eLearning from three different point of view: the student’s, the instructor’s and PADI’s
Whether you like it or not, the internet is here to stay and with that the “virtual life” most of us live these days. In today’s world one can practically do everything from the comfort of her home without ever leaving that comfortable couch. Why fight traffic and crowds, when one can do grocery shopping for the family (and have it delivered to the doorstep), book her next adventure to Tibet (orbitz.com), talk to three of her best friends at the same time in three different time zones (skype) for free, pay bills, deposit her paycheck (chase) and pick a movie to watch instantly (netflix).
One can get a travel agent license, complete language courses with eLearning, so why not take a scuba class online? Because scuba requires being in the water, many people say. Of course it does, everybody knows that.
The online scuba programs are not replacing the actual diving, just enhancing it by allowing students to move at their own pace. Study in the morning, at night, at work, in the park, fast or slow… the options are up to the user. Still, many divers and especially dive store owners and instructors are skeptical about the idea of replacing classroom sessions with online learning.
We examined this matter from three different point of view.
Megan Denny’s point of view at PADI:
“So, eLearning… I noticed Ocean Adventures has a big push on the home page,
right on! In SoCal alone we’ve sold something like 1,500 eLearning classes
so far in 2010. I’m glad you guys are not shy about promoting this type of
learning option, “ said Megan last time we spoke.
*eLearning for Open Water*
For open water classes, eLearning typically replaces two classroom sessions.
It’s worth asking the question – how much is someone’s time worth?
What’s more valuable – two evenings or $20? Twenty dollars is the
approximate difference in price between eLearning ($120) and the standard OW
materials ($70 kit + $30 DVD). If it were me, I’d rather have the
flexibility and free evenings than $20.
Similarly, if you’ve got a student doing a warm-water referral, eLearning is
a huge value. The student has no doubt paid lots of money to fly all the way
to paradise and stay in a nice hotel. Why waste that valuable time in a
classroom taking tests? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. With eLearning they do the 20
question quiz, get fitted for gear and jump in the water.
The Student’s point of view: Review of PADI’s Digital Underwater Photo course by Kat in Maui
A few weeks ago while lazing around the house on Facebook, I happened to be online right when Maui Dreams posted a contest for a free underwater digital course. I couldn't believe my eyes, I responded and was picked ;-). My husband, not to be left out, also decided to sign up for the online course. My husband and I had discussed taking an underwater photography class, and even talked to Maui Dreams last year, but never signed up. To be honest, the thought of taking any such course was quite intimidating to me, especially since I barely knew how to turn my camera on.
Here's a brief history on me and my experience with taking photos underwater. I have been diving for nine years and have logged over 100 dives. My first camera was a point and shoot disposable; hundreds of dollars were spent on cameras and the development of film. Almost all of the pictures were fish butts, yet I kept doing the same things over and over again until my husband said 'no more' and bought me my first digital camera and underwater housing.
That camera, an Olympus 5060, paid for itself during the first trip since we no longer had to buy and process film!!! I thought that camera was the cat's meow and thought that I took good photos =). I never had the patience to learn how to really use this camera, just used default setting of "P" and off I went.
I tended to take A LOT of pictures and simply hoped that out of the hundreds taken, a few would turn out well and sometimes I got lucky! There was never anything thought out or methodical when I took these pictures, I simply swam furiously and 'snap, snap, snap'..... it was really quite spastic .... never mind the saturated blue, out-of-focus photos that were the end result!!!!
This went on for quite a few years until I noticed that other people's underwater photos actually had color! So I complained to my husband and he bought me a strobe. That helped sometimes but not always. Complained again, and he got me Photoshop that had a nice little button to remove blue. This was better than before and I was a little more satisfied as sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much. Many times my editing job on the pictures looked, well um, photoshoped but not in a good way.
We took the online Digital Underwater Photographer course offered by PADI, and did so while on vacation. I was a bit concerned that it would be too overwhelming to take both the course and enjoy my vacation, but I was proven wrong. The online course was easy to follow and provided outstanding examples of before and after photos so I could not only understand why, but I could visually see the difference (remember, I could barely turn my camera on so it was important the course provide visuals). The course also taught the different camera options out there and how important it was to know how to use your camera and locate settings PRIOR to the dive.
The MOST important thing the course taught me is that I could take fantastic underwater photos by making a few simple changes. The course taught about this little thing called 'White Balance' and shooting in 'RAW' format. Go figure, you mean there is a method to shooting underwater photos???? It was like the heavens opened up and the angels started singing 'white balance, raw, white balance, raw!'
Immediately after completing module two, my husband and I did a shore dive on our own so I could check out this white balance thing and guess what??? It did make a difference (check out my frogfish shot)!!! I could not wait until my next dive to practice more of what I had learned. Amid swimming, sunning, luaus and general vacation plans, my husband and I were able to complete the online course within 3 nights (1-2 hours each night). We learned more taking the online course and taking the course with Jim at Maui Dreams than we did in eight years of diving and taking photos on our own!
I had feared that this course would cater to the advanced diver with years of camera training and was pleasantly surprised that I was actually able to not only understand the course, but was able to pass the online course.
The instructor’s point of view from PADI Course Director, Szilvia Gogh:
Frankly, as much as I love computers, at first I was not crazy about the idea of my students learning diving online. I had all the classroom presentation down after certifying close to a 1000 students. I could have had the worst hangover, being love sick or just woke up yet still recite you word for word chapter 1,2,3… without even using my brain.
One day, after returning from a week-long vacation I realized how many things I needed to do at the office, yet I had a private student at our store, Ocean Adventures in Venice, who needed to go over all knowledge reviews before lunch. While he was writing his test, I did the math in my head: let’s say just for the argument’s sake that all 1000 certs I issued over the years were for Open Water, and let’s say that every time I had a class of four. That makes it 250 courses. Let’s say that each chapter takes 60 minutes to go over, including quizzes. Times five (as there are 5 chapters in the Open Water course) make it 75.000 (250x5x60).
That is 75.000 minutes of my life could have been used to do something else; something productive or better yet, something relaxing instead of going over academics. 75.000 minutes equals 52 days. I made a drastic decision. Now, whenever I can I invite students to come in the store, fill out paperwork to see if they will need a medical prior to in-water activities, try on rental gear, pick out their personal items to buy (mask, fin, snorkel, booths, gloves) and convince them to start their classes online, so they can move at their own pace and cut down a day of the four day training. It is a win-win situation in my mind. They get a day off and I do too. This not only saves us both time, but gives us extra time in the water to practice diving, where people really learn to dive.
Our instructors at Ocean Adventures promote the online learning. All our instructors notice a huge positive difference in students’ performance improvement that is credited as a direct result of the increased pool time (due to the reduced classroom time).
Presently Available Online PADI courses (for other agencies, please check their websites):
Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Scuba Review, Nitrox, Digital Photography, Dive Theory (for Divemaster and Instructor), Rescue Diver, Divemaster and even the IDC! Go to to http://www.padi.com get started.
Written by Szilvia Gogh, California.