The Influence of Online Training on Camp Counselor Perceived Competence

Zachary Wahl-Alexander, K. Andrew Richards-Rosse, Steven Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years there has been an upsurge of research focused on improving the overall experience for camp staff. Although there is an extensive body of literature focused on developmental outcomes (Bialeschki, Sibthorp, & Ellis, 2006; Henderson, 2006), camp programming (Mainieri & Anderson, 2015; Morgan, Sibthorp, & Browne, 2016), and the benefits of camp employment (Brown & D’Eloia, 2016; Duerden, Garst, & Bialeschki, 2014), there is much less known about the development of camp counselors and those who supervise camp. Preliminary research has revealed that camp staff lack basic camp knowledge (Ducharme & Feldman, 1992), exhibit inadequacies with respect to managing conflict among youth (Scales, 1997), and are deficient in their ability to create a safe camp environment (Baldwin, Duerden, & Witt, 2010; Wahl-Alexander, Howell, & Richards, in press). Although recent calls have urged researchers to focus their attention on the development of ability among camp staff (Thurber, Scanlin, Scheuler, & Henderson, 2007), there is no known research examining avenues of training in addition to traditional on-site development. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of module-based training videos that supplemented an eight-day orientation at a residential summer camp. The participants in this study were 195 camp counselors employed by a residential summer camp over a two-year period. All staff members participated in an extensive eight-day on-site training program, but only half of the staff completed six video Expert Online Training modules and accompanying quizzes. Primary analyses included 2x2 (time x group) mixed ANOVAs, which allowed for an examination of pre- to post-training competency ratings provided by participants while also considering the control and intervention conditions. The results of the investigation generally support the effectiveness of the online training module as a supplement to standard on-site orientation programming. Results indicate that both the control and intervention groups’ perceptions of competence related to study constructs increased over time, but the rate of change was typically greater in the control group. However, the additional gains made by the control group were not enough to overcome initial differences attributable to the online training program. The findings suggest that participation in an online training program leads to initial gains in counselor perceived competence that appear to prepare the counselors for the onsite orientation, leading to greater overall perceived competency on post-survey scores. These results supports the effectiveness of online training programs as a valuable supplement to on-site camp training. Furthermore, this conclusion gives credence to the notion that directors in other contexts can successfully improve counselors’ competency by implementing specific pre-training training videos.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-89
JournalJournal of Park and Recreation Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Camp counselors
  • video module-based training
  • summer camp
  • staff training
  • Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation


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