OPINION: Online boater safety courses measure up

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With the Connecticut legislature poised to rule on H.B. No. 6541, which would allow online education options for boating and hunting safety, it’s time to set the record straight. Despite the emotional appeals to prevent online training, the facts indicate Internet courses are a sensible and valid educational alternative.

In a recent opinion piece, “Is online boater training sufficient?,” the author tried to discredit online education by suggesting a rise in boating accidents was somehow related to online training. However, the data shows that is not true.

According to U.S. Coast Guard boating accident statistics, those who received their boating safety certification via an Internet course were associated with only 29 injuries and two deaths in 2011. In comparison, state classroom course graduates accounted for far more incidents: 353 injuries and 42 deaths. Coast Guard Auxiliary classroom graduates suffered 121 injuries and 5 deaths, while graduates of U.S. Power Squadrons classroom courses were reported in 30 injuries and 4 deaths. (Click here for accident statistic details.)

In addition, Connecticut is one of few states that doesn’t offer online training options for boaters and hunters. Currently, online boating safety training is accepted in 45 states, while hunter safety students in more than 30 states enjoy the benefits of Internet courses. Those who study online receive a high-quality and consistent education. The effectiveness of online training was addressed in a 2012 study commissioned by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. That study concluded there is no practical difference in what classroom and online students retained months after they completed a course.

Students from all walks of life rely on online training for everything from earning an MBA to completing the classroom portion of driver’s education. Online learning can occur at the student’s own pace and online courses provide a variety of learning tools from animations to video that increase comprehension. Plus, Connecticut students who study online also would need to take a written, proctored test, just like classroom students.

While change is hard to accept sometimes, online education is an integral part of modern society. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, the experience of online study is more robust than ever before.

Tammy Sapp is director of communications for Kalkomey Enterprises, an official provider of print and Internet courses that have provided official safety certification since 1995. Kalkomey offers safety courses in all 50 states for boating, hunting, bowhunting and off-road-vehicle and snowmobile operation. For information, visit www.kalkomey.com.


15 comments on “OPINION: Online boater safety courses measure up

  1. zyxw

    Well put. I agree. There is an ever greater need to provide non-traditional training, especially for younger boaters who may not have the time or money to attend courses in person. Plus, using technology can make the courses more attractive to those who enjoy using modern technology.

  2. vissionquest

    It appears that someone is skewing the statistics by not using percentages that indicate the number of people in each type of course (online or classroom).
    I appreciate that an online course is more convenient but will never be convinced that the class room experience is not superior. I taught for the power squadron for over 10 years, and still have customers (20 years later)in the boatyard tell me they remember some of my antics when driving home a point, somethng that they have remembered for many years.

  3. Preben Kristensen

    The below paragraph is a frightening example of how good statistics can be deliberately presented to distort reality – and to serve a commercial agenda:

    According to U.S. Coast Guard boating accident statistics, . Coast Guard Auxiliary classroom graduates suffered 121 injuries and 5 deaths, while graduates of U.S. Power Squadrons classroom courses were reported in 30 injuries and 4 deaths. (Click here for accident statistic details.)

    Without the actual total total numbers of boaters in the specific educational categories, the conclusion that

    …those who received their boating safety certification via an Internet course were associated with only 29 injuries and two deaths in 2011. In comparison, state classroom course graduates accounted for far more incidents: 353 injuries and 42 deaths….

    is utterly meaningless. Suppose that there were only 40 boaters out there having online certification, then the accident rate among them would be 100%….(the online certification group had 40 accidents in 2011).
    I don’t know whether online sailing education is better or worse than other forms of sailing education, but let’s get relevant figures on the table instead of blatant attempts to manipulate public opinion…

  4. Old Boater

    Online training/testing is OK, but you cannot get a driver’s license without passing a road test. The training required in CT for new drivers before they take a road test is significant, especially for teenagers. They must pass a Drivers Ed course and have many hours of practice behind the wheel before they take a road test.

