W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 2.8

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GOTA Experience 

As Our

License Qualifier

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. We want to expand our amateur service community by bringing youngsters and as many other citizens as possible to our hobby. Exams scare off a lot of folks. People don’t learn to drive a car from memorizing multiple-choice answers from the owner’s manual; they practice driving a car. Likewise, the GOTA experience we provide to unlicensed and under-licensed persons is superior to memorizing answers to a lot of superfluous questions. GOTA experience facilitates personalized hands-on training by mentors at real amateur stations. How about using GOTA experience as an alternative to VE-certification?

A. You apparently observe that our amateur service Section 97.301 spectrum allocations have the capacity to accommodate very large influxes of additional stations, indeed. GOTA seems to be one of the most popular of the alternatives to VE-certification protocols (“AVEPs”) that are springing up.  

Q. What would be required to replace testing with GOTA experience?

A. No changes would be required to the international Radio Regulations. They should be, however, taken into account within any regulatory revisions; in particular, the scope of ITU-R M.1544 minimum qualifications of radio amateurs. It recommends that any person wishing to operate an amateur station have certain theoretical knowledge. That clearly encompasses an GOTA operator. It is something for the mentor to verify beforehand.

   The changes to Part 97 should be simple enough. Section 97.505 element credit already incorporates the fitting rubric. Just expand that section and add new text instructing our Section 97.509 administering VEs to give credit for the GOTA experience.

Q. That GOTA sounds like an excellent project for our radio club members to offer at our club station. 

A. Yes, personalized hands-on training by VE-certified Section 97.9 amateur operators at real Section 97.5 amateur stations should be a lot more direct, effective, and responsible use of two highly valuable public resources: our allocation of electromagnetic spectrum and our technical and operational experts. Personalized GOTA student operator mentoring should help expand our amateur service community, bring home license qualification training, and buildup our clubs’ memberships. 

Q. Our clubs should each obtain a stack of free club station licenses for its mentors to loan out to GOTA operators who just want to give ham radio a try before investing their time and effort in memorizing the answers to the exam questions. They would use that call sign until they receive a call sign of their own, or lose interest.

A. Your suggestion does provide a workable trail: call sign - ULS - license trustee mentor – student operator. The onus, however, would be entirely upon your Section 97.5(b)(2) club station licensee to impose, on a case-by-case basis, any operational or technical limitations necessary to assure compliance with the rules.

Q. GOTA experience as a license qualifier will be more effective than answer memorizing only if all mentors carefully monitor their trainees progress and follow up using their expertise to correct their trainees’ errors and misunderstandings.

A. Yes. A major disillusionment with the current system is that our Section 97.509 administering VEs' work seems to be is accounting in nature. Quite disappointingly, moreover, they do not appear to follow up an examination using their own expertise to enlighten the examinee as needed, even though their incorrect answer choices pin down for them the specific areas where it is that their examinee’s technical and/or operational knowledge is faulty. This inaction tends to signal that our Section 97.509 administering VEs may not unanimously accept that knowledge of the answers to our Section 97.507 preparing VEs’ questions is all that essential.

   For more information on AVEPs, read Alternatives to VE-certification BE Informed No. 5.0.

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October 28, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions