When Denise Fenzi first set up her online school, the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, I was one of the first teachers brought on. The concept was pretty new, though she’d run some test classes there and elsewhere to try out the idea. She asked if I could run a behavior class, since behavior is my thing.
Like most would imagine, I was pretty unsure that it was something I could teach online. I mean, not only is it a physical skill, all this dog training stuff, but I really rely on my own feeling from the dog and what they’re telling me and I just didn’t know whether I could get enough information from video. And can people learn this way? Without me right there? Will anyone take a class where they can’t just say “can you do it once with my dog and show me what you mean?”
But it’s a brave new world, and teaching online means reaching people who don’t live in my town, which is great. Plus, I was game to see what I could accomplish in a new venue.
And to my surprise, teaching online turned out in some ways to be more effective than teaching in person.
I tell people that and always get asked why that is. It’s taken me a while to identify the factors, but here’s what I suspect are the the top three:
- First was that the students I had online were able to talk to me every day if they wanted. Few people who work with me in person are able to do so daily. It’s just too costly! Getting my advice and encouragement every day if you needed it, plus homework if you wanted it, seems to be a clear difference.
- Second, students who take classes from me online have to video themselves training. They have to look at themselves to edit the video for submission, and then say something about how they think they did when they post it to my forums. All of that leads to an awareness of their accuracy in performing the homework lessons that an in-person student just doesn’t get, even if they’ll let me video them! Video is a surprisingly good teacher, and the gains you get from this process seem enormous.
- Lastly, you get to see my lesson material and my personal feedback to you in writing. That means you can read it as many times as you like, letting it seep in for as long as it takes. There’s no “in one ear and out the other” syndrome, and no “wait, what did she say again?” problem. You know what I said, because you can read it 100 times. And I don’t have to deal as a trainer with the “omg, my student’s brain is full, so I really have to stop talking now.” I can go on at length (and if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t know the meaning of brevity), making as many analogies as I want, providing elucidating examples, and challenging any assumptions that I might think you have. In person, that just cannot all be absorbed, and I have to measure it out carefully.
So, the combination of having time with the material, having to video yourself, and getting daily or at least 3 or 4 times a week access to asking all the questions that come up just really seems to make a huge difference in learning to solve your dog’s behavior problems. My in-person students just don’t get to have me every day, and have to learn through a much more verbal channel, even if there are notes and handouts. I think for some learners, there’s no comparison.
I’m a firm believer in teaching online now, and there’s no going back! I know there will always be people who just need that in-person experience, and puzzles that need a different approach, but for committed students who want the fastest and greatest gains in the least time, working online is a surprisingly effective strategy, and one I encourage everyone to try.
Want to come immerse yourself in learning? Want to help your stressed or reactive dog? All you need is your smartphone (or other camera) and the time to read along. April 1st starts my “Dealing with the Bogeyman” class at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Working spots are sold out for this class, but there are plenty of chatty observer (silver) and quiet observer (bronze) spots available. There are lots of other courses, too, so come check us out.