Read. Learn. Grow.

Utilizing USPA's Skydive School

by Jen Sharp, creator of

USPA Instructors and Coaches are busy keeping our sport replenished, vibrant and growing at drop zones around the world, and the demand on their time is heavy. Drop zones can help their teams keep the quality of instruction high, minimize burnout, reduce liability, provide consistent curriculums and capitalize on new student enthusiasm, all without spending additional money, by using the website .

Several people helped to develop the online school. Jen Sharp, DZO of Skydive Kansas in Osage City, wrote and implemented the first version of the school in 2004. Tony James, the animator, serendipitously fell into the project during his first-jump course. Wink’s Down to Earth Photography provided malfunction footage from the DVD, “First-Jump Course.” And USPA and various other industry leaders helped to improve the course and made the idea a reality nationally.

DZs can use  to support existing programs, but it’s also possible to use it as a staple, stand-alone ground school. Here are some ways that using  can benefit your DZ’s instructional program:

After experiencing their first tandem jumps, many students want to learn more but don’t know where to start. In the congratulatory process, their instructors can encourage them to check out the online ground school, and DZs can incorporate the link into the materials they give to departing students.  is free, open to anyone and requires no login or other sign-up process. And because it is a USPA program, instructors can be certain that their students have access to reliable information that is in line with the Skydiver’s Information Manual.

Student Preparation
Using the website, students can prepare for their jumps at home and at their leisure. They can learn at their own pace, going through all of the elements at once or in pieces. Instructors can assist students by providing them with a hard copy of one of the study guides (such as the “Ground School Review”) available under the Instructor’s Guide section of the site.

If a student takes the time for self-study, instructors can spend more time reviewing the material and less time introducing new concepts. Overall, this means that DZs use less total instructor time but have more knowledgeable students. Once at the drop zone, instructors (or coaches for some portions of the material) can conduct individual review sessions with each student, quizzing them on all the relevant material from the section.

Because the review for the first-jump course can be conducted in segments, different staff members can share the responsibility—one instructor can conduct a section then pass along the student to another instructor for the next section. Because the questions and review materials are written out, even an inexperienced, newly rated coach can help the instructors. The instructors, in turn, can have confidence that the material is being covered sufficiently and effectively.

Efficiency, quality and individual instruction are difficult to achieve in large classroom settings. By using home study combined with review, students will be quizzed extensively in comparison to the five to eight questions they would have been asked in a traditional classroom. In addition, the students will have more time to practice hands-on skills such as emergency procedures. They’ll also be able to spend more time learning dive flows, drawing landing patterns, performing PLFs and learning other physical skills.

Consistency with Customization
Most DZOs and chief instructors don’t have time to create curriculums from scratch. Having access to good examples—such as malfunction videos, demonstrations of dive flows or packing—gives students a consistent repository of information that is versatile enough to support varied methods, equipment choices and landing areas, yet specific enough to provide accurate details. This allows individual instructors’ styles to vary but leaves the content intact. 's interactive training segments are geared toward helping beginning jumpers, although the information can benefit skydivers at all levels. For more experienced jumpers, it has great value as a tool for review.

Perhaps most importantly,  can help students have fun while learning. In these days of “edu-tainment,” consumers expect highly interactive, enjoyable, computer-driven programs, which  provides.

So, if your DZ is looking to maximize instructor effectiveness and to provide students with a top-notch experience, you may want to incorporate  into your training materials (you can also reach the link through the Become a Skydiver tab at ). You may even find that it changes the way you teach your entire first-jump course.