1Volume 1, Issue #5Some thoughts on putting on a first rate PE classL. Daniel Maxim, ANACO-RBThis issue of the Ed-Vantage covers some best practices in putting on a first rate PE class. If youhave ideas to share, please contact COMO Tom Venezio(firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will include these ideas in a futureissue.Many Flotillas have a highly successful public education (PE)program. They take the trouble to build an effective team, recruitoutstanding instructors, and present effective and popular classes.The rewards are clear, including valuable word of mouthpublicity, increased attendance in future classes, and a greatopportunity to recruit new members. Other Flotillas are lesssuccessful. Here are some tips to make your program successful.• Get organized: It takes more than good instructors and good course materials to attractand conduct a good class. It takes a team effort. You need to (i) identify your market,(ii) find an interesting venue, (iii) publicize your course effectively, (iv) manage thecourse appropriately (including building a sense of family among the students), (v)provide interesting presentations, (vi) handle any required paperwork efficiently, and (vi)celebrate the graduates. Job titles for team members don’t matter much as long as youhave the necessary tasks covered, but you do need to be organized. This is just asimportant for short (2 - 3 hour seminars or 8-hour NASBLA approved certificationcourses) courses as longer courses (e.g., BS&S or Weekend Navigator).• Identify your market(s): For example, if you are promoting courses at your local marinaor yacht club, most of the prospective students (at least those in states with mandatoryeducation programs) will not be interested in an 8-hour NASBLA approved coursebecause they probably have already completed such a course. For this audience, considerseminar courses (e.g., How to Read a Nautical Chart, Navigating with GPS, or Suddenlyin Command) or more advanced courses (Weekend Navigator).
2• Promote the course: Figure out the best way to promote or advertise your course.Flotillas have had mixed results with paid newspaper advertising, but there areopportunities for free promotion if you contact writers of sports or boating columns.There are many other ways to get free promotion. You can put up flyers at your local andnearby marinas, marine dealers or sportsmen’s clubs, hand out flyers at boat shows orVSC stations, or get newspaper coverage if you have something newsworthy to include.Many high schools and community colleges will advertise these classes in their adulteducation catalogs. More and more computer savvy Flotillas are figuring out ways toadvertise courses on the web.1And make sure that you list your course with theAuxiliary and on District web sites. Churches, supermarkets, senior centers, and otherlocations may be willing to allow posters to be placed on bulletin boards or otherdesignated locations (ask first!). Think of where potential students will have anopportunity to see your materials. For example, local churches, grocery stores orHispanic social or business clubs might be good places to advertise for the courseNavegando America. (As a point of interest a Google search result for Hispanic Socialclubs, Miami, resulted in 808,000 hits.) Moreover, there are clubs for people who wantto learn Spanish—some of them might be interested in a Spanish language boating courseto increase their Spanish proficiency as well as to learn about boating.• Find an interesting venue: Teaching a course in an unsafe or unsightly venue does notcreate a good first impression. Try to find professional looking or at least interestingcourse locations. Community (or other) colleges, attractive office buildings, marinaswith suitable classrooms, yacht clubs, and nice hotels or motels are possibilities. Some ofthese locations may charge for use of the classroom facilities, but these charges can berecovered in the price of the course. Many attractive locations can be had withoutcharge, such as Coast Guard facilities or upscale senior centers. In the past, Flotillas haveput on classes on cruise ships, museums, planetariums, and restaurants with privatedining facilities.• Appoint a class supervisor: The role of aclass supervisor is to manage the course andorchestrate the efforts of the entire PE team.Possible duties include ensuring an efficientregistration process, acting as a “friend ofthe student” (more below), arranging forprimary and fallback instructors, expeditingthe paperwork process (e.g., coursecompletion certificates or paperwork for thestate), and possibly serving as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for a graduationceremony. The class supervisor does not have to do all this alone—other Flotillamembers should help.1Here are some examples; http://wow.uscgaux.info/pe_class_flyer.php?course=7434,http://public.d11nuscgaux.info/PublicEd/basic_navigation.htm, http://www.maineevents.com/event/coast-guard-auxiliary-weekend-navigator-course-45674, http://marinadelrey.patch.com/events/suddenly-in-command-5f0d1c51,http://miami-class.com/, and http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/outposts/2010/07/us-coast-guard-auxiliary-offers-course-on-how-to-read-a-nautical-chart.html.
