Current mood: amused
Ok, since you asked...Here`s what I think:
I think that the internet is a great "tool" for many things. It gives just about anyone almost instant access to just about any information that a person could want. It`s great for entertainment and for many educational and research purposes. And I don`t think that anyone would argue that the internet has greatly improved world wide communications. That being said, I have to say I don`t believe that the internet is the proper venue for learning how to Scuba Dive, at least not at the basic open water level.
I believe that there is a proper time and place for everything. Certainly, if a person is interested in investigating what this SCUBA thing is all about, then they can be pointed in the right direction by the many informative sites available in the World Wide Web. And yes, if a person wants to find out more about the various certifying organizations then the web would be a great place to start. Even if an experienced diver wants to learn more about related topics, the internet should be on their list of "places to look". But as for teaching the academics of the Basic Open Water program to new divers, the internet falls short of being adequate.
In the case of the Advanced and more experienced diver, the knowledge being acquired on the web can be added to the basic knowledge that the diver has already taken onboard and put to use. The experienced diver is able to understand and differentiate between good and bad information, whereas the basic student has no base of knowledge or frame of reference to relate to.
Being a teacher/trainer both for the Navy for many years (master training specialist), being involved in curriculum development, having studied developmental and educational psychology, and being a SCUBA instructor myself, I can see a real potential for students failing to "Master" adequately the necessary subject matter. I can see students failing to develop the necessary confidence for being good divers. Not to mention the very real potential for abuse of this system of training.
There is something very positive, and special, which happens when students have a direct and personal interaction with their instructor. It allows both students and instructors to build a relationship of trust and confidence in one another. It allows the instructor to convey the necessary information as well as all related supporting and amplifying information and material to the students. The personal touch of real live class room work allows the instructor to positively influence and motivate the students. It also allows the instructor to receive that all important "direct feed back" from the students.
Let`s not forget what we are attempting to teach our new divers. We are teaching them information and skills that are necessary for their (and your) survival while they are exploring in a basically hostile environment, while using complex life support equipment. We are attempting to teach them mutual support skills (being a good buddy team). Additionally, we are attempting to instill in our students the proper mind set by which they should approach any diving activity.
I think that we can agree, all of these things are very important when it comes to making good divers and making safe competent divers.
I think what it comes down to is this question: Can we influence students to be competent, motivated, environmentally conscious, safe divers with online courses? I think that "on paper" we can certainly make it all look good. But I think that in practice, it will be very difficult.
When I certify someone, as a diver "at any level" or accept them as a potential dive partner, some of the most important questions that I have to ask myself are: Do I would want this person as "My Dive Buddy". Do I feel comfortable with this person`s basic knowledge and skill level for the dive that we are doing? Can I trust this person "my Dive Buddy" with my life? Because in the end, regardless of the multitude of liability issues, insurance, paperwork, etc… this is what it all comes down to, isn`t it?
I enjoy "Teaching". I enjoy the personal contact that I get with a "live" class. Through personal interaction in the class room I am able to encourage new student divers. I am able to do some evaluation even before they get into the pool with me. I can see who has confidence and who may be a little "water shy". I can tailor my initial and my continuing training efforts better because I have already had personal contact with them, even before they get wet. I can "turn them on" to all of the great things about our sport and all of the wonderful experiences they are about to be introduced to. And I can do these things because I am there "in person". And with more personal contact, I may even be able to motivate more of them to continue on to higher levels of training and certification. A computer can`t do all of this, can it?
Call me old fashioned, or out dated, but I didn`t become a Scuba Instructor so that I could have a computer program teach my students. I am not saying that "online" instruction is bad. I just don`t think that it is adequate or appropriate for this particular application. Certainly not at the Basic Open Water level.
If we are to encourage an Online Basic Open Water Course for the sake of making a profit and for convenience (i.e. grabbing a bigger share of the, to purchase their Dive Gear on line also.
After all, if we sell all of our gear on line then we don`t have to worry about the overhead associated with running a store front. We could just negotiate a "drop ship" arrangement with the manufacturer/wholesaler, take all of our orders on the internet and reduce our expenses. See, no storage space needed and no store front to maintain. No sales staff to put on payroll.
And since we no longer need instructors, we can also eliminate the cost of paying them, as our students could just sign into our "virtual" scuba class.
And I`m certain that we could find some legal consultant who would put together a nice "risk management" package that would cover all responsibility for any accidents or equipment malfunctions. Yea, we could shift liability totally to the student/customer.
If we, as Professional Scuba Instructors & Dive Masters, are willing to support the idea of someone learning to Dive through an "online" certification course, then I have to ask "Why did we bother to put in the countless hours of hard work, study and commitment in order to earn our credentials as Instructors/Divemasters"?
Is grabbing a bigger share of the market really worth it?
Is the added convenience that might be gained worth it?
I have always felt that one way a person shows commitment to a sport, or to anything really, is the degree to which they are willing to put forth the time, assets, and effort in order to become proficient and even excel in that sport or activity.
I`m not sure that I would want to have a dive buddy who isn`t willing to put forth at lease the time it takes to learn how to dive properly and to be properly coached in skills and knowledge development by a qualified dive professional.
From the prospective of the local dive shop/center, the effect of offering online Basic Open Water classes is going to be detrimental to business. Local dive shops rely on bringing in live "flesh & blood" students into their shops not only to sell Scuba classes but to generate & foster continuing interest in purchasing equipment and advanced training from them.
The only dive shops/operations who will benefit (in this online arrangement), from a business stand point, are those who are fortunate enough to be located in resort destinations, and (of course) the certifying agency who is selling the online course and certification materials.
Hey guys, this co