UW launches online training for outdoor guides


LARAMIE — A new online course created by the University of Wyoming offers training and enrichment for outdoor guides. 

Faculty in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with outdoor professionals, have been working on the non-credit six-week course for the last two years, and the first session got underway April 12.

Dan McCoy, degree coordinator for the Haub School’s outdoor recreation and tourism management program, said the course is aimed at current and future outdoor guides working in a variety of capacities, with a focus on skills useful to anyone in the profession. 

“These are skills and abilities that every person leading others in the outdoors needs to have,” he said. 

The course employs videos, quizzes, short assignments and knowledge checks to teach skills such as customer service, risk management, diversity inclusion and effective outdoor education. Outdoor guides work in areas including hunting, fishing, climbing, rafting, wildlife viewing, cycling, hiking, snowmobiling, motorized recreation, horseback riding, skiing and more. 

“We try to avoid having this be too discipline-specific,” McCoy said. 

To his knowledge, the self-paced course is the first of its kind to be accessible entirely online, and it should take about 32 hours to complete. 

The idea for the course was first proposed by Jason Williams, owner of Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, a company that employs 20 guides to lead tours in northwest Wyoming. Williams approached McCoy and Doug Wachob, former interim dean of the Haub School, with his idea during a conference. Haub School faculty caught the vision and starting thinking big. 

“We sat down with Jason and assembled this team of rock stars in the outdoor guiding profession,” McCoy said. 

In addition to outdoor professionals, they sought feedback the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. 

“It took us a long time to develop this curriculum to makes sure we were doing it right,” he said.

Given its online nature, anyone can enroll in the course, but McCoy said the goal is to support Wyoming’s outdoor industry first. 

“Outdoor recreation is a critical industry in our state, and there are thousands of jobs statewide and small businesses that really rely on guiding,” he said. “We hope this is an example of the type of support that we can provide the industry.” 

The first session is scheduled to run from April 12-May, with second session set for May 17-25. Additional sessions will be scheduled as needed, and there’s a discount for businesses that enroll multiple students. 

Because it’s a non-credit course, students don’t need to be accepted to UW to participate. 

Go to www.uwyo. edu/haub/academics/professional-applied-exps/outdoor-guide-certification/ outdoor-guide-certification.html for more information.