Mariners looking to take courses and earn licenses to advance their careers can do so online using a new program from Northeast Maritime Institute’s College of Maritime Science.
The institute, based in Fairhaven, Mass., launched its HALO suite of marine simulators and exam monitoring software in March, providing for the first time all-online courses providing both instruction and examinations approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, President Eric Dawicki said. A list of the programs is available at www.northeastmaritimeonline.com.
The coursework also meets most of the requirements for the International Maritime Organization’s Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), although a few items—including firefighting skills, medical care assessments and personal survival techniques—still require an in-person evaluation, Dawicki said.
The courses all use NEMO, a comprehensive learning management system for maritime education and training that Northeast Maritime began developing three years ago. Mariners may take the courses using any device with internet or wi-fi access, including their cell phones. They are designed so that students can do the work from any location while not on watch, meaning they no longer have to travel on their off time to do it.
“It’s helped people out dramatically, especially people getting into the industry for the first time,” Dawicki said.
Students complete the work at their own speed. A 40-hour course could take as little as 30 hours for an extremely motivated student or as much as 60 hours for one moving at a little slower pace, Dawicki said.
Although the course offerings are new, Northeast is beginning to average 10 to 15 students a week and expects 20 to 30 students per week within the next month to six weeks, Dawicki said, adding that with COVID-19 impacting many people’s travel decisions, the possibilities for growth are significant.
Each course includes textbook information as well as relevant videos, diagrams, animations and state-of-the-art simulations. Unlike other courses, once a student buys it, it belongs to them for life, Dawicki said, meaning that as information changes and the course is updated each year, students can use the information as a library database, going back over the material to refresh their skills as often as they would like.
Those who need additional help more often found in classroom instruction also have resources through the online course.
“Students can reach out by phone or email,” Dawicki said. “We immediately get those questions, and we immediately have someone contact the student.”
Dawicki warned those who think the courses might be an easy way to get licenses without putting in the required amount of work to think again, though. With the proprietary HALO exam monitoring software, those caught cheating must go back to the beginning to repeat the course. For Coast Guard exams, students could be required to wait six months before being allowed to test again.
Students must periodically pass assessments before moving on to the next course segment.
“It teaches you how to use the piece of equipment you’re learning about,” Dawicki said. “I’ve not seen anything like this in the world.”
In the end, Dawicki called the approach to learning a more humanitarian level of education designed for hard-working men and women at sea and on the rivers.
“We’re saving mariners time and money from travel, hotels and the craziness of being away from home during much-deserved vacation time,” he said.