USPS Education Goes Online
By Richard L. Banks
There’s an old proverb: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any course will get you there.” For 100 years, USPS has taught boating classes to more than 4 million students; we even taught navigation courses to the U.S. Navy during the first and second world wars.
Today America has more than 70 million boaters. What’s the best way to reach and teach these boaters for the next hundred years? It’s estimated that half the basic boating courses taken last year were taken on the Internet. Younger potential members find these courses attractive because they are convenient and allow them to learn on their own schedules.
The USPS Educational Department, in partnership with the BoatU.S. Foundation, has developed a plan to offer courses and seminars online. With the platform, software, servers and ability to host our courses, the foundation will help us translate, implement and market full online versions of our courses and seminars.
BoatU.S. will provide access to their 540,000 members through email and publications. The organization has an active, well-visited website and uses social media to increase market share.
How will squadrons recruit these cyberspace students and benefit from this program?
The first seminar, Partner in Command, will go online soon, followed by Using VHF & VHF/DSC Marine Radio and Boating on Rivers, Locks and Lakes. Seamanship will be after that. We estimate that all courses and seminars will be online in the next two years or so.
We will have a targeted promotion plan for each course or seminar as it comes online. Partner in Command’s release will be promoted through BoatU.S. publications, emails to BoatU.S. members and social media. USPS and BoatU.S. will continue long-term promotion. Marketing will increase the visibility of USPS and our classroom educational offerings, and potential students will be able to find classroom as well as online courses.
The USPS Educational Fund provided $100,000 to begin the development and promotion of our online courses and seminars. Ultimately, the program should more than pay for itself.
Squadrons can promote it through their websites, Facebook and coordinated social media efforts. Look for email and SailAngle messages about promotions.
Tell members about these online courses and seminars. Contact and recruit local online students. Invite them to hands-on courses and seminars, such as Practical On-The-Water Training.
Help ensure USPS continues to be the go-to organization for boating education for the next hundred years; your cooperation and enthusiasm for this program can make it a success for your squadron and USPS.
P/R/C Dave Rickard, AP, is the Educational Department marketing consultant and District 7 Marketing/PR chair. A Life Member, he received the Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching. Sailors for more than 40 years, he and his wife, Eileen, ply the Great Lakes aboard I-LEAN, a 44-foot Gulfstar sailboat.
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