Q. Can I really get certified to dive online?
A. The most important part of learning to dive is getting in the water with a qualified instructor, to develop and practice critical underwater skills. That’s something you cannot do on a computer.

What you can do is eliminate the need to spend valuable time in a classroom setting, going through academic material you are perfectly capable of learning on your own, at your own pace and when it is most convenient.

This ability, by itself, saves considerable time. For some people, this makes the difference between being able to get certified or not.

Q. Can I learn as well online as I could with a real live instructor?
A. Different people learn best in different ways. For some, it’s a traditional classroom setting. Others prefer to have a real-live textbook they can touch, feel and flip through. Most people, however, find that computer-based learning systems provide the best possible combination of convenience, enjoyment and effective learning.

What’s important to understand, however, is just that because you are learning in the comfort and convenience of your home or office, doesn’t mean you are on your own. The staff at your SDI Dive Center will be monitoring your progress, and is available by phone or e-mail if you have questions.

Q. How can I tell if my computer is capable of letting me take part in online training?
A. If you can read this, you can take part in online training. Any desktop or laptop computer that has an Internet connection and is capable of running a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, Safari or Firefox will work.

Some pages in the online course contain short video clips. To see these, you will need to have or install Apple’s QuickTime plug-in, which you can download free of charge from Apple’s website.

With the video clips, it also helps to have a high-speed connection. The video clips, however, are a “nice to have” feature — not a “need to have” one. If you have a dial-up connection, you can still take the course (although you may want to skip watching the videos). All the need-to-know information is provided in a non-video form as well.

Q. What if I normally use AOL to browse the Internet?
A. If you normally use AOL to browse the Internet, through a dial-up connection, you can continue to do so to participate in the online course; however, you should avoid using AOL’s built-in web browser when doing so.

AOL routes a lot of outside content through what are known as proxy servers. This can cause a substantial delay in your ability to access online course content.
What you should do instead is:

Use AOL to open a connection to the Internet.

Open another web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox or Safari, and use it to access the online course.

If you have a high-speed connection, then you already connect to the Internet through a provider other than AOL. Just use another web browser and bypass AOL entirely.

Q. What options will I have for completing my in-water training?
A. Depending on the course, you may have several options to complete the in-water phases of your training. For example:

You can complete any skill-development sessions and the final open-water training dives with your local SDI Dive Center.

You may be able to complete the skill-development sessions at your local SDI Dive Center, then do your open-water training dives at the vacation destination of your choice.
You may also be able to complete both the skill-development sessions and open-water training dives at at the vacation destination of your choice.

The SDI Dive Center through whom you sign up can tell you more.

Q. What costs will be involved, over and above the online course fee?
A. Completing your skill-development sessions and final open-water training dives will involve additional fees. These can vary from one dive center to the next and depend on the options you choose. Your local SDI Dive Center can help you with the arrangements. When you are done with all three phases of your training, your SDI Dive Center will order your permanent certification card.

Q. What equipment will I need to take the course?
A. This, again, will vary from one dive center to the next. As a generalization, students are typically required to supply a minimum of mask, snorkel, adjustable scuba fins and wetsuit boots. Do not make any equipment purchases, however, without first consulting your SDI Dive Center. The right equipment can last for years. Thus, it makes sense to purchase the right equipment the first time — and to avoid making any costly mistakes.