One of our goals for 2012 was to get scuba certified as a family. We took a first run at it in a rushed fashion early in the year but abandoned that effort after a less than pleasant pool dive in Manhattan. In the fall we decided to start the process over and go with a proper PADI certification program. We found a dive center in Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica called Diving Safaris and structured our vacation around that.
Instead of wasting time on location with theory, we took the theory classes ahead of time online. The PADI e-learning course was quite well done. It consisted of short segments with lots of illustrations with both a recorded voice and a text you could read (Susan preferred the voice, I preferred reading the text). The short segments were grouped into subsections and then sections. Each subsection came with immediate review questions and then each section had a full on assessment. You had to pass each section assessment to qualify for the overall theory assessment (in fact, you can’t even access the overall assessment until you have passed the sections).
When we arrived at Diving Safaris, they conducted a brief review of the most important theory — this may be a test to make sure that people didn’t get others to take the online test for them. But other than that we went straight to the practical hands on equipment handling. Having done all the theory up front allowed the instructors to spend more time with us individually on equipment handling and underwater skills.
I had been thinking for some time that schools should switch much more aggressively to the inverted classroom model in which students learn the material at home (from videos, texts, etc) and apply it in the classroom. This frees the teacher up to see where the students have individual difficulties applying the concepts that they are supposed to have learned. Given our PADI experience I am now a complete convert.
I am convinced this is an amazing model and should be used much more broadly. It’s especially powerful if the application of the theory is as lively as our open water dives, although I realize that’s a high bar, especially because on our third dive we got to see seven whitetip reef sharks!