How To Choose An Online Debate Camp

How To Choose An Online Debate Camp

As debate institutes are switching to online camps more and more, many debaters find themselves struggling to know what camp to register for, if any. Especially because in these unprecedented times, many debaters may have never considered an online debate camp and have no idea what to look for. In this article, we want to break down our top 5 things to consider when choosing an online debate camp.

1.) Staff – Who Is Teaching & Instructing You?

This is a no brainer. One of the easiest ways to sift through debate camps (online or not) is to analyze their instructors. Things to consider:

  • Have they had any success as a competitor?
    • Competitor success can be a strong indicator of debate knowledge. They can also share their experience. For example, a state finalist can articulate what it is like to be in that final round, etc.
  • Do they have any coaching experience?
    • Coaching experience is one of the most important aspects of a good camp instructor. Many former competitors are excellent debaters, but lack the skills and abilities to pass on that knowledge. 
  • Are they still involved/active in the community?
    • No matter how much success a person has had, if they have been away from coaching/competing for awhile (or are only involved at their summer debate camp), they likely are rusty when it comes to debate technique. They also will likely have little to no awareness on community norms & trends.
  • Style Of Debate Expertise – Trad or Circuit?
    • Consider whether the camp you are attending has staff who are successful in the style of debate you are interested in learning. For example, a camp may have staff members who coach kids to break rounds at the TOC every year. But does this matter to you if you’re only competing on a local & traditional circuit? 

2.) Price – How Much Are You Paying & For How Long?

Price is one of the most objective ways to compare camps because it is quantifiable. Be sure to consider if the camp offers any sort of discounts or financial aid. 

Also, look at the price per day. For example, if you’re comparing a 2-week camp with a 4-week camp, the former will definitely be cheaper overall, but the latter is twice as long of instruction. So, break down the cost per day. 

Say that camp A costs $700 for 2 weeks, and camp B costs $1300 for 4 weeks. Divide cost/day. So: 700/14 = $50/day and 1300/28 = $46.42/day. While Camp A is technically lower cost, Camp B actually gives you more bang for your buck.

The last major thing to think about when analyzing the cost of a camp is to consider the camps price in relation to the amount of instruction & content you will receive. To piggyback off of the previous example: we concluded that Camp B is a better cost/day. But, what if Camp B only offers you 3 hours of lab experience per week, yet Camp A offers you 10 hours of lab experience/week? Clearly, Camp A would then be a better deal because while it is slightly more per day, you are getting significantly more instruction that justifies the higher price. On that note, this may not be a major factor in your considerations if you don’t want that much interaction. Which leads us to our next thing to consider:

3.) How Much Interaction Do You Want & How Do You Want Taught?

This is perhaps the biggest variation when it comes to camps – both online as well as brick & mortar. First, determine how much instruction you want per day. Do you want to be taught like a traditional brick & mortar camp, only virtually? So, anywhere from 6-10 hours of instruction/day with an online lab & live instructors? 

Or would you rather watch pre-recorded lectures? If that’s the case, consider whether the camp has a form of office hours or other ways to contact instructors should you have any questions. Does this camp still offer live sessions?

Also consider: 

  • Will there be live group activities?
  • Do you have any one-on-one time?
  • Are there any individual/group drills?

Essentially, get a general idea of how much interaction you want for your camp experience.

Then, determine what kind of interaction you want. Would you prefer to have activities you do on your own time, or do you want to sit in a group lab call on Zoom for hours? Consider how you learn best and your attention span. Can you focus in a lab with 4-8 other people for several hours? Do you prefer to be in group settings? Are you better at learning visually, by doing, with slides, etc?

This kind of information should be available to you if you plan to register for a camp. And, don’t be afraid to send them an email to ask these kinds of questions. You are paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for this camp experience, and you should know these kinds of details.

4.) Schedule – When Will They Teach You?

Another thing to consider when choosing your camp is what does the schedule look like? Is there lab time from 10am – 5pm? Do you get to choose when you have your individualized coaching? What days/part of summer is this camp?

Consider your scheduling conflicts, too, and whether a camp fits into that schedule. Do you have band camp, so you can’t go to a camp in August? Do you have/want a summer job, so camps that have full lab instruction all day aren’t possible? 

Also take into account how you learn best. Do you learn best when there is a rigid schedule, or do you learn best when you can take the information at your pace and when it is best for you?

5.) Curriculum – What Are You Learning?

The last major consideration when choosing an online debate camp is to sift through their curriculum and determine if it fits what you are hoping to learn. For example, if you really want to improve your spreading skills, is this part of their curriculum? If you’re looking at an LD camp, for example, does this camp even teach progressive skills?

Some things to consider:

  • Are there large group lectures? What is the process for these lectures?
  • What is the instructor to student ratio?
  • Does the camp teach traditional, progresive or both?

Before you register for a camp, you should have the information to know what you are learning. Many camps offer specific information on seminars, lectures and electives, describing what they are and why they are important to learn.

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