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Feedback on the online CLD experience

I took the CLD exam online last week and wanted to post about the experience for the benefit of others. The online exam is a great option if you cannot get to an exam centre, but it is not without drawbacks. The person monitoring me had to be very  attentive as it is much harder to prevent cheating in this type of set up. My observations are below. I have tried to present them factually and make my personal comments obvious. After this experience I would consider taking an exam locally if the option was available, but if I have to travel to Newbury (only exam centre in the UK) then I would pick the online option again, particularly as I now know what to expect.

 

Setup  - The invigilator tells you what to do through the Live Chat.

  • Took around 30 minutes to get the set up sorted, although there was a break in the communication for a couple of minutes (connection was restored and the invigilator apologised).
  • Table must be totally clear except for computer equipment and drinks. My piece of white paper that I run the mouse on was not allowed so I had to find another mouse.
  • Will need to pan the camera round the room and over the desk.
  • Will also need to show ID to the camera – I had to do this twice.

 During the exam

  • You will be on camera continuously, and possibly microphone (I had to turn down my speakers due to the feedback). I could hear faint echoes of my keyboard taps.
  • Food is not allowed
  • You cannot use pen and paper, use Notepad instead.
  • You can take breaks, request via the Live chat or a request button. Screen is blanked, but the break is included in the exam time.
  • No one is allowed in the same room
  • No talking, whispering etc.
  • No covering of your mouth, even for a few seconds! This is hard to remember if you constantly put your hands on your chin or forehead
  • I was interrupted by the invigilator a lot
    • Any covering of the mouth or hand on chin
    • Commands to “Lower your camera” – even though the camera is fixed and had not moved. (I had to do this three times in 4 hours)
    • Any accidental flicking between tabs will cause questions.
    • I had timing announcements at 2 hrs and 1hr 30. None at other times! This was done via the LiveChat – see issues below.
  • There is no clock available – best to take a note of the computer time when you start. I think I finished 5 minutes early as I didn’t quite know when I started. (I could have asked the invigilator)

Issues

  • Only the initial QuickDrop commands work in the remote desktop session. You cannot do CTRL+SPACE then CTRL+T for example. Only the first CTRL+.. works, the second is captured by the browser. This opened a new tab in my case and I was told I would have to forfeit the exam if it kept happening. I was asked “May I see what you just clicked on please”. Everything is recorded, so I made a point of noting this issue in the exam LiveChat. This affected me briefly at the start of the exam as I had to unlearn my normal technique.
  • The interruptions occur via the LiveChat function which makes odd things happen. When I was engrossed in coding the first thing I noticed was my right clicks or delete key stopped working, causing some odd behaviour. This was quite disruptive, but I guess they have to get your attention. Always close the LiveChat window afterwards.
  • Windows key shortcuts continue to work outside the browser window. E.g. docking left WINDOWS+LEFT_ARROW causes the browser window to dock, not a window within the remote desktop environment. This will lead to questions as it disrupts the invigilators observation.
  • ALT+TAB to switch windows also caused some odd behaviour depending on what had focus. I didn’t dare use it after a while.
  • The remote desktop connection can affect your idea of application performance. The remote desktop connection is not bad (I have a fast internet connection), but it does mean that occasionally things go blurry. It is hard to know if I had the timing performance correct as there is some lag in the update – this might cost you a point or two if you are not careful. (I could not see any issues in my code, fingers crossed.)
  • The screen size is pretty large on the remote machine, which makes it very small on a laptop. You then view it in a Chrome browser window. I could not run Chrome in full screen mode, so this led to pretty small text, particularly in the Help file. I ended up pretty close to the screen. Get the biggest monitor you can!

Personal observations

  • I felt that the LiveChat interruptions were very disruptive as I lost my concentration whenever they occurred. This lost me many minutes. I had finished the mock exams in 3.5 hours, but needed the full 4 hours for the real deal. I even felt that looking down or away from the screen would cause a question which made me very nervous about doing it as I didn't want to be interrupted and lose my focus.
  • I found it hard to get started as I had several comments from the invigilator (as you can see from the above) and this caused me to be overly conscious of my hand and eye movements. I often stare at the desk whilst thinking and being concerned about a penalty for this was quite distracting.
  • Don’t use common windows shortcuts, or at least try them out at the start.
  • When I work alone I sometimes speak through my code as it helps me to focus. Obviously I can’t do this in a normal exam situation and it is not allowed in the online exam. I lapsed once and was asked to read what I see without speaking.
  • The  several requests to “Lower my camera” resulted in me slumping to see the screen comfortably and I ended up with pretty bad back pain.

