By Cait Etherington March 15, 2017
While camp season may seem far off (too far off for many kids and parents), for many camp administrators and staff, preparations for the summer are already in motion. Training camp staff, from junior counselors to senior camp administrators, is a complex process. With a short season, a high percentage of temporary employees, and complex safety and compliance issues to follow, camps face multiple training challenges. This is one reason why the American Camp Association (ACA), a national organization with more than 10,000 individual members and nearly 3,000 member camps, uses eLearning to support staff training. In this week’s interview, eLearningInside News talks to the American Camp Association to explore how eLearning for camp staff is being used to tackle the camp sector’s training challenges.
Cait Etherington: Camps no doubt face unique training issues given their diverse workforce, which includes many young people, and in most cases, a very short season of operation. What are the major training challenges faced by American camps today? Also, do camps face different training challenges than they did thirty years ago?
American Camp Association: Thirty years ago, there wasn’t an option for online learning. Now, ACA has the access and the reach to get camp directors in online meetings. And, ACA has the ability to widely entice experienced directors to help teach new directors. A challenge that remains today is time. There is an abundance of online learning for camps and directors and only so much time in a camp director’s busy day.
CE: When did the ACA start to offer training courses online and why was this seen as a good investment?
ACA: The American Camp Association launched online professional development in 2010. As Tom Rosenberg, the ACA’s current president, emphasizes, online learning allows the American Camp Association to deliver high quality professional development to a wide audience throughout the national camp community.
CE: What types of online courses or programs target younger camp employees, including new counselors, and are these courses augmented with onsite training opportunities too?
ACA: ACA offers a variety of courses that target younger camp employees. It is common that camp directors will buy an online course or webinar and use this during his/her camp’s staff training. Examples of courses that gear towards younger staff include A Counselor’s Role in Healthcare, Bullying Prevention Training and Response, and Entry-Level Program Staff Certificate.
CE: What types of online courses and webinars do you offer to senior staff at camps?
ACA: We offer over 100 courses and recorded webinars for camp staff, with the majority being applicable for all kinds of staff levels. Check them out on our website.
CE: Approximately how many organizations take advantage of the ACA’s online courses each year and how do you see this as part of the ACA’s long-term mandate?
ACA: More than 200 camps and nearly 17,000 users. Our education and online learning goes hand-in-hand with accreditation, which is one of the two focus points of our strategic initiative.
CE: What has been the impact of the ACA’s online courses and webinars? Do you have any sense of how the ACA’s educational offerings help individual camps address key issues, including compliance, safety and risk management concerns?
ACA: Currently, ACA has 101 recorded webinars on a wide variety of specific topics. These webinars are very well attended live and then repeatedly watched as the recorded version. ACA members utilize their professional development membership benefits regularly. One function that helps camp staff address their own key issues is ACA’s Create Your Own Staff Training Packages. This allows camp staff to pick and choose various recorded webinars and courses, as well as upload their own documents, to create their own personal training program.
About the American Camp Association: ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults. The organization also provides advocacy, education and professional development to camp staff and is the only national accrediting body for the organized camp experience. Indeed, ACA accredits approximately 2,400 diverse camps nationally to meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit the ACA online.