For years and years the NRA has shouted "You can't do online Firearms Training", they even removed Instructors and Training Counselors credentials for trying. So here we are in 2015 and the now the NRA says it's moving to Online; oh sorry "Blended Training". I guess only the NRA can do online training correctly, so it seems.
This was all announced in April 2014 at the NRA Annual Meetings in Indianapolis, Indiana by John Howard and staff. It came as a huge surprise to all of us and so far very little details have been released as to the specifics on how this is going to work. So many questions with no answers from the NRA. The short story is that students will take an online course at the NRA website, then have to find an instructor to meet up with after the online portion is done. This leaves so many questions unanswered and the NRA is doing a very poor job answering the questions from Instructors and Training Counselors all over the country.
<UPDATE> We have learned that the online portion will cost the student between $50 and $75 and the NRA expects that Instructors will still charge the same amount you charged before. So a Basic Pistol class that used to cost $100 will now cost between $150 and $175. My opinion is that the consumer won't bear this, why should you have to pay 2 organizations to take one basic class - it's clumsy, validation will be an issue and I think it will fail.
I feel the NRA is being very short sighted here since they obviously don't have the plans finalized and/or all the bugs worked out of this brilliant plan.... you, the Instructors and Training Counselors are just supposed to put your business aside and believe that the NRA knows what they're doing and trust them that they have your best interest at heart. So Are You Feeling Better Yet? There has been no discussions, no advice asked of any of us but the NRA is going to roll this out regardless of what 125,000 instructors think. I can tell you for certain that the NRA is not thinking about your business or the bottom line of your business and they have certainly made that perfectly clear. I in fact have been told to either accept it or move on. I have talked to many TC's and Instructors and have yet to find one that thinks this is a good idea or that it will be beneficial for students or anyone but the NRA. Most I have talked to are going to develop their own basic course and drop NRA Basic Pistol or replace it with something else.
Let's discuss some of the issues with online firearms training and this brilliant idea coming out of the NRA Training Department.
1. Who's Driving? Paul & Mary are husband and wife and both want a concealed carry permit in their state which requires proof of training before they will issue one. Mary knows nothing about firearms, so husband Paul takes the online test for her. Then they schedule a meeting or range portion with a local instructor. Mary still knows nothing and the Instructor now has wasted his time and fails Mary because she learned nothing or has to work with her to bring her up to speed or as some instructors might do simply passes her just to be done with it. Either way the ONLINE training failed because there is NO WAY the NRA can guarantee who is taking the online portion regardless of who they say it is. See the problem here – you can be anybody you want on the internet?
2. Printing Certifications - With this new system also comes Paul & Mary logging into the NRA system and printing their beautiful online NRA certification. A cert that used to be included in the Student Packet (which will be no more), but the student packets are not going to be sold any longer as ALL the NRA classes move online. The nice thing and the bad thing about technology is that there are a lot of people very knowledgeable with it and it can be used for good or bad. So Paul prints his online cert along with Mary's and all is good. However, Paul has 3 friends that want to get their CCW in the State also, so Paul with a little Photoshop Magic creates certs for his 3 friends. With the technology available today, the NRA still has not address how they will stop this. I can see State after State dropping NRA training as proof of training because of such issues.
3. No more packets! I don't know about you, but the Basic Pistol and FIRST Steps packets are very nice and students love getting these. I use them often when I do FIRST Step private session over kitchen tables before we go to the range. I urge students to read the entire book after the class and to review it every once in a while. I think students will NOT read a 150 page book online even if it is available online which I doubt it will be. This again is short changing the students.
4. What Happens to Instructor Classes? Since Instructors will no longer be teaching the classroom portion of the classes, how will this affect the Instructor level classes? Are we going to be teaching them simply how to run the range portion... this of course will leave a huge hole in their training. There is no longer any incentive to become an instructor, or a TC or even to renew credentials.... the NRA is essentially killing the entire training program with Blended Training. Remember, the training department is NOTHING without NRA Instructors and TC's out in the field - without us it all fails. Maybe the NRA should rethink this entirely. Imagine if you will, Paul & Mary take that online class and then cannot find an Instructor willing to do the range portion of the training. It will certainly happen eventually as the NRA starts to phase out and make their instructors obsolete - this entire blended learning program changes the roll of the Instructor to someone who is now just running the range.
