Money & Business

Would You ‘Yelpify’ Your Credentialing System?

By / Oct 23, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A yoga industry group recently built a credentialing system for yoga schools that relies on social ratings and reviews. See how it’s worked out so far and how such a system might be beneficial to other associations.

In an age in which people can rate and comment on everything from their dining experiences to vacations to a doctor’s appointment, social rating systems are the new norm. People now look to an online crowd, whether that’s strangers on Yelp or friends and family on Facebook, to inform many of their decisions on what to buy and whom to trust.

It’s no surprise, then, that this type of social critique would move its way into the world of credentialing—an industry, like so many others, that is being disrupted by technology.

What’s happened is that people are learning to get their trust from different places, so the model that credentialing organizations represent is exactly the kind of model that has been disrupted by the internet.

“What’s happened is that people are learning to get their trust from different places, so the model that credentialing organizations represent is exactly the kind of model that has been disrupted by the internet,” said Richard Karpel, president and CEO of Yoga Alliance, which incorporated the social ratings trend into its credentialing system this year.

Since December 2013, as part of a series of changes within the organization, Yoga Alliance has offered what it calls “Social Credentialing” as a way to add oversight and accountability to the organization’s registry of yoga schools.

A social/crowdsourced method seemed the best choice for the organization because yoga, by its nature, is an individualistic practice with an innumerable variety of styles and lineages. As Yoga Alliance explains on its website, “Yoga doesn’t easily fit the testing, rule-making culture that modern credentialing systems tend to represent.”

Here’s how it works: After completing training at a registered yoga school, students who apply to register with Yoga Alliance (and therefore become registered yoga teachers) must complete an online review of that school and answer questions such as

  • How closely does the syllabus you were taught correspond to the one the school filed with us?
  • Do you feel prepared to start teaching the principles and techniques of yoga safely and competently?
  • How likely would you be to recommend the school to a friend or colleague?

What’s different about Yoga Alliance’s system from that of some of the for-profit social rating sites is its commitment to verification and transparency, Karpel said. “The only people who are commenting are people who are registered with us. So that’s schools and yoga teachers, and the teachers are only able to register with us if they go through a school that follows our standards.”

Since launching Social Credentialing, Karpel said there have been a few surprises along the way, such as the sizable amount of valuable information Yoga Alliance has been able to gather on schools and students.

The organization has also been surprised by the extent to which the schools care about the comments and ratings they receive, which has pros and cons, Karpel admitted. “On the bad side, we learned how much the schools care because owners often contact us to complain when there is even one slightly negative review left on their page.”

He gave an example of a student who was upset after a school she rated complained about what it felt was a “less-than-effusive” review. “Her comments were exactly the kind of feedback our Social Credentialing system was designed to encourage—thorough, factual, constructive feedback the school can use to improve,” Karpel said.

Emotional responses to perceived negative comments are to be expected with this type of system, and for the most part, because of the lack of anonymity on the site, the general tone of comments has been good, said Karpel, who added that Yoga Alliance has plans to add a feature for yoga schools to respond to comments in the future.

“Social Credentialing, and social ratings in general, are designed to provide a broad range of data that is helpful to third parties who are making a decision about whether a particular individual or business is right for them,” Karpel said. “Our job is to help our registered yoga schools accept the feedback they receive dispassionately—the same way their potential customers do.”

On the positive side, strong responses from the schools illustrate the power of oversight and accountability that Social Credentialing is providing. “It has helped us understand how vital our credentialing system is for the schools that are registered with us,” Karpel said.

What are your thoughts on social credentialing and how it could fit into the association industry? Let us know in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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