Pandemic surge in first-time boat owners leads to surge in online training | #education | #technology | #training

With first-time boat ownership surging during the COVID-19 pandemic -a period when traditional classroom training in boating safety was largely on hold – online training was in demand in 2020 and 2021 at unprecedented levels.

According to the Water Sports Foundation, the U.S. saw a 35 percent increase in first-time boat owners in 2020.

WSF Executive Director Jim Emmons noted, “With 415,000 first-time boat buyers taking to the waterways and traditional classroom instruction temporarily stymied in 2020 and much of 2021 due to COVID mandates, there was initial concern that new boaters might not have access to critical boating safety education.

“However, an informal survey of several leading boating safety education providers has revealed a positive uptick in instructional enrollment along with emerging trends in online delivery methods.”

“The pandemic focused our attention on quickly providing the means for our local units to resume teaching boating safety during a time that classroom teaching was impossible,” said Dave Fuller, director of education for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Recreational Boating Safety Programs.

“The need for education is ongoing and remains a critical factor in reducing accidents so boaters can make better decisions and enjoy safer time on the water.”

While live classroom training is back, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary now offers a mix of both live and virtual training options, which Fuller expects will be “the new norm” going forward.

“The temporary approvals from NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) and the states to deliver education by virtual means will become a standard method of education delivery alongside classroom delivery,” Fuller said.

According to NASBLA Education Director Mark Chanski, the number of individuals earning boating certificates has been on an upward swing since the pandemic, which was initially problematic in states that required in-person boating education. In response NASBLA’s executive board approved the use of virtual technology in April 2020 to deliver boating education for a 90- day period to flatten the curve.

As the pandemic surged, that emergency authorization was extended on multiple occasions and is currently in effect through 2022.

  • Top boat names of 2021 spell out effects of pandemic

Beth Spilman, executive director of the American Canoe Association, said, “As has been noted in both participation studies and research and corresponding sales and purchasing habits during the recent COVID years, the public interest in outdoor recreation activities has spiked in recent years. Paddlesports are no exception, and the number of people purchasing paddling equipment has skyrocketed.

“At this time, ACA conducts primarily in-person, experiential training and education. We have begun hybrid and online programs within the past few years and have secured both federal and non-federal funding to expand our hybrid and online offerings in order to reach and serve more people with relevant, quality and engaging paddlesports education and materials.”

NauticEd, a boating safety educator specializing in the sailing niche, has trained more than 100,000 sailors. NauticEd includes a series of online theory classes, coupled with an optional on-water, one-on-one training component taught by certified instructors.

Director of Education Grant Headifen said online course sign-up rose significantly during the pandemic.

“People needed something to do and going online to learn made it simple to gain sailing theory knowledge while they waited to get back out on the water,” he said. “Additionally, people have retrained themselves to work in a digital environment from home and so digital self-education has become the new norm.”

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