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Could Members Study for WSET through the Community?

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#1

The Society website has moved forward significantly in the last three years. Almost all of my contact with the Society is through the website (and the Community). I have particularly enjoyed the greater access to information and videos and the fact that you can now see comments on back vintages. I now wonder whether there is a next step - creating a Community of learners, which is part of the wider ‘Community’.
Why a community of learners and what do I mean by that? First, why? Over the last 18 months I have read debates on how to attract new members, how to keep members, how to make wine more accessible, how to expose members to a greater range of wines and generally, how to further enthuse members. For me, offering members an opportunity to not only engage but provide access to personal development and progression is one way we might contribute to those ambitions.
What do I mean in this context? Essentially, I think there is already an internationally recognised approach we could engage with - The Wine and Spirit Education Trust. However, what I am suggesting this is delivered to members through the Wine Society online presence. Much of the resources are already in place, for example the regional video presentations. Others would need to be developed, some perhaps introduced from other sources under licence. I think the Community tasting model could be used to undertake some of the practical elements of the courses with those who are registered to participate buying the ‘WSET 2 or 3 case’, which has been designed by the course lead specifically for the online tastings. The Society could perhaps organise the exams alongside their regional tastings, which are held across the country, the advantage being that resource (people and the hire of a facility) is already being deployed to deliver the tasting itself.
My hope would be that members, old and young, would engage, support each other’s learning and seek out further wines from the Society as their interest and understanding develops. Perhaps, on joining, all new members could be offered the opportunity to enrol on WSET Level 1 as a further ‘added value’ to membership.
What do people think?


#2

I did the Level 2 last year locally and enjoyed it, though it was more limited than I expected. However my main enjoyment came from the interaction with the tutor and the other students (8 of us). The shared tastings were educational and entertaining but it would have been feasible to pass the exam simply by studying the books provided (or possibly not even that). I wouldn’t have chosen to do it as an online course though, but others might feel differently about it.

Assuming it could be set up, and tasting issues resolved, the problem would remain that the material would only be available to members after they had already joined. If offered publicly there might be a lot of unhappy parties whose businesses were immediately undermined. Even offering it to members might be quite controversial as I believe licences to run WSET courses are carefully controlled.

I don’t know how the membership drive is going. Maybe we should have a monthly or quaterly update?


#3

There would be a cost to TWS to supply this and not all members would stand to gain/partake from it. One then gets into the debate about how money is being spent again, always a contentious issue. Personally I’ve never been moved to study WSET style educational wine courses. It is a certain sort of training after all. Far better to open oneself to as many experiences as possible, travel a lot in wine areas, go to tastings, meet growers (always better than wine professionals in my view) get off the beaten track, investigate wines you might never see here in the UK. That’s education!


#4

Yes, I would definitely agree with the travel and tasting bit. However, I am also acutely aware that when I joined the Society in the 80s my disposal income was not what it is now and thus that was not an option open to me. I wonder whether that might be an issue for some of are other members of all ages.
On the costs, yes I completely agree - a balanced is needed and there must be perceived value and priorities set.


#5

Yes, it is that shared experience that I think adds significantly to the experience. I definitely think a ‘community’ is required although I wonder whether that must always be physically rather than via the community we have here.
Definitely agree that this should be part of membership - essentially the added value argument of ‘why be a member’.