By Andrea Cerwinske | August 20 2014 15:48

On the forefront of firearms training

National Training Manager John Howard speaks at the NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis Fairfax, Virginia - Since 1871, the National Rifle Association has been the premier provider of basic firearms training. For over 141 years, NRA’s training has continued to grow and improve in order to provide our students with the most informative and professional training experience possible. Our training fosters knowledgeable and safe students. It works – firearm accidents are at an all-time low.

Along the way, we have gone through many improvements that started with the development of handbooks for students. Those handbooks contained hand-drawn images that evolved into black and white photographs to more recent times, high definition color photos. In 2013, some 380,000 student copies of NRA’s Basics of Pistol Shooting Handbook were sold.

We created similarity in the courses with the development of lesson plans that established learning objectives and helped instructors with time management. Next came overhead slides that allowed students to read information projected on a screen as the instructor taught the material. Our current PowerPoint presentations take the pressure off the instructor during their presentation and allow them to focus on total participant involvement.  Beyond the handbooks and lesson plans, we have created a warehouse and distribution system for easy ordering of the materials needed for each course.  NRAInstructors.org has become instructors’ exclusive tool for marketing courses and handling administrative needs for registering students and renewing ratings from NRA.

We are now starting on our next innovation in firearms training – blended learning. This teaching method blends an online student interface with one-on-one instructor training and evaluation. The online portion will cover the curriculum that is currently being taught from the student handbook. The live instructor will cover the hands-on firearm portions of the course, shooting exercises, the shooting qualification and make the final evaluation of student.

There will be two assessments of the student – upon completion of the online portion and during the live portion with the instructor. A student will not receive a certificate of completion for the NRA course until the instructor validates the student’s knowledge, skills, and attitude.

One of the major factors for moving towards the blended learning is it insures that each and every student receives the course information in a complete and consistent manner every time the course is given. Also the classroom portion of each course can now be accomplished by the student, at their pace, on their schedule. The ability for students to take the classroom portion at anytime, day or night, weekday or weekend, will increase the pool of students for you to evaluate and instruct. No longer will you need to rent a classroom where you will spend all of your day.  This allows you to focus on the student’s course and their first shot. You decide on fee schedule, pre-range process and ultimately issue the certificate. The instructor has the final authority on when a student is ready to receive their certificate. As an NRA instructor, your process in determining which students are ready or those who need more training is important. You should have practices in place to determine each student is prepared for your instruction. This may include a safety test, shortened classroom review, and/or any process you feel necessary to ensure the student meets your standards for the live fire portion. As always, NRA is relying on the instructor to ensure each student meets the requirements to earn the certification.

There have been many questions about what NRA will be charging for the online portion of the course. That is yet to be determined based on the development cost of the learning management system. In the near future, we hope to build a senior team of training counselors that will assist in the continued growth and enhancement of the training programs. Our goal is to always be the standard when it comes to firearms safety, training and marksmanship. Blended learning is the first in the direction of securing ourselves of that standard. We will keep you informed on all these aspects. In 2015, we will introduce Basic Pistol in this new format and in time, all of our training courses will have an online component.

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