5. It's personal - Don't think for second that the NRA has your best interest in mind because they don't. The excuse the NRA is using for moving to Blended Training is that there are many Instructors that are not following the lesson plans, adding in their own stuff, taking shortcuts etc. The other excuse I've heard is that they want to drive membership up from 5 Million to 10. I however fail to see how this is going to drive membership at all. If the real problem is bad instructors, don't you think they should deal with those instructors and not mess up the entire program because of a few bad apples? The NRA is not fooling anyone, this is driven by the almighty BUCK and a larger bottom line for the NRA.... regardless of what it does to NRA Instructors & Training Counselors.
6. Bad Instructors – So one of the excuses for this new system is that Instructors are not following the lesson plans… however, if these instructors cannot be trusted to teach the classroom portion of the NRA curriculum how can they be trusted to teach the range portions. Think about that for second!!!
7. Total Participate Involvement - The NRA says you need it and you must have in ALL your classes... however with Blended Training almost all TPI goes out the door. Nothing takes the place of a good instructor, the ability to ask questions, see demonstrations live and in person, interact with other students and build relationships with all. With Blended training that now all goes away, again leaving the student short changed. Some things should just not be learned online, brain surgery and firearms are 2 that I can think of.
8. A Need, A Want or No Interest - Let's face it, people take firearms classes for many reasons, some want to learn correctly, some need to for employment, other have no interest and do it because of a friend or loved one. You can't fake sitting in front of an Instructor in class all day, but you can certainly fake learning online. 2 Browsers open with the answers in one and the test in the other, find the answer without reading a thing - so what's the point. Unless you have a want or a need, blended training is useless.
I am an NRA Instructor and Training Counselor, an NRA Speaker, NRA Election Volunteer Coordinator and an NRA Recruiter and I have volunteered many hours of my time for the NRA in many aspects. I have defended them when they made seemingly bad decisions such as endorsing Harry Reid.... This time however, I find myself blatantly being betrayed by the NRA, an organization I love and swear by because they have done so much for the firearms industry and my rights. This time they are have gone to far, it's personal, they are messing with my bottom line and they don't seem to care one bit what any Instructor or TC has to say about these changes.... the very people who drive their training organization.
My predictions as to what will happen with these changes.
- I see firearms instructors and TC's dropping NRA training all together because it is very easy to create a course similar where they are actually teaching a class and using their own certs.
- I see a new National Training Organization arising to fill the gaps and deficiencies of the NRA antiquated training classes.
- I see NRA training being dropped by many states because of fraud and many of them already will not accept online training.
- I see the NRA losing a huge portion of its market share of firearms training.
- I see Instructor & TC's not renewing their NRA credentials.
- I see the NRA realizing they made One Big Ass Mistake.... but by the time they realize it.... it will be too late to recover.
<UPDATE> Many of these have already started. The SAF Training Division is a new national training organization, states have started dropping NRA training, firearms instructors have already started dropping NRA Training or dropping NRA Basic Pistol and developing their own courses.
These and many more ramifications coming out of this so well thought out decision by the NRA - They failed to do market research, they failed to ask the very people doing the training what we thought.... They failed to ask the very students we are training and they failed to ask the membership since the NRA is a membership driven organization.
If the NRA really wanted to do something amazing, they would look at the market and understand that most people now days are not buying firearms for sport, the large percentage of new firearms sales is for personal protection and home defense. You’d think they would develop some new courses such as defensive or tactical carbine & shotgun, and update the Personal Protection classes to today’s standards. The problem is the training department doesn’t do much training, they are not in the trenches with us and they seem really out of touch with what is going on in real life.
This program is going to fail becuase it DOES NOT have the support of the very people who are doing the training. Remember the NRA Training Dept is not John Howard, it's not Bill Pool or Charles Mitchell - The NRA Training Dept is the 125,000 Instructors and Training Counselors out in the field, the ones actually doing the training, and the NRA will soon discover that.