    Where’s the “road test” for boaters? Where’s the “Drivers Ed” course for boaters? They don’t exist. There is no mechanism to test a boater’s proficiency on the water prior to obtaining a “Safe Boating Certificate”

  5. Beth B

    I am more shocked at online hunter safety courses. I have taken both the gun and bow-hunting courses. Half of the gun course involved the adult men trying to scare the heck out of the teenaged boys (most of the class) with gun mishap stories in order to get them to take safety seriously. You would not get that kind of experience online. I will be reluctant to hunt in a state that allows online training.

  6. Norm Schultz

    In a nation where we can get a college degree by studying online . . . where we can do complex financial transactions without ever setting foot in a bank . . . where we can learn to buy and sell almost anything without setting foot in a store . . . it’s makes little sense to think people can’t learn to boat safely online! Notably, while vissionquest recalls teaching Power Squadron classes 20 years ago, even the Power Squadron believes in online education today and in partnership with BoatUS is about to put upwards of 15 subject-specific seminars online as well as most of the USPS traditional advanced courses. Welcome to teaching and learning in the 21st century.

  7. MikeB

    It occured to me as well that the numbers being compared are of no consequence unless you know how many were enrolled in each form of instruction. On the other hand, any good instruction is better than no instruction.

  8. Left Coaster

    Agree with vissionquest regarding the statistical analysis. The author has to do better than raw numbers. If a student handed this sort of thing in as an assignment, he/she would be doing it over again. It is virtually meaningless as written.

  9. David Rueckert

    More regulation. Are we talking about “offering” boater education, or “requiring” it? In Florida, it is required that you have your “Boater Registration card” in your possession until age 24!. If you don’t, you get a $90 ticket. There in lies the need for boater education once the government regulates it. Revenue! A kid can have a house, wife, two kids and two purple hearts from Iraq, and he still has to have his BR card on him while boating or get fined.

    Offer education. Encourage education. Even educate. But stop with the regulation already.

  10. Richard Greenwood

    Having taught online college level courses for over 15 years–yes, that makes me a very early adopter–I can tell you that we’ll-designed online courses are every bit as valid as face-to-face courses. I’ve seen both didactic and lab courses taught successfully online; as long as they’re well thought out, there is no loss in the translation.

    As the deputy head of public education for the USCGA it was my greatest disappointment that the organization was so hesitant to move into the arena of online training. Don’t dismiss online courses until you’ve given them a chance.

  11. John Davis

    Statistical spin… We are learning how to do this by watching our elected officials… When you spend 700+ hours a year on the water you see/learn things that online training could never show you. That being said, anyone that wants to learn something online rarely will devote much time to practicing that which they think they know. They will most likely crash and burn hopefully, long before they hurt themselves or anyone else.

  12. Captain Rick Mendez

    I am a Nasbla Instructor and can say that a classroom setting adds personal real life experiences to the learning experience. I have found that all online courses serve a purpose but there is nothing like the human interaction. Classroom a little more interesting. I think we are far from the following but I hope that in the future, all boaters must be Educated both written test (online or classroom) and on the water exams. It is required in other “third world” countries. We need both exams to drive a car, a motorcycle and a plane, why not a boat.

  13. TLL

    Online training has been used heavily by even the US military. It has proven great through research for specific knowledge i.e. cognitive, procedural, and strategic. However it is not suited by itself for psychomotor, behavior, or attitudinal, these require hands on, wether its through simulators, actual skills training, etc.

  14. AnonymousBob

    Online education is fine for things like banking, education, and the basics of boating or driving. However, when the physical safety of oneself, and others, is at stake, there is nothing better than hands-on, practical training. “Seat of the pants” feel can only be learned by doing. Race car drivers use video games to learn tracks but they then actually drive the tracks to feel what a track is doing. The same should be done for boating licenses.

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