Let's just say I was expecting and hoping for better results and leave it at that. I drove home Saturday afternoon disappointed and a bit depressed. It's hard on the instructors when candidates fail to pass the license exam. In my case, I immediately wonder, "What more could I have done?" My personal problem is that, since I love Amateur Radio so much, I assume that every one in the class wants their license as badly as I wanted mine. So when they fail, I tend to internalize the blame.
But there was a clear division between the two camps. There were the people who wanted their license and actually studied the material diligently and there were the others who may have cracked open the license manual once or twice, if at all. Listening to some of the comments from the folks who didn't pass, I was surprised at how little they applied themselves.
Let's face it, the Technician Class license exam is not the hardest exam in the world, but you DO have to study and you DO have to want it. Going to class because your good friend talked you into it; or because your supervisor thinks it would be a good thing to have a license is not good enough. There has to be some personal motivation driving the effort. As my RACES Bureau Chief said to me as we were leaving the building, "Just remember Lar, you can lead a horse to water; but you can't make him drink". He's 1000% correct, but maybe there's more we can do to make drinking more enticing.
So where do we go from here? While I am still wary of the Ham Cram process, I am willing to give it another shot. I still think the full blown eight week class concept works better, but I do realize that less than perfectly motivated people are busy and have lives, and are not willing to give up that much time from their busy schedules. I think with a couple of tweaks, the Ham Cram route can be a successful one.
Two changes in particular that I would like to make:
1) Ahead of the next "home study cycle", I would like an accurate head count of all the participants. I would like to order their ARRL license manuals ahead of time and have a meeting with the candidates BEFORE the front cover of the manual is even opened. I would like to take that opportunity to hand them their manuals, study guides and point blank tell them, "If you fail to study over the next month, or wait until the last minute to study, past experience indicates that you will not pass the exam." I think it needs to be impressed upon the candidates how important the home study portion of this process is; and that without it, there's really no point in continuing on. It would also be an excellent opportunity for Marv and I to introduce ourselves and give the students our contact information - so if they have any difficulty whatsoever, they know there's someone they can reach out to for help.
At that same meeting, there's an excellent video on Amateur Radio that we use for the first session of our eight week class sessions, that I would like to show. It comes in two versions, one 30 minutes long, the other an hour. Both go into a lot of the "fun" aspects of the hobby. For those who are getting a license just for CERT and EMCOMM purposes, if they see the fun they can have once they're licensed, I'm willing to bet that it might be easier to get them to take a good, long drink.
I know that time is precious, but between handing out the manuals and study guides and then giving a little pep talk and then showing the video, we can keep that introductory meeting to less than 90 minutes. I am coming to believe that this may be a crucial step in the process. If you're not willing to come to a meeting to get your manual and get a little pre-home study guidance, there isn't really a point with continuing on, is there?
2) A change of the Ham Cram review material. We used the W9PE Power Point last Saturday. While it is complete and comprehensive and very good, I think it is more geared to the prospective Ham who is into getting a license for the hobby aspect of it. I was given a Power Point produced by Alan Wolke W2AEW of YouTube Ham Radio videos fame. His presentation is ideal for presenting to those who are coming to the Amateur Radio world from the First Responder world. It is more visually appealing with lots of graphics; and as a result, I think it will be more successful.
I think if we make these two changes, our next Ham Cram venture will be more successful. Now all I have to do is pitch this to the "Powers That Be".
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!