Onboard for Online
Hunter Education has a long and praised past in Missouri. The courses began in 1957 as voluntary safety programs in communities and were often held at local schools. In the 1980s, Hunter Education developed into a complete hunting education program. In addition to hunting and firearms safety, students learned about responsibility to other hunters, land, wildlife and landowners; landowner relations; wildlife management and habitats; conservation; survival and first aid; game care; shooting range safety; Missouri laws; and other related issues. However, until 2008, the only way to receive hunter education was to attend a minimum 10-hour, multi-day class in the community or at one of the few local schools that still offered the program.
Sometime around 2000, public requests began — and continued to grow — for an alternate way to receive Hunter Education Certification. Potential students told us that they didn’t want to spend days in a classroom, or have to travel, or take time away from family or work. The Conservation Department began looking at alternatives. One promising option was the Internet.
The Internet was already a proven education tool for the U.S. military, law enforcement, colleges, universities, industries and a host of other groups. In 2006, the Department started working with Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc., a leader in online education, and began piloting online hunter education training in select areas around the state.
Students were recruited at various locations to take the online training and provide feedback. They reported on the amount of time the course took, problems they encountered, what they thought should be improved, and a host of other questions. The Department then went to its cadre of instructors and recruited staff and volunteers to organize and conduct a field day in association with the online training. These instructors were also asked to provide feedback and detailed information on their experiences and to make recommendations to improve the program.
Pilots were conducted in three different phases and many improvements were made along the way. At the end of 2007, all testing and piloting was completed.
The response to the online program was overwhelmingly positive. Students said they liked studying at their own pace and at their own convenience. They thought the hands-on field days were fun and that they brought all the online study together. Instructors were also impressed. Compared to traditional classes, where many students walk in as blank slates, these students were knowledgeable and well prepared, so the hands-on