This agency was formed in 1970 in California as a result of what seems to have been a series of complicated reorganisations of the few agencies that then existed in the USA. It was inspired by the relationship between training and retail dive stores, so the training offered was designed to benefit the retailer financially. SSI belongs to the American Recreational Scuba Training Council, which dictates to its members minimum standards for diver training.SSI 01625 574451, www.ssiuk.com
OPEN WATER DIVER
I was sent the SSIs Open Water Diver manual, study guide, instructor manual and video. The trainee manual starts by explaining its purpose. It is designed to be part of an integrated, flexible approach to learning that links with the other material supplied to the trainee, and with practical sessions.
The aim of the programme is described as being to produce an individual proficient in the basic skills of scuba diving, which seems woolly.
Early reinforcement of the depth limitations, for example, might help the trainee to know from the outset what basic skills means. There are six academic study sessions, five pool sessions and five open-water dives.
The books six chapters are well-sequenced. Each kicks off with a description of its content, though not worded in the form of achievable learning objectives. It ends with a summary, but no direction for the trainee to turn to the questions in the study guide or to the video. This would have to be reinforced by the instructor. For a learning programme to be fully integrated as a multi-media package, it needs to be made clear to the student how it all fits together.
The recommendation for sequential learning in the instructor manual is not consistent with the advice in the student manual, but there is a quality-assurance mechanism within the Open Water training records to ensure that the programme is completed. The photos and diagrams in the book are all in black and white, but are modern and address the text well.
The video should be referred to before the study guide questions are completed, suggests the instructor guide. That makes sense. It starts with an explanation of how it should be used and follows the well-sequenced structure of the manual.
Im not sure what the objectives are for each session so its difficult to comment on this means to achieving them. The video was filmed in St Lucia and seems orientated around leisure divers who prefer such locations. SSI says it trains for reality.
The instructor guides explain, under the heading Objectives, the purpose of each session, but this is more of an aim than an explanation of what the trainee will be equipped to do at the end of it. If the type of lesson-plans for the SSI Instructors Course, which contains lists of specific, measurable objectives, were transferred to the Open Water course, the academic and practical sessions would be far more educationally sound.
However, the guidance and material presented to the instructor is thorough and would more than serve its purpose. Calling around SSI schools in the UK, I found that the price quoted for this course, including all materials, was £350.
ENRICHED AIR NITROX
Designed as part of the SSI Speciality Courses programme, this course comes with manual, tables and exam. All the above comments apply in respect of the manual, except that there are study questions at the end of each chapter.
I called a few SSI schools and they seemed reluctant to run this course, but I found one that would do so if I could find more attendees. It takes two days and costs £150.
In the SSI world only three grades of recreational diver require training: Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Master Diver. To obtain each qualification you must complete minimum numbers of logged dives and speciality courses. For Master Diver you would have to do the Stress and Rescue Diver courses plus four speciality courses, which might simply be Wreck, Computer, Dry Suit and Navigation - all skills you would expect to acquire in the UK without having to purchase extra courses.
There are benefits with this approach. Individual divers have scope to tailor-make their diving qualification to a high level (SSI says there is no equivalent in the diving industry to its training). For a Master Diver qualification you must complete 50 logged dives, but there are no guidelines - you could do them in Stoney Cove without ever passing the 20m mark!