get the interview," she says.
Pleased to be working again in the HR field, she's considering earning additional certifications. She's especially interested in the new Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) designation. She may have to wait a bit, however, because CCE doesn't yet offer the GPHR test prep course online. But once it becomes available, she's likely to enroll.
"My experience with the online program has been very satisfying, and I wouldn't hesitate to sign up for another course," she says. "I'd also recommend these courses to other interested professionals.
Continuing Professional Education Online:
Business Analysis Certificate
March 14 - April 22, 2011
• Identify business needs, and the technical costs and benefits
• Develop and manage comprehensive solution-based requirements
• Formulate business specifications to implement technical solutions
• Bridge the gap between business and IT
• Use data modeling to analyze and improve business processes
HR Certification Test Prep
Spring term: March 3 - May 20, 2011
Principles of Systems Engineering
March 14 - May 20, 2011
• Develop a systems engineering project management process
• Identify systems engineering technical processes, including stakeholder requirements, functional analysis, architectural design, integration, verification, validation, and total life-cycle considerations
• Recognize the importance of modeling and simulation
• Understand systems engineering agreement and organizational processes