A few answers to FAQ about SDI’s focus on online training
By Steve Lewis, director of product development
Let’s start with that question about SDI putting all its eggs in the online training basket.
Since the beginning of 2007, SDI has upped the number of course available online to four: Open Water, Nitrox, Deep, Navigation. And while we are a long way from being able to state definitively that one day soon all SDI specialties will be available online, this year’s push is to add at least one more specialty course to these four. In addition, our plans include having SDI leadership courses up by the end of 2007.
Why the focus on web-based teaching? Simple answer is: Market Demand. Judging by the feedback we receive every day here at Headquarters, the initiative to concentrate our efforts on our online curriculum is popular with both students and SDI members.
For students the popularity seems to be all about convenience. “I was able to fit the course work into MY schedule…” is typical of the kind of message we get from divers.
Our members take on eLearning is more complex. We hear about how easy it is to sell the concept to customers. We also hear from instructors that they feel their time with students reviewing course work and final exams is more productive.
An additional reason behind the eLearning push has to do with a shift in education generally towards distance and web-based learning. We saw the trend several years ago when the major universities and colleges began to offer degree and diploma credits through online training applications. It seemed obvious to us that we had to offer the same alternative in the dive training arena.
Is online training reliable? The short answer is: Yes. We now have a total of more than four years experience in this area and system uptime – which started out very good – has now crept up close to the 99 percent level. Data integrity is well over the 99 percent level, which we feel is acceptable and better than many paper-based filing systems, but we have challenged our development team to get it as close to 100 percent as possible!
Naturally a small percentage of the feedback points out minor glitches our system had during the start-up phase but since SDI took over the development and hosting of the online learning application earlier this year, our average response time to fix or tweak the system has been cut by more than 70 percent.
Is the system secure? As an ex-IBMer questions concerned with data security are “old friends.” Electronic data – just like paper records – suffer a degree of vulnerability. Systems crash between scheduled back-ups and some information is lost. Paper records get misfiled, misplaced or lost. And both forms of data can be stolen if someone puts their mind to it. However, our development and hosting team use the most up-to-date protocols and encryption tools to make sure student records, facility information and instructor data is safe, secure and tamper-proof.
How can I sign my facility up to deliver online training, because I have no IT people on staff? Many of the early adopters of our first generation online training system had a computer background. That was what we expected and that’s the way it worked three or four years ago. Not so now. Advances in the background technology, better design and better programming on our end have made it very simple. We now have facilities doing very well with online training whose principles admit they hardly know how to turn a computer on!
Similar is true for the end-users. Early sign-ups for online training were almost computer professionals or internet whizzes, but now, thanks to the design and function improvements our programmers have implemented, online training is assessable to the majority of North Americans.
I hope this short article answers any questions you may have about online training, but you can contact us at HQ anytime if there’s a piece of additional information you need.