Goals and challenges
With hundreds of students going through the university’s large oceanography program, it was discovered that they weren’t getting the safest or most comprehensive scuba diving education. To become scientific research divers, students need five certifications: Open Water Diving, Advanced Open Water, Enhanced Air Nitrox (blended gases of nitrogen and oxygen for longer than normal dives), Rescue Diver, and Oxygen Provider.
Students were going to local dive shops in the Fort Lauderdale area to get these certifications as cheaply and quickly as possible. With safety and education in mind, Nova Southeastern University created the NSU Academic Diving Program in 2012 to serve the needs of its students.
How they did it
Despite having a 1½-million-gallon competitive swimming pool featuring a 16½-foot diving well, the program started with no real space to store diving equipment. The pool’s lifeguard room became a shared space where 30 dive sets of equipment could be kept.
With the program gaining popularity among students, there’s hope the university will find an expanded area for storage.
The school also didn’t have a compressor or air-fill station. Instead, a van was provided so that empty tanks could be driven to local dive shops to be filled. It was quite the undertaking, considering that at least one pool session took place per week, in addition to weekend dives in the ocean.
Last year, the school finally bought a compressor and air-fill station.
The Dive Program has two options available — one for students, and another for faculty, university staff and civilians.
The student-oriented program lasts a full semester. Undergraduate students learn not only how to dive, but also the science behind it in Introduction to Scuba Diving.
Recreational classes make up the second choice. NSU has more graduate students than undergraduates, so the university needed a way to allow them to learn how to dive without taking undergraduate classes.
In the recreational classes, anyone from grad students to the general public can learn to dive. They usually run for about six weeks instead of the full 13 that undergrads take.
The Dive Program follows a strict ratio of eight students to one teacher, which doesn’t include the divemasters, who also watch over pool sessions. So most classes have eight students, though some go up to 16.
The small class sizes and length allow instructors to practice skill variations and skill repeats.
For example, there’s a move called mask clearing, where a diver has to remove water from their masks. A standard dive class would teach the student to kneel on the floor of the pool and use two hands to do this. At NSU that method is taught, but they also teach other methods such as one-handed neutrally buoyant clears. This means performing the task while floating in the water while using only one hand.
Because classes meet twice a week over the semester, it gives students ample opportunity to master various skills such as a mask clear.
The goal is to go beyond the standard diver certifications and teach students how to be safer, more skilled divers.
- The training pool features a 16.5-foot diving well.
- Student divers going through the program can earn American Academy of Underwater Sciences scientific diver certifications.
- Classes last between six and 13 weeks, with two pool sessions per week, plus weekend ocean dives.
- Classes maintain strict ratio of eight students to one instructor.