Back in 2000, we looked for a way in which we could offer our academics to the consumer that would take them outside of the classroom. In 1960, the University of Illinois initiated a classroom system with linked computer terminals that allowed students to access informational resources on a particular course while listening to the lectures through television or audio. Innovative forms of education have evolved throughout the decades and people have been able to advance their knowledge and even acquire degrees through different forms of learning media. In the industry of scuba diving, 40 years later, we still had a classroom scenario with a teacher lecturing us on the wonders of dive tables.
Something had to change. It is not that classroom/teacher is not an effective style of learning, it is – but we wanted to make sure that other options existed and were in place. We did not want scuba diving to fall behind as an outdated sport. It was not about trying to change the way students were learning but to open up new ways for students to receive their information.
Imagine going to a beautiful island with turquoise water and white sand. Your time there is limited, as it is your vacation. Spending three days in a classroom seems like torture. With the eLearning system, students could go through the academic portion at home before arrival… now this was an idea worth pursuing.
But it wasn’t just about the resort destinations. It was about being an organization that could offer a contemporary solution to all of our customers. Students didn’t want to drive or spend hours of their evenings in a classroom after a long day at work, and they wanted to be connected. They wanted to be interactive. They wanted to do things the way they did their shopping, their banking, and the way many of them already took other classes for either college or getting a driver’s license… and we wanted to offer that solution.
Once launched, the eLearning program received a lot of negative criticism – both from our competitors and from a few dive center owners that believed we would single-handedly remove the need for dive centers as they thought we were eliminating the need for instructors. This was hardly the case. Instructors and dive centers fit very much into our equation. They are essential. As a matter of fact, we designed the system so that students could only use the eLearning program through a dive center. At the same time, we gave the instructors the ability to view the students’ progress through the course which allowed them to be proactive in planning their review sessions or, for example, to invite the student to the dive center’s show room to look at all the cool stuff after the student had completed the chapter on “Equipment”.
ELearning started to complement the various systems and procedures that instructors already had in place and it wasn’t too long – just a few years – before eLearning was a standard in the scuba diving industry and was offered across the board, regardless of organization.
Innovation didn’t stop there. SDI continued the evolution by being the first to add leadership courses to our eLearning curriculum, and the first to offer programs with our sister agencies, technical diving with TDI, and public safety diving with ERDI. Our next step will be made in early 2014… the final integration of HTML. The platform that is the universal language for mobile phones, tablets, desktops and laptops, HTML will allow anyone, with any device, to enjoy our sport diving curriculum, our tech classes, our public safety courses and our leadership programs.
After 20 years, our commitment to our customers is to continue to bring new developments to the industry while promoting education through safe diving at all levels of training.