We are sometimes asked, especially by newer instructors, how best to make customers aware of what to expect from their course — "course deliverables." This is especially true with TDI courses and experienced divers but no less relevant with beginners and SDI programs. One of the tips that we share is a tool that many experience instructors use: A Letter of Agreement. We are sharing one example here with you. Of course this may not perfectly suit your needs and of course there are different consumer protections and guidelines from state to state and in different juristrictions. However, it may be useful as a rough guideline for you to put something together or as a cheat sheet when discussing general course objectives with students.
Dear Course Candidate
This letter is intended to document for you what you should expect from your TDI technical diving course. It also outlines what I expect from you. I hope you agree with the conditions and parameters outlined here. If you have questions about anything in this letter, please mention it to me immediately.
1/ By its nature a technical diving course is more complex than a sport diving course. One major difference is that there is NO guarantee that you will pass the course you are signing up for in the time prescribe for the course. Your course fees DO NOT automatically mean you will pass.
2/ Candidates are expected to provide their own equipment as specified in each course outline and are expected to make sure it is in working order before turning up for course dives. This includes essentials such as cutting devices, spare mask, and liftbag and spool. If you have any doubts about the suitability of your equipment and/or have trouble providing the items contained in the equipment list provided with your course outline, please contact me before class begins. Please Note: In the final analysis, the suitability – or not – of equipment is my call.
3/ Charter fees, park entrance fees, gas fills, and equipment rental fees ARE NOT included in course fees. The only possible exceptions to this are special combination training live-aboard trips.
4/ Use of “recreational” drugs, including abuse of prescription drugs, possession of illegal substances or contraband, drunkenness, violent behavior of any kind, bullying, and any sexually abusive action towards other students will result in you being kicked out of the class and reported to the appropriate authorities, and you will forfeit ALL course fees.
5/ You’re level of mental and physical fitness will play a role in your abilities to complete a technical diving course successfully. We can talk privately about this and about ways we can assess your readiness to take part in my class if you have any doubts or questions.
If you smoke please refrain from smoking during classes, on charters or after diving during de-briefing session.
I have no objection to anyone having a beer or glass of wine after a day’s diving. But be aware that once drinking starts, diving finishes and be especially aware of drinking and driving regulations. If you drink also please be respectful of the sensibilities of people who find alcohol disturbing.
What I expect from you in the classroom
You will get the most out of your course if you arrive for the academic session(s) ready to work. You should provide notepaper, pens, highlighter and a calculator. If you have been given a textbook and course handouts (CD-ROM) before the class begins, please read them and have your comments and questions ready for the first class module. If you receive these materials after starting the course, please read them as soon as possible and bring your questions to my attention during subsequent class sessions, fieldwork or during pre-and post-dive briefings.
Classroom sessions are scheduled for you and several classmates therefore it is essential for you to be punctual. If you cannot attend a classroom session, please notify me immediately. Failure to attend a scheduled classroom session may result in your course being rescheduled and in some cases may mean additional charges.
Please bring your dive logbook, certification cards and proof of diving insurance with you for your first classroom session.
Unless you have made other arrangements, your course fees are payable IN FULL at the start of the classroom portion of your course.
What I expect from you in the water
A positive attitude and a willingness to learn are essentials. So too is attention to detail and personal safety and the safety of your fellow divers. You will be taxed and task loaded at times during the in-water training, I expect you to be able to discuss your personal abilities honestly and openly during post-dive debriefings. If there is something you feel uncomfortable doing, I want you to let me know so that I can pace the course accordingly. DON’T BE PRESSURED into doing things you don’t understand or feel uncomfortable doing!
Again, punctuality is essential, especially when charter boats have been booked. Don’t forget, if you’re late arriving at the dock and the boat has left, you may still have to pay for your charter! Please arrive with all equipment ready to go… this means appropriate gas fills, personal gear and extras of anything that might break!
All tank contents should be analyzed and appropriate MOD marked clearly on all cylinders prior to leaving the filling station… this includes back gas. (Please remember that AIR has an MOD too… mark air cylinders!)
What you should expect from me
I will behave professionally and I’ll try to make your course interesting, informative and enjoyable. My goal is to make you think hard about diving, and be creative when solving diving related problems. To the best of my abilities, I will be punctual and I will arrive for the classroom, fieldwork and in-water sessions ready to help you learn techniques and skills that will make you a better diver and be better prepared for the rigors of technical diving.
I will treat you fairly and respectfully. During the course I will give you honest assessments of your progress and I will point out areas of strength and weakness during debriefings. I will listen to your feedback. And I will try to adjust the class to suit your needs wherever practical.
My aim is to give you personal attention. During the classroom and some fieldwork, I don’t put a limit on the number of student who’ll sit in. In the water, I will keep class size at or below the limits prescribed by TDI. At times, I will mix newbies with graduates or almost graduates (candidates who have technically fulfilled the course requirements but who need one or two dives to show me something specific that I am not 100% comfortable with). There are a couple of reasons for doing this… some logistical and one or two have specifically to do with my training methods. If you have any questions about this, please ask me and I will connect you with one of my graduates and they can explain it!
I rarely wash people from classes – that’s to say tell them I can’t help them — but I DO fail people. If I fail you I will explain why and I will work with you to “fix” what challenges are standing in the way of your graduation. This may include holding a spot for you in a later class. It may mean putting your fees towards a remedial course and refunding any difference less the costs associated with the time already spent with you. In extreme cases, there have been students who have worked with me for two dive seasons in order to graduate a class.
You do need to understand the “Fail” process. It’s hard for me to graduate a student who does not meet the following acid test: “If I were diving with this person on a <insert course type> dive and something happened to me that made it impossible for me to save myself, do they have the knowledge and skill to haul me and themselves safely to the surface?”
In order to graduate, you will have to demonstrate a specified level of skill and attention to procedures… S-Drills, Buoyancy, Trim, Gas Analysis, et al. However, as important as these are, there are three “skills” that will earn you extra brownie points: Team Spirit, Empathy and Awareness.
Your course fees cover certifications, TDI materials, handouts (CD-ROM).
Naturally, classes are priced on the understanding that costs being somewhat fixed. Cost assumptions are based on a certain number of students in a class and a certain number of dives to have them qualify for graduation. Generally speaking, the price you pay will cover my expenses for the number of dives set out in my course guidelines and no more. Where one or two extra dives are called for, I make a judgment call whether or not to ask students to cover costs associated with extra dives; however, there are exceptions to this rule.
1/ Where candidates for a course demonstrate a lack of the basic skills one might expect from divers meeting course prerequisites – buoyancy, trim, in-water comfort, buddy awareness etc. after the prescribed number of dives and where remedial work seems appropriate.
2/ Candidates who miss scheduled dives — without at least 48 hours notification – on more than one occasion.
3/ Candidates who have requested private lessons
4/ Candidates who arrive for dives knowing they have marginal, unsuitable or dangerous equipment.
5/ Situations where graduation dives are scheduled in remote or distant spots
Enrollment in this course signifies acceptance of these terms.
Instructor Name, Contact Details and Signature