On the ham_instructor Yahoo group, Norm, K6YXH, posted the following:
For all of you who are teaching multi-day Tech classes, consider the 1-day session as “Day 1″ of a multi-day course. I call it a ‘Inverted Ham Radio Class” because the test comes at the beginning instead of the end.
I’ve done it both ways, teaching 8 – 10 week community classes, and my current thinking is that 1-day is better because fewer drop out and we can use subsequent classes to concentrate on getting the new hams on the air and radio active.
At the first meeting, everyone passes their exam. In multi-day classes, I’ve had drop out rates of up to 50%, and not all of them go on to pass the exam. I’ve seen pass rates well below 20% after a semester of teaching high school students from a standard text. So, after the first session where everyone (well nearly everyone) passes, we have follow-on sessions where we do the important teaching, including giving advice about buying radios, getting the new hams on the air and involved in community service.
For Day 1, we pretty much follow W6NBC’s method. (Thank you, W6NBC, for publishing on the web – I had no idea we could do this and no confidence that it would work until I saw your site!)
We send two documents to students who sign up, and ask them to read them at least once:
- A list of the Tech Question Pool with just the right answers (no wrong answers to even skip over – no table of contents, no index – 25 pages (less if you use double side printing). I put a copy of that in the Files section.
- A “No- Nonsense Study Guide” like KB6NU’s.
Since we e-mail these to the examinees, we have no printing costs and no one has to buy anything except printer paper and ink to get started. We suggest that they read both documents, but if they’re pressed for time, just read the Q&As. We suggest they take practice exams on-line to see if they’re ready and ask them to keep reading until they can pass the practice exams reliably with scores of 85% or more.
At the study/exam session, we start at 9 am and take breaks every hour. At the breaks, I answer questions that students have quietly asked while the rest study. Typically, I spend 15 minutes answering those questions and explaining things like the calculations for Ohm’s Law and Power, and Frequency and Wavelength. I bring a dummy load, volt meter, piece of stripped-back coax and some portable antennas to show off.
But most important, I limit answers to 2 minutes and try real hard to avoid getting drawn into technical explanations in front of the class for questions like, “What’s CW?” and “What is SSB?”
If students want longer explanations, I make sure they’re already passing the practice exams and then take them out of the room to answer without disturbing the readers. One wanted to know the physics that allows direct radio waves to travel further than light waves – some are clearly more prepared than others!
Many report passing with just one read through the Q&As. Several passed without actually reading all the way through even once! At our last session, 24 of 24 passed, and many of those got 100% or missed just one or two. About half read at least a little bit outside of class, but some picked up the material for the first time at 9 am on Day 1.
Around noon, we collect exam fees (GLAARG VEC charges only $4), check ID and fill out the exam roster – we have people come into another room to do that, leaving the class to study. BTW, we allow anyone to attend just for the VE Session, including upgrades for General and Extra.
We bring in an exam team at 1 pm – most examinees are finished and turn in their answer sheets within 15 minutes. We typically grade exams and complete all paperwork by 2pm, including handing out CSCEs. We use a ‘production line’ approach, using a dedicated VE team for grading, filling out forms and completing the CSCEs, plus a few to do quality checks and answer questions.
The Day 2 training session is as close to the exam session as we can schedule. We bring in our radios, do ‘show and tell,’ and answer questions.
Day 3 is ‘how to program your radio’ – we show them how to enter simplex and repeater data and how to use memory. We use PowerPoint and have a team of experienced hams to go around and help. We ask that the students bring their manuals so we don’t get stuck.
Day 4 is a ‘get on the air’ practice where we bring a hand- held radio and have each one of them check into a weekly net – the net control expects the new hams and gets them to talk a while, introducing themselves to the others on the net.
I think I like this approach, and not only because they’re using my No-Nonsense Technician Study Guide. It gets people their licenses quickly, thereby giving them a sense of accomplishment right off the bat and keeping them interested, and then lets them learn by doing.