PADI E-Learning Review
"PADI E-learning" offers on-line scuba diving certification courses for beginning divers. But is taking an on-line scuba certification course right for you? To best help you decide, I researched the course, interviewed those who had taken it, and received feedback from both dive shop owners as well as certified instructors.
What Is PADI?
PADI stands for the "Professional Association of Diving Instructors". Started in 1966, PADI has become one of the most prominent diving associations in the world. Almost all dive and scuba schools across the country are "PADI Certfied". Simply put, this is one of the more recognized scuba associations world-wide.
In order to begin diving, you must first start with the on-line "PADI Open Water Diver Scuba Certification".
The Open Water Course includes the following:
1. On-line Classwork and Tests
2. Confined Water Scuba Skills Training
3. Open Water Dives and Scuba Skills Review
Once students have completed the on-line part of the coursework, students can take a print-out of their passing assessments to any PADI-certified dive school to continue the last two steps.
As of summer 2013, the on-line course costs $130.00, and includes an electronic copy of the PADI Open Water Diving Manual. Keep in mind, this might be more expensive than getting certified for all three parts at a local dive school. In researching costs, most dive schools offer beginning diving certification for $200.00 to $400.00 (and this does not include gear, which is an additional cost of about $300.00). PADI also requires that you purchase its log book and Recreational Dive Planner, both of which you can find at dive shops for around $25.00.
Are Students Who Take The E-learning Course Just As Prepared As Other Students?
I heard from Steve M., a dive shop owner in Southern California, who said that, " the online courses are excellent and prepare the students well for training." He also said, "it's important to allow enough time to go through the materials and not wait until the last day to study."
However, another diving instructor felt that though PADI is considered one of the premiere diving associations, their on-line course may not be the best choice. He felt that passing their on-line coursework does not actually mean students have mastered the required skills. In other words, though you've met PADI's requirements, you may not actually have adequate preparation. Bearing this in mind, though, the on-line course is seemingly more conducive toward mastery. It allows for those with busy schedules to complete it over the course of a year, which gives more time to master concepts and skills.
Like anything new, there's a learning curve. Choosing on-line certification may better help bridge that gap, than would an accelerated three or four day course.
How User Friendly Is The On-Line Course?
I spent a few hours reviewing the site and course. Overall, I've found the site to be well-designed and user-friendly. First, the interface is intuitive, and navigating the coursework is straightforward. Also, the site has a tutorial that shows step-by-step how to use it.Credit: http://elearning.padi.com/paditutorial.htm
The tutorial highlights where a student can navigate for extra support and when the student can expect a response. The tutorial is also no more than five minutes in length.
The coursework is divided into sections:
1. Individual Coursework
3. Check-ins with Instructor
The best design aspect of the course is that upon signing up, students are given an instructor, and times when they can access or work with this instructor on-line.
One student who had taken the course said choosing whether to take the on-line course really depends on how fast you learn. Because students have a year to take the coursework on-line, PADI's e-learning "levels the playing field" for scuba certification. Also, so many dive schools offer PADI certification, that it makes taking the written part of the course work easily transferrable for anyone starting out.
Overall, I would suggest that this is a practical and sound way to become a scuba diver. It allows the extra study time to ensure concepts are in place, prior to getting in the water. Though it can be a little extra in cost than some all-inclusive on-site dive programs, the practicality of completing the written portion and exposure to these concepts, may be worth the extra cost in peace of mind.
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