The manuals/online learning contain all the information you need to successfully complete the course. They are not a substitute for a good instructor who adds information and explains how the information will be used when you are in the water and underwater. You should keep your manual so that you can reference it again after the course to refresh your knowledge when you haven’t been diving for a while.
What courses should cost.
Manuals or Online Learning
To give you an indication of what courses should cost we would like to outline some of the expenses you should know about and should ask about when buying your course from any reputable dive shop?
This is the cost paid to the Agency (PADI, TDI SDI, SSI, NAUI, etc.) that the instructor teaches for. It is a registration fee that is paid to register your details and issue you a certification card that shows you have met their requirements for a given level of accomplishment. This is generally included in the cost of the course and other times people exclude it as they say it is earned and not just paid for. It is best to make sure of this before signing up for the course, whether this is included.
Check what equipment is included on your course. Some shops include everything and some only include the SCUBA equipment (BCD and regulators) and tanks. We always recommend to people to purchase their own personal equipment such as wetsuit, booties (if needed), mask, snorkel and fins. This is both a comfort and fit issue and a personal hygiene issue.
Generally you will do some pool or confined water training and then some open water training. The pool/confined water introduces you to new skills in an environment that is safer than open water. Open water is usually a larger body of water like the sea or a lake or quarry. The goal here is to apply what you learnt in the pool/confined water in a practical diving situation. It is important to find out if you are diving off a boat or off the shore and if you are diving in a lake or the sea or a river mouth. Generally diving off the shore is cheaper than diving off a boat and that would be reflected in the course price.
The instructor is there to keep you safe and teach you the skills properly that will make your dives more enjoyable. They should also correct any mistakes or misunderstandings and impart knowledge that you can take away with you. Remember that you are paying for a professional person.
Invariably most shops try to fit as many people onto a course as possible to make it cost effective. There is a balance where the number of people on the course becomes too many for an instructor to handle and the quality of your education suffers. Think of school children in a classroom.