Going to use DABAD: Continuing Education to catch up on my thoughts recently about the OMD membership. I'll see if I can tie my thoughts coherently into something resembling a general post about continuing education in agility.
I posted (on my old blog, Are We Getting Into One Mind?) about a year ago that I was sort of put off by the promises and advertising of the OMD'ers. I was curious about the system, seeing that it so fit in with the natural, motion based handling system I had been taught. I even subsequently paid for a membership. And for about six months, I grasped at every little tidbit J&J thought fit to dangle in front of wanton handlers (yes, wanton, if you read dinahprincedaly's response to my above post, you would know what I am talking about). And I felt very unfulfilled. One video a month. Occasional "challenges" that required equipment that I did not have (3 tunnels, space to set up something like 7 jumps in a straight line, etc), despite having what I feel to be a full field of equipment. Nothing that I could really USE. No exercises/drills that would magically make me a better handler. No sequences/courses to give me actual homework that would test my skills and tell me if I was on the right track. Then there was that little link in the upper right of the homescreen, the one that said "Next Level", where if you clicked on it, it said, "coming soon". Great, this sounded like what I was really hoping to get out of my membership, but with the "levels" of membership it seemed that they were working towards, I wasn't really looking forward to shelling out more money if this Next Level thing was going to leave me as empty as the premium membership had.
Then there were the two months leading up to my trip to California for Cynosports. Money was tight. My well pump broke, other unexpected expenses came up. I kept meaning to cancel my membership. I couldn't justify the cost any more. But I would keep forgetting and then DAMNIT the money came out of my account again. Kept telling myself, I'll go back and do it later, another month. And then the emails that Next Level was ready to go. And it said nothing about paying an extra fee. Could it be true? When I clicked on the first video, I half expected to see a teaser, and then be rerouted to a site asking me to pay another 20 Euros in order to be able to view the full exercise. That's how that other "icky" foreign program pushing dictator lures in her followers. But to my surprise, it was the real deal. Real handlers running real dogs (ok, I was a little put off that the first video was 4 BC's, but since then they have broadened, I think it was just coincidence). A real seminar, with real advice being given about how they wanted the handlers to perform the sequences, what they were looking for from the dog. And despite all the hype about their techniques being what really drives their handling system, what these first four videos have been about is really just obstacle performance and independence. Because you can't have all the fancy moves without the foundations being solid. Love that. It's like being one of their students, without even having direct input from them. So yeah, I finally feel like the membership has become meaningful, worth it's weight and then some.
So I guess in order to tie this in to continuing education in general, I guess what I will have to say is that online teaching is awesome. There's something out there for just about any need you might have in agility training, and beyond (obedience, tricks, recalls, etc). But there's also a huge variability in the level of involvement for each course. It becomes important to evaluate what your goals and needs are and if they are being met by the course. Sometimes you need might be just that you want exposure, to fulfill some curiosity. That's how I started out with the OMD membership. Once that need was met, I hit a bottleneck. I wanted instruction on how to put the pieces together. My current instructor was being fed the same information, at the same rate, as I was, so other than providing an objective eye (which is not to be underestimated, I still value that side of agility instruction) there wasn't much extra that she was able to provide as far my continuing education. I desperately started to look outside my online experience, but opportunities were relatively limited. Live training just couldn't keep up with virtual exposure. I would have to travel far and wide to find live instruction, which was just something I couldn't afford to do. So how do we mesh the virtual need and growth of knowledge with the limitations that geography and funds present? For now, I am thankful that the OMD'ers were able to come up with a valid solution, a natural outgrowth of what they were already doing. And they seem to be anticipating the next bottle neck that will occur when the 40 weeks of videos concludes. It will likely take me longer than that to work through all of the information they are dispensing, seeing that I have only made it through 2 of the 4 exercises they have released amongst the other skills I want to work on and the ever dropping temperatures and increasing threats of snow. Once this current source has been tapped, the possibility of joining up with a member of their pilot group of instructors becomes intriguing. There's even someone fairly local, but it becomes a question again of availability and practicality, as each instructor is obviously free to choose how much they are able to take on as far as student load. Hmm, I see a theme. Online instruction seems to only lead just so far until real, live face time becomes necessary. I sure hope that for the sake of those of us seeking to maximize our continuing education in this sport, new and innovative ways for the online experience to keep up with our growing needs are developed and experimented with.