In a move that should increase participation in their Certified Remodeler (CR) program, NARI has launched its first “virtual” study group.

The CR program — for which NARI members with at least five years of industry experience are eligible — has two parts: a “qualification matrix” and a comprehensive exam. Because of the large amount of material covered in the latter, local NARI chapters generally hold study groups for prospective CRs for about three months before the exam.

But historically, NARI's roughly 500 at-large members, as well as members in smaller chapters, didn't have this option. On September 13 that all changed, when roughly 10 remodelers from around the country held the first in a series of two-hour conference calls as the association's first remote study group.

“It's just like a regular study group, but on the phone,” says Dan Taddei, NARI director of education. “We're making certification [more readily] available to those who wouldn't be able to otherwise participate.”

The calls, which are moderated by two long-time certification holders who alternate depending on the topic, are supplemented by an online discussion forum, available for posting further discussion, questions, and comments.

The cost for the study group is $950, more than half of which is the standard cost for the certification test. Taddei says that the overall cost is just $100 higher per person than it would be for a more traditional study group, due to expenses related to the phone calls, and that he is working to reduce that cost in the future.