How to Get the Most From Online Flight Training
Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady
Online flight training and aviation courses are designed to help pilots get off the ground (pun intended), and accredited online programs provide job skills training to high school graduates and college students who have an interest in pilot training. Distance learning aviation courses prepare pilots for the rigors of flying and/or employment in an aviation-related business by including prep work for air traffic controllers, test pilots, and private, commercial and corporate pilots. Online courses for high school students often transfer into high school credits so they are able to apply distance learning credits toward a university degree or advanced studies. Even job skills training that are acquired through online courses in aviation can lead to well-paying jobs in the aviation industry, such as air traffic controllers who assist in keeping rush hour commuters updated on traffic as well as the weather which are incorporated into radio and television station news. Corporate and commercial pilots are hired by companies who need pilots to ferry employees, clients, customers, and/or vendors back and forth to meetings, events, etc.
Pros and Cons to Online Flight Training
While there are multiple advantages for enrolling in online flight training courses, students exhibit varying degrees of success depending upon their learning styles and their ability to function independently. Typically the pros associated with taking online aviation courses include flexibility as being one of the major attractions for distance learning students who are employed, have families, are housebound, reside in a rural area, and/or travel frequently. Students are able to study on their own time and replay recorded lectures and classes; course study materials including lectures and texts are consistently accessible so that students are able to study at their own pace day or night, seven days a week. Another positive aspect of online education is the classes are structured on a variety of semester or course blocks, such as a trimester system (12 weeks) or four to six week course blocks. In addition, advancing technologies have allowed innovative instructional protocols to evolve where the virtual community can engage through tools that encourage interaction, such as message boards, chat rooms, work or focus groups, and virtual synchronous classrooms.
Online courses also have the added advantage of being less expensive than attending courses on campus. This allows students who might not otherwise be able to afford to pursue a degree to attend a college or university, due to no travel costs and not having to purchase hard copies of textbooks and other course materials.
However, with these benefits must come a significant level of self-discipline and organization to enable students to accomplish their coursework. You will need excellent time management skills and well-constructed self-made schedules. Enrolling in virtual classes requires a higher commitment by students to earning their degree by completing their assignments, reading the required materials, interacting with peers and professors, and taking exams and tests. Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral-level degrees have all now become available through distance learning universities. Accredited schools may also offer certificates that indicate the completion of courses for programs that are non-degree.
Things to Keep in Mind When Looking Into Online Flight Training
In most cases, taking online aviation courses only requires basic technology to keep up with the classes, such as a desktop or a laptop computer loaded with a recent version of an Internet browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome), and a personal email account which is often assigned by the online college or university to each student.
When choosing online aviation courses, students do well to determine whether the course is a good “fit” for them by examining the course syllabus. This details the learning objectives, the topics covered, the course materials that are provided including the textbook(s), and the class schedule which includes the assignments, and the associated deadlines for submission. Investigating the class size is also advantageous to ensure that the instructor will be able to easily handle the needs of each student. Typically each class will post the biography of the instructor to inform students of his or her academic credentials and practical experience as well as the office hours during which he or she can be contacted or whether scheduling an appointment will be necessary. Professors tend to have preferred methods of communication which can be through email, telephone conferencing or via Skype so it is advantageous to make a note of said preference early in the course.
Reviewing the Details of an Online Flight Training Program
Upon initial review, the aviation course syllabus that contains multiple pages can appear quite daunting but most syllabi follow a specific format that serves as the contract between the instructor and the student who agrees to that contract by enrolling in the course. The introductory page provides the course title, instructor’s name, credentials and email point of contact which are followed by the course description and the course objectives. Attention should be paid to the required course materials versus the suggested course materials which are recommended but not mandatory for the student. Occasionally a university will allow a discount when the course materials are ordered through the university bookstore which sometimes offers to rent as opposed to buying the textbooks, software, exam guides, E6B flight computer, and navigation plotter.
The general outline for a virtual aviation class suggests the unit of study which is usually divided into weeks, and accompanied by the in-text readings for each week. A general outline for a virtual aviation class is likely to cover the following topics on a week-by-week basis: aircraft and aerodynamics / aerodynamic principles during week one; aircraft instruments, engines, and systems during week two; airports, airspace, air traffic control, the flight environment, communication, and flight information during week three; the Federal Aviation Regulations found in the FAR/AIM or the Airmen’s Information Manual during week four; aircraft performance, weight, and balance during week five; aeromedical factors, aeronautical decision making, and the application of those human factors principles during week six; aviation weather and meteorology for pilots during week seven; aviation weather services and the interpretation of weather data during week eight; navigation, aeronautical charts and publications during week nine; navigation systems and aviation navigation in general during week ten; cross country flight planning and flying cross country during week eleven; and a review and preparation for the course final exam during week twelve.
Although online aviation courses usually require the completion of a quiz or test on a weekly basis to ascertain the progress of a student, the final exam may hold a particular significance whereby the student is signed off by an FAA Certified Flight Instructor designating that he or she has acquired sufficient competency in aviation theory to be able to take the FAA Private Pilot’s Exam. At this point, the student will take the signed authorization that he or she has printed out from his or her computer to a computer testing center within the following 30 days to be allowed to complete the FAA knowledge test. Congratulations! This is a major accomplishment for every aviation student.