 

I hope someone finds this useful and I would add the caveat that this is a sample size of one and your experience will differ.

 

Best wishes

 

Ray

Message 1 of 12
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I took the online CLD exam about a month ago and I share your experience. I was great I had the option since I had to take the exam before the end of the year and there were no venues offering it in my vicinity. In the end I passed the exam but I think I could have performed better without the added stress from the technical difficulties.

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Message 2 of 12
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I just came out of the online CLD about 30 minutes ago, and I'm still shaking a little. (Stressful! Wowza!)

 

Overall the "experience" of doing the test online was not unpleasant. I sequestered myself in a quiet popup meeting room at my workplace and made sure beforehand that everything was clear and setup comfortably. I brought bottles of water and made sure with the invigilator that this was OK (it was). I felt that doing the test at the office vs. at home would be better - faster Internet (fiberoptic instead of cable) and less distractions (the room had no phone and a sign was posted).

 

One thing I noticed was that when a Live Chat message came in (even if the chat window was minimized) it would steal keyboard focus from LabVIEW. Mouse clicks would still work but the keyboard would act like it was disconnected. The workaround was to open Live Chat, type and delete something, then go back to LabVIEW - I had to do this a few times.

 

I did the test with a laptop and I also had wicked feedback whenever I sniffled or cleared my throat (or clicked my mouse, moved my chair...) - I could have muted the speakers, my invigilator only spoke to me via Live Chat, never by voice. But hey.

 

The virtual machine was pretty responsive, I didn't feel that doing the test through the browser severely cramped my style. It was LV2018 (I'm more used to 2016) but it's sufficiently similar that nothing "bad" happened. I did have LV crash out with minutes to go, but everything was saved (I was testing only) - reloading the project and re-running it showed me that nothing was lost. Hopefully the invigilator noticed it, just so that someone at NI knows what happened.

 

Don't know if it's a good idea but I included a text file in the project called "Author's notes" where I did my timekeeping / notepadding / musing - felt that keeping it in the project wasn't a bad idea just in case I lost it. We'll see if it costs me.

 

As for the exam itself, well, that's another discussion topic. The next few weeks will be agonizing, wondering if I got enough things "right" to cross the bar.

Message 3 of 12
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Thanks for the useful Information.

Do they allow you to connect a HDMI monitor with Laptop for better viewing experience?

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According to the rules, no. I think the proctor can only see one screen so there is potential for cheating in multi-monitor situations.

 

FWIW, it took only two weeks for NI to grade the exam - I passed!

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Couple notes to address some of the questions here:

 

  • As part of the setup the proctor will instruct a candidate to expose the entire room via the laptop web camera to secure the exam environment. 
  • The browser will only support a single monitor. This is a challenge we hoped we could address but doesn't seem possible with the current technology/implementation.

 

Currently this exam is on the "cutting edge" of technology in the certification world, and we're pushing the boundaries of some of our partners (and network infrastructure!) and still working out how to provide the best experience possible to candidates. 

 

Thanks for the positive feedback on your exam experience!

 

Nate

National Instruments
Staff Certification Engineer
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Message 6 of 12
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Thanks for the clarifications.

 

Overall the experience was positive and I would recommend the online option to anyone who has the proper infrastructure - a quiet place and a reliable fast Internet connection.

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What if I use a secondary webcam directed towards the laptop so the proctor can see me in the Laptop webcam and the laptop screen ( which would be turned off since the a second bigger screen will be connected, and the Screen 2 option will be selected from the windows settings) will be visible from the other webcam.
The issue for me is that the laptop screen is too small and I am used to work on bigger screens.

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Multi-monitor is explicitly not permitted, so I doubt you'll be allowed to proceed in this way - and it would be risky to go into the test with a non-compliant test setup as you risk an auto-fail with no refund. Just find / borrow a conventional PC to take the test - it only needs the Chrome browser, the remote monitoring plug-in, a camera/microphone and a solid Internet connection.

 

(For what it's worth, I normally have a 3-monitor setup and do most of my LabVIEW on my central 22" screen - I had no problem completing the test just with my 15" laptop screen.)

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The remote proctoring technology at present cannot be set up to watch two monitors.  However, your original question was about hooking up a larger monitor.  You can do that, just have the laptop closed (ie, one large monitor).  That should help a little bit. 

The system requirements and other information are listed here.  Doing the compatibility checks are critical, thank you for verifying ahead of time.

Best Regards,

Certification Engineer II
National Instruments

Certified LabVIEW Developer

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