Preparing Housing Counselors for Certification

Online training and certification for HUD housing counselors
Housing Counselors Certification Program

As part of the effort to eliminate risky banking and lending practices, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act included provisions to improve the housing counseling industry. The law expanded the HUD Housing Counseling Program and required individual certification for housing counselors nationwide. With no federally sponsored training or certification program for housing counselors in place, HUD needed to create a process that allowed counselors to train and test for certification. HUD selected Bixal to create interactive training materials, a corresponding exam, and a website to give housing counselors easy access to them.

Client: 

Office of Housing Counseling, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Project: 

HUDHousingCounselors.com

Duration: 

5 years

Key Technologies: 

Drupal, Articulate Storyline

Online Training and eLearning Bixal’s eLearning team developed original content for 15 interactive online training modules, along with 15 downloadable 508-compliant study guides, covering topics such as housing affordability and foreclosure. We followed Bixal's eLearning development cycle to guide the process.

Bixal's eLearning Development Cycle

Bixal’s team of adult learning experts, instructional designers, and subject matter experts filled modules with real-world case studies. Stories like Angela, a single mother and small business owner, who wanted to buy an affordable home but needed help learning how to build a budget and navigate the homebuying process. Or the religious-minority couple that felt they may have been victims of discrimination while seeking a rental but needed guidance to understand their rights. Or Craig, who lost his job and faced the likely prospect of foreclosure, but found a way to avoid it with the help of a housing counselor. Using Articulate Storyline, our developers and graphic designers created a custom-built, graphically engaging user interface, allowing learners to focus on and engage in critical content. Knowledge checks throughout the modules allow learners to test their understanding, in preparation for the certification exam. Stories, along with vivid imagery, provided context to create meaningful and memorable learning for housing counselors.

Certification Exam Development To build a valid, reliable, relevant, and legally defensible certification exam, Bixal worked closely through a step-by-step process with a psychometrician, an expert in certification exam development. We filled more than a dozen roles to build the team, including subject matter experts, instructional designers, exam question writers, item reviewers, Spanish exam translators, and quality assurance experts. Drupal developers designed and maintained the infrastructure needed to house exam items securely and efficiently.

A core team crafted the exam blueprint to determine exam content domains and item weighting. Our team then trained item writers, facilitated item panel review sessions, determined an exam passing rate, developed and maintained an item databank, generated exam forms, and selected a test delivery tool and exam proctoring company.

One-Stop Resource Website As part of this multi-year contract, Bixal designed, developed, and currently hosts a website that provides access to the training and registration for the certification exam. With long-standing strengths in web-based IT solutions, we developed the public-facing website, HUDHousingCouselors.com, which launched in June 2015. Our team of custom programmers used Drupal, a free and open-source content management system (CMS), to build the site. Our design team met complex requirements to provide a secure environment to integrate with HUD’s existing and emerging IT infrastructure. Our user experience experts created the site with housing counselors in mind, making it highly intuitive and easy to navigate.