Aquatic Training

Trends in Aquatic Training
The Transition to E-Learning

By Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., and Thomas M. LachockI, Ph.D.

A
s computer use has become commonplace in the workforce, there has been a shift in how people learn, both in and out of the workplace. E-learning has become an attractive proposition as the cost of instructor-led training has risen and the advent of effective computer training has become less expensive. The popularity of e-learning also has benefited from the ever-increasing expense associated with travel, and the loss of productivity when people are away from their work to attend a class.

For aquatic professionals, it's no different. Modern recreational facilities require their staff and contractors to be trained, creating better value for their customers by bringing them a healthy and safe water environment. Recreational facilities must manage risk. Trained operators, managers and contractors are the best defense against accidents and injury since they can recommend and implement engineering controls or procedures, and thus, can implement appropriate warnings to prevent injuries or illness among guests and employees.

And so, with more required aquatic training comes the need for more education. Online training has been the most significant trend in training aquatic professionals. As younger professionals are entering the field and older professionals are adopting computers, the pool and spa industry, in turn, has become more computer savvy. As a result, online training in this industry is becoming a more popular choice. And, several innovative online delivery methods are beginning to make education more accessible. Fortunately, online training is evolving beyond more ordinary tools like e-textbooks or PowerPoint slides online.

The structure and features of online learning have made it more effective for students. Features such as interactive exercises, narration, video demonstrations, exercises, quizzes and photos are becoming more common. As a result, online students typically learn faster and retain information for a longer period of time than they would in a traditional classroom setting. Unlike classroom courses, students are able to refer back to the online content.

Online learning is ideal when combined with instructor interactions. The instructor can interact with the student in a classroom, via e-mail, on the telephone or through video conferencing. The online training allows busy professionals to set their own pace, while the instructor time allows the student to reinforce what he or she has learned, have questions answered and participate in hands-on skills training.

Aquatic business owners, managers and supervisors are looking for convenient and inexpensive ways to become educated. Management training has not always been available or easy to deliver. This is especially true when trying to comply with the training required by federal government. In the past, training for managers was mostly through on-the-job training, college courses or at industry trade shows. While on-the-job training can be effective, it takes time, and certain critical information can be missed. College courses are thorough, but often expensive. Fortunately, many management skills can be taught online.

Another advantage in converting instructor-led training to online training is the fact that it decreases the amount of time students spend learning. Online learning helps with training time flexibility. The time reduction varies according to the course and the amount of material included. The rule-of-thumb is that an online course will take 40 percent to 50 percent less time than an instructor-led course. For example, if the classroom course takes 10 hours to teach, the online course will take the student four to five hours to complete. Thus, a full weeklong classroom course can be reduced to around two days online.

As a result of the benefits, online learning is emerging in many ways. There is a spectrum of courses available today covering facility operations, risk management, emergency response planning, pool operations and service, as well as safety and management training and software training. A growing number of private and for-profit colleges and universities are incorporating online training into their degree programs.

In addition to formal online courses, other online learning tools are emerging. For example, informal seminars are becoming more readily available online. Webinars are becoming more popular to obtain short, topic-specific training. Some organizations record their conference seminars on video and post them online, on-demand for viewing after the conference has finished. Such advances bring the most cutting-edge information around the world, and avoid the need to travel to acquire the knowledge. These seminars also can be converted to podcasts for viewing on a smartphone, for even greater convenience. Additionally, applications for smartphones are emerging, such as those for Apple iPhones, making pool calculations easy and accessible on a technician's and manager's phones.

Although e-learning has many benefits, it will not replace all instructor-led training. The use of technology for learning is becoming ubiquitous. People no longer see it as separate from traditional learning. E-learning is a powerful tool for managers, company owners, trainers, instructional designers and others to have an effect on skills and performance. Good teachers can help create context and interact with students to customize the learning environment.

More recreation facilities are taking advantage of the power and benefit of online learning. In parallel, innovative educators are offering a broader array of online course content. However, any organization that is successful in developing or using online training knows that good online learning requires several features. The online content must have the right content, and present the right design and the right technology. Yet, more is needed. To ensure their success, just as much attention must be paid to engaging learners, motivating managers and energizing their organizations.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., is the director of educational programs and Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., is the CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to healthier living through aquatic education and research. NSPF instructors and online courses reach more than 240,000 pool and spa industry professionals around the world. To learn more, visit www.nspf.org.




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