Personally I think there shouldn’t need to be a PPB course...it should be taught in Open Water. (Here I go again being controversial - actually it shouldnt be a controversial subject)
Yes Andy I do agree with you on OW students having a lot on their plate but if more time is spent in the pool concentrating on buoyancy AND on having fun (I.E. buoyancy games and challenges) and class sizes are reduced and not rushed through as fast as possible it is entirely possible...I know this because I have done it.
On my very last OW course I taught, 3 OW students of mine on dive 4 did a free ascent in murkyish water in Wellington down 16 metres perfectly horizontal in the water column actually controlling
their descent (they had to keep within half a metre depth wise of myself) and all arriving at the same time, all stopping half a metre above the bottom and hovered there...while the divemaster (was actually an instructor-one of those that has the card but never taught) got lost on the way down then had to surface, find our bubbles and follow us back down to then flounder on the bottom kicking up silt. As the only two tasks on that dive were the hover for one minute and mask remove and replace they stayed hovering while one at a time they removed their masks and replaced them. Sure their buoyancy went a little funky at that stage and one may have crashed into the ground (I had hold of his gauge so he wasn't going anywhere) but for dive 4 that was brilliant. We then spent another 30 minutes just cruising around diving (something that I didn’t do on my own cert course).
The other problem I see is that most of the skills are taught on their knees so when they get into the real diving world if they need to remove and replace their mask, or share air or whatever, they could in fact be doing it for the first time on their own in midwater. Isn’t it better that their first time doing these skills in mid water is under the supervision of an instructor?
I agree at first they need to be on their knees or lying down to have some stability while they get used to the underwater world but surely all the applicable skills should be redone after the last pool session with the divers hovering or swimming?
The only reason students are constantly taught on their knees is actually for the instructor’s piece of mind to know they are not floating off somewhere whilst s/he is busy evaluating a skill.
Personally I think it all comes down to reducing class sizes, time and more importantly playtime. If you give students a few hours over the period of an OW course to simply play games and play with their buoyancy most will get it without any extra input from the instructor. If you set challenges they will have a go. With a formal skill that can fail them in the class, students tend to put more pressure on themselves to get it right first time which can often make them more nervous. If you give them an informal challenge that has no “formal” result they will have a go and enjoy it because it doesn’t “matter” to them if they get it or not. It also makes it more fun and we all know when we are having fun we will keep going (that’s why there are so many babies around right
I frequently tried to get as much play time together for my OW students as I could and would often play myself (I know you like to do this too Andy) and the students would try to copy me. If I swam around doing the frog kick next thing all my students would be trying to do the frog kick which in turn gives you a chance to show them how to do it. I used to practice BCD remove and replace underwater while hovering horizontal and most of my students would have a go as well (we used a 2 metre deep pool so no real biggie if they wiped out). Some got it, some didn’t, but the important thing was that they had a go and it was like a challenge to them…a goal for future diving even.
Dive sticks are another good one. You can buy them in the warehouse for cheap as chips and you throw them in the pools and get the students to free dive down for them and the goal is to collect as many as you can without touching the bottom. Then you can get them to do it in scuba without touching the bottom and while frog kicking only.
Of course this isn't really profitable for shops to do unless they start charging the same as your fundies course or more really. This part of the reason why we started SODS...