I recently popped my head into an online PADI instructor forum. There was a discussion about online courses. It seems, many of the instructors (and dive store owners) were loving these classes. The consensus that I read into the discussion was that those who favored the online courses, liked them because the reduced their work load when teaching the course. I’m not a fan of online scuba classes and I feel they will hurt the scuba diving education business.
Keeping true to my PADI beginnings, let me start off with some of the things I like about using the Internet with scuba diving courses. I feel that the Internet should be used to supplement the classroom portion of the class. Having some kind of online knowledge pool will help enhance a student’s education in the classroom. However, Internet usage should not be a replacement for classroom learning.
What do I dislike about online classes? You guessed it, everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against home learning. However, instructors bring so much more than just reading off of PowerPoint slides. For example, in the open water class, there is a section about the aquatic environment. This includes currents, tides, etc. My friends in the Seattle area have to take into consideration tidal conditions when they go diving. They have to know how to read tidal forecasts, the times the tide come in and goes out, etc. This is knowledge that is specific to their area. You won’t get that with a general PowerPoint presentation.
In the open water course I teach, I have added a section in the classroom dedicated to local diving. I show videos of our training quarry, diving in Lake Michigan and us hanging out at dive sites. It’s important for me to show my students what local diving will be like when they get out and start diving. This way, when they move out of the clear pool (with 100+ feet of viz) into the quarry (with less than 10 feet of viz), they are not as nervous. It also helps me, subtly, to promote continuing education classes and local dive operators without sounding like a salesman.
Online scuba classes have been advertised as a way to get the classroom portion done quicker. The truth is, it really doesn’t save you any time. Many students, when they get to the pool section of the class, have forgotten much of what was taught online. Then the instructor, assuming they actually care, has to remediate and re-teach some of the things the student should have already learned at the pool. Thus, consuming much needed pool time and perhaps requiring additional pool time just to make up for what was missed while re-teaching classroom stuff.
The biggest thing that I dislike about online scuba courses is the fact that they can breed mediocrity. From lazy students, to lazy instructors, to lazy dive store owners. Online classes can allow the instructor/store to offer a bare minimum in terms of classroom knowledge. Then charge a premium. You simply show up, go over your knowledge reviews, take the final exam and leave.
In a time when the cheaper and faster mindset is dominating the scuba industry, online classes can give unsavory people the tools to perform a cashectomy on your wallet. Some people will play into the misnomer that instant gratification in scuba diving classes is just as safe as taking your time and earning something. They are wrong!!!
An instructor, even a bad instructor, can share a passion and excitement about scuba diving that you won’t get with a PowerPoint.
Have you taken an online scuba class? Are you a dive store owner offering them? I’d love to hear you opinions.