• Credit: Red Cross

Lifeguard management classes now are online.

The American Red Cross has begun offering courses via the Internet, and another organization soon will debut a class of its own.

“Right now, there’s no other program like this in the country, and the Red Cross is excited to have it out there,” said Stephanie Shook, product manager, aquatics for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Once the online course is purchased, it’s immediately accessible to the user — and remains so, Shook said. “If they forget something, they can go back and see how it was delivered.” The course is interactive and has hypothetical scenarios with questions that students answer, such as where to station lifeguards for full safety coverage. Plus, it covers hiring, management, injury prevention and risk management.

The course prepares industry members to oversee lifeguards, but because there isn’t a skills-based section where an instructor would need to correct a student, online education makes sense, said Red Cross officials.

The Red Cross has been offering lifeguard management courses for several years, but “we heard that it wasn’t reaching enough people, and it was challenging to reach them,” Shook said.

To offer education in a physical classroom, the organization must have an instructor in the region and enough interest to warrant it. By holding the course online, the Red Cross broadens its reach and allows easy access to users, Shook said.

Students could be anyone from a homeowners association tasked with managing the community’s pool or a city employee maintaining the lifeguards at a city facility, officials said. Sometimes, it’s a seasoned lifeguard who understands rescue, but doesn’t have the foundation to manage a pool and other guards.

“The span of experience of the course taker could be varied, so it’s set up with the resources for those who don’t have the background, while not [slowing down] those who do,” Shook explained. The topics have links to notes and other information that less experienced course takers can click without leaving the lessons. More experienced professionals don’t have to sit through the repeated information, unlike in a classroom environment.

Those completing the course and passing a 30-question exam are awarded a two-year certification.

But the Red Cross soon will have a competitor in the online arena.

“We have one in the development stage right now,” said Leslie Donavan, president of Starfish Aquatics Institute, based in Lincolnshire, Ill. The aquatic safety and training organization will debut its online course next year and offer it first to SAI clients.

The SAI course will include varying modules for seasonal or year-round lifeguard managers, who have different concerns when it comes to lifeguard management and managing the facility in a financially viable way.

“We’re the leader in online education in aquatics,” Donavan noted. “[Having this course] online makes it accessible for anyone, regardless of location.”

The type of education determines whether SAI will put a class online. Those with skill components that need correction by instructors are done in person. Donavan said this course includes a portion about effectively overseeing lifeguards, but also covers other management concerns.

“It will be appropriate for anyone in aquatics and management of a big or small facility,” she added.

Another aquatics training company doesn’t have an online lifeguard management course and doesn’t plan on it.

“It’s not a program that’s conducive to being online; that’s our philosophy,” said Richard “RAC” Carroll, senior vice president of Jeff Ellis & Associates, based in Ocoee, Fla.

Ellis offers its vanGUARD 1.0 and 2.0 as aquatic leadership courses for people certified in lifeguarding and first aid training. Those courses are appropriate for lifeguard supervisors and cover the other, nonaquatic parts of the facility, he added. The 2.0 course further develops skills for lifeguard and facility management.

“We don’t believe those things can be done in a static environment,” Carroll said.