Face-to-face training – the end of an era?

When I went though my initial training as a Tiger Den Leader, the only option I had for Cub Scout Leader Position Specific Training was face-to-face.  On that same January day I also took Youth Protection training and Health and Safety training.  All of the classes were well-attended.  It was a very enjoyable day and I learned quite a bit.

Later that year I joined the Training Staff for the district.  Before I could teach a single class, National introduced “the new delivery method” (known previously as “Fast Tracks”) which focused on advancement.  Research has shown that Cubs that reach rank each year are more likely to continue.  This was good news and we learned the new material and prepared ourselves for teaching this new method.

During about the same time, National took a unprecedented stance and mandated that all leaders have Youth Protection Training (YTP) prior to registering with the BSA.  I had originally taken YPT online, so I knew that was a pretty easy way for individuals to meet this requirement.  As the training team, we considered how the mandate might impact us and we prepared to be quite busy.  But something interesting happened.  The number of individuals signing up to take YPT face-to-face actually dropped off significantly.  In fact, the numbers have diminished to the point where the training chair is considering not offering a YPT session.

For most of us on the team, this development really had little effect.  The chair is primarily the one who teaches YPT and Health & Safety.  Most of the rest of us teach Cub Scout Leader Position Specific sessions.  So we weren’t concerned about the numbers dropping off.  That is, until the introduction of online Cub Scout Leader Position Specific training.

Now we’ve seen all of our classes shrink.  Where we might have 40 individuals signed up, we now have four.  That was the case today.  I taught Wolf/Bear, Webelos and Pack Committee training to three individuals while my colleague taught Cubmaster to two.

So, the numbers have fallen off dramatically.  And it really is too bad.  I personally think you get a much richer experience in a face-to-face setting; you get to interact with other peers and you get to ask questions and have lively and relevant discussions.  But with the looming requirements that all youth-facing leaders be fully trained (coming to our council in 2013 and to National shortly thereafter), I don’t believe leaders will be compelled to take the face-to-face training if not for the simple fact that they won’t have the luxury of taking it when they want.  They will need to have all of their training completed prior to recharter.  One idea might be to have several training Pow Wows in January and February to offer an all-in-one training session.  I guess we’ll have to see how it all plays out.

There is some good news to report.  The Scoutmaster / Assistant Scoutmaster training continues to be quite popular.  Of course, it’s not yet available online.  I imagine whenever it is, those numbers will drop off as well.

Is it the end of an era?  Perhaps.  But I think the challenge will be to develop material that is relevant and perhaps supplemental to the required training.  The importance of being a trained leader is so that we can continue to grow and to offer the best experience for the Scouts we work with.  They are the reason for everything we do in Scouting.  And they deserve well-trained leaders.




~ by Michael Forner on April 30, 2011.

One Response to “Face-to-face training – the end of an era?”

  1. Same experience here, Mike. I first took Cub leader training in the old all-day “basic training” days and joined the training staff shortly after it was split up into NLE and CSLPST. We ran it that way, five or six times a year for several years until NLE went online as “This Is Scouting”. While we miss the opportunity for face-to-face contact, we were generally relieved that we didn’t have to slog through 2 hours of background (and nodding heads) before we got to what the leaders really wanted — how to do their job as a den leader. (I made the coffee extra strong, and not just for the students’ benefit.)

    I’m glad that Cub training is online, since with the new program it’s mostly formula learning, but you miss the opportunity for a bewildered new leader to talk to someone who actually knows something. You also don’t have a good way to convince them that their training has only begun and that they need to attend Roundtable as well. Attendance at our in-person Cub training offerings dropped way off this year, as has been the case with the other districts in our council. Where once we would have 30-40 students five or six times a year, this year we ran 2 classes with a total attendance of maybe 20.

    I don’t think Scoutmaster PST is a good candidate for online learning, because of the large amount of material that has to be covered (and there is a certain amount of “unlearning” for former Cub leaders). And, there is no way you can teach outdoor skills and the patrol method by sitting in front of a computer.

    I have mixed feelings about online training, but overall it’s better for new Cub leaders to have at least some exposure to training than none at all if it were only offered in person.

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