I recently passed the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) exam! And I wanted to share some thoughts about the DAS program – mainly the “housekeeping” part of the program, not the content itself.
The exam itself consists of 100 multiple choice questions. I have no idea how many I actually got correct, but it was enough to pass. I also signed a non-disclosure agreement before taking the test so I will not share any of the questions here. But I can say that the actual test taking and waiting for the results was a little like taking the SATs in the late 1990s, only no essay section. Similar to my SAT experience, DAS test takers brought in their own number 2 pencils, sat in rows, there were proctors, and you filled in tiny round circles to indicate your answers. The wait period for your results was / is 8-10 weeks.
A huge improvement to the process would be to have electronic tests and immediately receive your score, like they did at the DMV in the late 1990s, or they do with GRE and many other types of exams. The DAS exam itself is a little pricey – about $100 and you have to either travel to the SAA annual conference or be in a place with at least 5 other people ready to take the test. I’m sure there are reasons why doing the test online or electronically is impossible, but it would be much better if you could do it digitally.
Other reactions to the whole DAS program.
So i started taking the workshops when I was in graduate school (not for library science) and at my first para-professional archives job. When I took the exam it was 2.5 years later and I was out of school and at a new job in a new geographic location (read: total life change / moving with family (just a husband, but still)). I could only locate a handful of the documents that I should have had from the workshops and webinars. Of course I take full responsibility for my lack of organization, but it would have been extremely helpful to be able to revisit powerpoints, handouts, and any other workshop materials right before taking the exam. I had paid (by that i mean work had paid) for each webinar and workshop, wasn’t I entitled to the documentation that went with it? Well only for two months after the workshop or webinar, and then you are not. This was probably one of my biggest problems with the DAS program – there wasn’t a Blackboard type place that kept track of all my classes, what tiers they belonged to, what requirements I still needed, and all the handouts and powerpoints. As it was I had some things in print from workshops, and some powerpoints from webinars that I took later that I had printed out. Because there is no formal program – you just take all the classes and tests and then you qualify for the final exam – there is a lack of responsibility on SAA, and it may not be clear to students if they will actually finish all the requirements and take the final exam. I sort of didn’t know if I would make it though the whole thing when I started (once you start you have 2 years to take 9 classes).
I guess what I’m saying is if I had to do it over, I would be much, much, much more organized about it, and I would download everything possible. But it’s not always easy to be super organized about something that changes on you. Knowing what webinars will be updated soon verse when a workshop will be scheduled near you, sort of made it difficult to plan out what I would take when. At first I didn’t mind the randomness of it, but once you start needing a specific class and time is running out it gets a little nerve wracking.
Lastly I thought it was weird that an all day workshop counted as much as a 90 minute webinar. How are the two equal? Can all the classes just be done online? Could there be a purely online way of getting your DAS certificate? And could it keep track of your progress and class notes? That sounds so nice. I love being organized.