Taking and passing EC-00
I recently completed ARRL’s course, EC-001 Introduction to Emergency Communications,and I thought I’d post a few notes on the experience for those who are considering taking the course.
The first thing to know is that this is a real course, with reading and homework. You register for it at ARRL’s website (register here.) It costs $50 if you’re an ARRL member. You register for a particular time frame. For example, here’s the next section coming up:
Wednesday, Dec 30 2015 – Friday, Mar 04 2016
Monday, Nov 02 2015 – Wednesday, Dec 16 2015
Note that you participate in the course over 9 weeks. Notice also there’s a limit on the number of students per section.
The course is done online via Moodle, the popular online education portal. Once registered, you are assigned a mentor. I worked with a terrific guy, Richard “Doc” Strait, AC8AL.
The course content is divided into 29 lessons in six sections. The student reads the content of each lesson, working at her own pace, which sometimes includes a short video and some outside resources to read. But, generally, each lesson just takes maybe 10 minutes to go through. At the end of the section is a little multiple-choice self-test (ungraded.)
You learn how to write (and pass) ARRL Radiograms. The course covers all kinds of angles for net operations in emergencies. It covers communication skills, how to play nice with others. There’s a unit on Marine radio. It’s really an interesting grab bag of topics.
Each lesson then has a homework assignment. This is the real work of the course. Most of the assignments (called “activities”) require writing about 1 to 2 pages (typed). I will say, then: If you’re not comfortable with the idea of writing 30-50 pages in 9 weeks, this course might not be for you.
Most questions ask the student to apply what’s been learned in a lesson to a hypothetical situation. Something like this:
Let’s say you were in charge of an emergency net for situation X. What are the kind of considerations you would have in deciding what kind of stations to set up in the field?
What are some of the behavioral guidelines for hams who are working for served agencies?
If you were deployed someplace, make a list of the personal items you’d need and the radio gear you’d take.
A few of the assignments require you to have conversations with ham operators in leadership positions. Those require a phone call or a radio contact or an email.
When the student finishes an assignment, she uploads it. The mentor reads it and comments. In some cases, my mentor just said “Good job, Dale” and gave me my grade. In other cases, he provided a really generous amount of constructive feedback based on his experience. I was quite impressed with how much I was able to interact with him, which is why the limited number of students who can sign up for the course at a given time is important.
The student can work at her own pace during the course, with the goal of getting it done in 9 weeks. I had weeks where I knocked out a lot of the lessons, to make up for weeks when I didn’t. But, really, given that I work full time, I needed the full 9 weeks. I know students can apply for an extension. There’s an online forum on Moodle where students can interact, comment, ask questions. It wasn’t used much in my case. I think there were only 5 or so students who signed up and maybe just 3 or 4 of us who completed.
At the end of the course, the student takes a final, multiple-choice test online. Two tries at it. (By the way, I accidentally made a zero on the first try. Pulled the window up and then somehow screwed up the window and lost that “chance.” So, be careful.
My tip on the final exam is to pay close attention to the review questions that appear at the end of every lesson. Hint, hint.
That’s it. I found it interesting, useful, and engaging. That said, I HATE Moodle, which I find awkward to navigate. A lot of colleges and high schools are moving away from it for that reason. Plus, this appears built on an older version of Moodle. That’s just a quibble, though.