Is it Time For a Change?

No one likes to change. It’s difficult. It’s time-consuming. It makes us step outside our comfort zone, forces us to learn something new, to do something different, to take a chance that this might not turn out exactly like we want it to.

But isn’t that the whole point of changing?

evolving to make changes in your home inspection business

In our state (Louisiana), we’ve been having a “lively” debate regarding making some changes to the way in which our state board of home inspectors allows licensed inspectors to get their continuing education hours. The current version of our state board is opposed to making changes to our rules to allow live streaming, interactive video classes to count towards the entirety of an inspector’s CE requirements. And like all previous arguments regarding moving our state forward to keep pace with changes in technology, this fight is following a well-worn and frustrating path.

We need to face the fact that education is constantly changing, and we must change along with it.

Back when our state started licensing home inspectors (1999), the only home inspection class approved in Louisiana was a class where students paid for access to a school building. There were several televisions and VHS tape players. On the honor system, students were supposed to watch videos of home inspection training. There was no live instructor present and no one to monitor the “education” of new inspectors. There was even an open bar available, fully stocked with various types of beer and liquor. Obviously, not the best learning environment for students studying to enter the home inspection field.

Yet, somehow, against the odds, the industry survived.

Eventually, things changed. Against the arguments of the gentleman that owned the “video school,” the home inspection instruction process moved to the classroom. Dozens of students (there were over 35 people in the class I took) would sit in large rooms listening to a monotonous instructor talk about the inspection industry. These classes typically went on for 10 hours a day, for two weeks straight. The boredom and monotony were evident in everyone’s faces.

Obviously, by today’s standards, it was a terrible environment in which to learn. Yet again, somehow the industry survived.

Years later, against the vehement arguments of board members who had gotten their education drinking beer and “watching” video tapes, another change faced the home inspection industry’s educational front. Online education was here, it was working, and it was expanding into every educational arena. Classwork for industries across the board were moving online. Students could now learn new things at their own pace. No longer was someone locked out of an education because they lived too far away, didn’t have the money to afford incredibly expensive classes or couldn’t leave their families for weeks on end. On demand education was available for the masses.

Unfortunately, Louisiana’s appointed home inspection board fought this change tooth and nail. It took (too) many years of constant board meeting arguments, pitting younger instructors against the old guard, who were looking to protect the in-person schools of their friends, but eventually change happened.

At first, the only online classes were basic and tough to stomach; reading slides for hours on end. It was rough, but as it went on the classes got better. Sitting around reading slides slowly morphed into watching instructional videos, interactive tests and eventually allowed for messaging instructors to get answers to your questions about the material.

There were growing pains, but, as before, the industry survived.

Now, we stand on the edge of another major change in education. Spurred on by the social distancing requirements of the COVID pandemic, live interactive streaming video classes have been thrust to the forefront. While streaming video classes and webinars have been around for a few years, particularly in the digital business world, slowly gaining acceptance in the mainstream, our current situation has caused an explosion of these classes. They are now the de facto choice for learning institutions around the world. From grade school students to professionals working on advanced degrees, and everyone in between, people are now utilizing this new and exciting format.

home inspectors getting continuing education by attending a zoom ce class

Just like when online classes made education affordable and available for the masses, streaming classes are now doing the same. But with one exciting benefit: instead of sitting alone on your computer, you’re now able to interact in real time with your instructor and fellow students. All the benefits of in-person education available to you at your convenience and (for the most part) on your own schedule.

Again, education is changing. And again, just like every change in the past, our appointed home inspection board is opposing this movement. Current board members, clearly with conflicts of interest (exhibited by the fact that they operate in-person continuing education businesses), continue to follow the script of previously conflicted board members in opposing progress in home inspection education.

And just like every other time in the past, progress will eventually win out. People with outdated opinions will pass by the wayside, as new ideas, new methods, and new technologies take their place.

And just like every other time, change will happen. It won’t be clean. It won’t be easy. It won’t happen without bringing along with it a whole new set of problems.

But it will happen.

And again, as before, the industry will survive.

Whether they like it or not, things change. Technology advances. Techniques change. Learning methods morph into something new and innovative to take advantage of the possibilities of these new technologies and techniques. Regardless of how hard the instructors of yesterday want to hold onto the ways of the past (and their profits), progress cannot be stopped.

Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant.

Anthony D’Angelo

Their arguments, just like every other board member before them that attempted to stop a new way of education from taking root, is that the old way of education is better.

Obviously, it’s been working until now, why change it?

They’re always hesitant to change, believing that in order for a student to get an education, they must be present in a classroom setting. They reason that when there’s a teacher present, the student must pay attention and learn the materials, because the teacher will force them to do so. They say that if a student is sitting at home behind their computer monitor, there’s no one there to force them to learn.

Unfortunately, education and learning are two different things. We can force someone to sit through an educational class, but we can’t force someone to learn something. (This unfortunate situation plays out every day in conventional schools all around the world.)

Learning is voluntary. Learning is personal. Learning only takes place when someone wants to learn, when they’re engaged, when they’re motivated to get better at something.

Forcing them to sit in a classroom will not force a student to learn. When they’re asking, “will this be on the test,” we know that they’re not there to learn; they’re there simply because they have to be. They’re simply there to get their certificate.

We’ve got to embrace every opportunity, try every technology, offer every possible chance for our students to be engaged in the learning process. We need to offer more opportunities, not less, giving them numerous chances to get so interested in a subject that they actually take part in the process and absorb some of the knowledge that we’ve (hopefully) made available to them.

We need to offer more opportunities to learn, and not simply force classroom education onto them so that they sit through the requisite number of hours needed to get their certificate.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Tony Robbins

It’s an age-old mantra: you either embrace change or you’re passed over by those that do. Whether it’s embracing a new way of educating students, a new way to write inspection reports, a new way to market or a totally reimagined way of operating a home inspection business, the fact is that things change. As much as we would like them to, nothing ever stays the same. If we want to stay relevant in our industries, we’ve got to be willing to change.

Stop and think a moment about how our opinion of someone’s abilities change when they pull a flip-phone from their pocket. What goes through our heads when someone gives us their email address and it ends in “,” or when they tell us they don’t use email at all. Images of dinosaurs and assisted living facilities are inevitably working their way into our thoughts.

Not the best images to present when you’re trying to market a business.

Or a whole industry.

And, yes, if we’re lucky enough to live that long, we will all one day be consigned to the dinosaur wing of the assisted living facility, rolling around in our chairs telling anyone who’ll listen about our crazy exploits as a professional home inspector. But that doesn’t mean we have to embrace that roll while we’re still fighting the good fight.

We shouldn’t be afraid of things just because they’re new and different. Change is inevitable. We either accept it or we’re moved one step closer to the role of has-been.

Be where the world is going.

Beth Comstock

It’s true that not every new change is good and not every new technique makes things better. We shouldn’t be chasing after every new “flavor of the month” technology. But we certainly need to keep our eyes peeled, constantly on the lookout for things that are new but clearly show promise to better the way we’ve done things before.

Especially when it comes to educating students. 

New ideas emerge, new methods are tried, alternative teaching styles are constantly being presented. Some of them work right out of the gate, quickly showing that they can efficiently and effectively allow students to learn and retain subject matter. Some of them fail, exploding in a spectacular eruption of unrealized expectations. But most of these new methods hang around for a while, not quite working like we thought they would, but working just enough to keep using them, keep trying them, maintaining the parts that are working and changing those that don’t.

We, as educators, shouldn’t ignore something just because it’s new and different. We should embrace new methods, trying, using and improving on them. It just may be that we discover a new style of teaching that has the potential to transform the way students learn.

Progress is messy. Virtually nothing is born a complete product. Version 1.0 is always replaced, always improved on, always upgraded. None of us are still doing inspections the exact same way we did our first one. We’ve learned, changed and adapted our methods to account for our constantly expanding knowledge.

home inspectors sticking their heads in the sand so they don't have to change

But what most of us haven’t done is to stick our heads in the sand, refusing to adapt and change simply because we’re scared. Scared of new technology, scared of something different, scared that someone may be doing it better, faster or with higher quality that we are.

We can’t be afraid of change. We must embrace it, try it, work with it, modify and improve it and make it our own.

Or we risk being left behind.

I welcome all feedback (both positive and negative) on this post.
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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector