I do think the AAVSO course does need to be redesigned such that most BEGINNING students sucessfully complete the course.
Way back at the turn of the century I bought a ST-7XE specifically to do variable star measurements. I live in a micro-metropolitan area, with only about ten amateurs and until recently NONE into imaging.
So I kept at it and without any resources to insure my success I would every four or five years.....try to do it on my own. And give it up. I did get to the point of taking variable star fields and estimating magnitudes, but never got to the point that I clearly felt I was getting GOOD data.
I have worked with data throughout my professional career, bad data is worse than no data.
This time around, there was an imager that moved into the Wenatchee Valley and though he doesn't do variables. He knows more than enough to interpret the AAVSO manual. Having him as a resource was enough to get over that first hump....the linearity exercise. After a brief look, at the Calibration chapter he gave me a heads up on what will probably be my next roadblock.
The US military is primarily staffed with 18-25 year olds most of whom have not graduated from college. They run some of the most sophisticated systems on the planet under pretty stressful situations. Teaching beginners how to do photometry should be a piece of cake.
Anyway....here are my suggestions. Ed, remember they are only worth what you paid for them. They are somewhat based on what I can remember about adult learning theory!!!
The AAVSO photometry guide is fine IF it is backed up with additional information.
I have not viewed Arne's presentations, but there does need to be a video lecture, that backs up and discusses the individual chapters in the Photometry Guide.
There need to be exercises for each chapter based on "rigged" data. In addition, to the written work, there should be a short video showing how to complete the exercise. At this point, a standard software package, should be used by to students. This would get students past where do I look??
After this I would encourage the students to do their own data collection for the exercise. After this the students can use their own software since now they know what data they are looking for. I could NOT get this step on my own. In fact, my imager friend had to get back to me on where to find the information in AIP and CCDSoft.
I think, following this type of format will signifcantly increase the number of students that are successful.
I think the CCD choice class would be perfect for making sure that the data collected by students meets "science" standards. Really that is the whole point of the CCD class.
Getting beginners started on the path of collecting good photometric data will significantly get more people doing "science" with their CCD camera's instead of just pretty pictures. I don't think there are enough "pretty picture" imagers that want to switch to doing science, but I suspect there are plenty of beginners that are willing to give it a go.....if they succeed.