3• Build relationships with students: Depending upon the class length and how it isorganized, an individual instructor may spend only a little time with the class (e.g., onehour in an 8-hour NASBLA approved class). This makes it a challenge for the instructorto get to know the students personally and build relationships. Here is where the classsupervisor can play a key role. The class supervisor should attend every class session. Ifthe instructor completes the presentation, but students are puzzled, the class supervisorcan provide remedial instruction—or at least commiserate with the students and advisethe next instructor to amend his/her presentation. The class supervisor can make nametags or place holders to make it easier for instructors to call on students by name. To helpthe students learn nautical terminology, you might start a jar system where, for example,any student who refers to a nautical chart as a map is “fined” $1.00. The class supervisorkeeps the contents of the kitty and the money is used to buy drinks at (or favors for) thegraduation ceremony.• Build relationships with others: Think about ways to build relationships with otherswho might be in a position to refer students to a class put on by your Flotilla. Forexample, meet with marina owners, marine supply dealers, and yacht clubs and informthem of the courses that you have available. You might link this with the PV (formerlyMDV) program. Relationship building is not a short-term activity. You may needseveral visits to build a strong relationship. Why not invite key personnel to your changeof watch or other Flotilla function?• Use capable instructors: All the team’s efforts will be undermined if your instructorsare not first-rate. You must be careful to select knowledgeable and capable presenters. Ifyour Flotilla is blessed with such instructors, it’s simply a matter of finding a convenientschedule. Not all Flotillas are so fortunate and youneed to set up a professional development programand/or figure a way to borrow capable instructorsfrom another Flotilla. WAYPOINTS is apublication designed to help instructors improvetheir presentation skills and should be requiredreading for your instructors. The class supervisorcan observe your instructors at work and gatherstudent impressions to help you identify those whowould benefit from additional training. Considerteaming a strong instructor with a weaker one foron-the-job training. And encourage your instructorsto participate in the upcoming EducationalExcellence program. Don’t overlook the possibilityof using non-Auxiliary instructors for certain sessions. For example, you might be ableto get someone from NOAA to speak on marine weather. As long as you have a qualifiedAuxiliary instructor present, this is fully in accord with policy.
4• Include a recruiting pitch: Have someone from your Flotilla provide an introduction tothe Auxiliary and its missions to the students. It need not be long, but should beinteresting and well presented. The discussion should identify members-only courses andother training opportunities that would be of interest to prospective members.• Be helpful: Some of your students will own boats and couldbenefit from a Vessel Safety Check. Why not offer to dothis for any interested student?• Celebrate the graduates: Merely handing the students acourse completion certificate at the end of class misses anopportunity to make them feel welcome and valued. (Andspelling their names incorrectly on the completion certificateis an insult!) One idea that works is to have a graduationparty at a local restaurant attended by the students and other members of the Flotilla(preferably in uniform). If it is inconvenient to have the party at a local restaurant,consider a barbecue or other get together where you can present their graduationcertificates. Giving awards for the students affords an opportunity for additionalrecognition and humor.• Give careful thought to course pricing: Some Flotillas are in a financial position to beable to offer courses at no charge.2But most Flotillas are not so fortunate and need fundsgenerated by course revenues to purchase such items as PowerPoint projectors,computers, printers, and other legitimate purposes. You should survey the market forthese courses in your area—unless you are in a position to offer real and obviousadditional value, you cannot charge whatever you would like for a course. However, ifyou can offer additional value, there is no reason not to charge appropriately. Forexample, you might increase the price of the course to pay for a particularly convenientor attractive venue (e.g., a hotel meeting room) or for other extras (e.g., navigation toolsor charts). Several states accept no-cost online courses to comply with mandatoryeducation requirements or, alternatively, offer inexpensive in class courses. It’s tough tocompete with free, but not impossible. An in-class course with competent instructors anda professional program offers value. Students can ask and get answers to questions fromhighly qualified instructors and will also benefit from social opportunities in a classroomsituation. These and other benefits should be noted in your flyers or other promotionalmaterial.2See e.g., http://www.miami-class.com/public_education_FAQ.html.