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  • Bob KØNR

Using Elmers For High Impact

In this post Online License Course Provides New Teaching Options, I described how we modified our approach to teaching the Technician License Class to include the Ham Radio School online training.

An Elmer mentors a student
A new ham receives some helpful advice from an Elmer.

One of the things we did was to assign an Elmer (Mentor or Coach) from our club to tag up with each student. Honestly, we stumbled into this idea and were surprised how well it worked. We often had people express interest in "helping with the license class", which we interpreted as letting them teach a specific section of the course. Not everyone is well-equipped to teach the material, so this potential help often was not used. Then someone suggested that interested members could play an Elmer role for the students, providing a more personal connection and individualized help. This was a great idea, especially as the class size grew to 40 students.

This turned out to be very successful and we consider it a new best practice for our radio club license classes. Each Elmer was assigned 3 or 4 students, and the Elmers provided rapid Q&A response to students in between review sessions. Many Elmers also provided students with additional demonstrations of their shacks and equipment recommendations.

Elmer Role:

• A terrific representative of our radio club.

• A mentor and tutor to your students, as needed.

• A monitor of your students’ progress.

• An encourager, providing reassurance and confidence in their ability to succeed.

• An advocate for participation in our radio club.

Elmer Responsibilities:

• Be sure you establish communication methods with your students.

• Get to know your students a little, be a resource for them.

• Don’t talk over their heads. Get to their beginner level with your comments and

explanations. Look for comprehension, and offer ample opportunity to take different


• In check-ins, ask them what they’ve learned from a lesson to get them talking about the

content. Try to tie it to practical use, where feasible.

• Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.”

• Understand their operating needs and help them understand appropriate gear options.

The Elmers were present at our Kick-off session to meet and engage with the students. Then, they did a periodic check-in with the students using whatever method they and the students agreed on (phone, text, Zoom or in-person). The main mission is to help keep the students on track with the course.

Our follow-up survey with the students shows that Elmer Help scored high with most students.

Student survey results show high scores for the Elmers.

The Elmers reported that they enjoyed the experience, feeling like they contributed to the license class effort and learning some things in the process. We did hear from them that we probably scheduled too many Elmer check-ins with the students, so next time we will back that down a bit.

In summary, this turned out to be a great way to engage the students, connect them with one of our club members and provide a way for more of our members to contribute to the license class. This license class involved more of our club members, increasing their participation in this club activity while also improving the interaction between members.


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