I’ve been done with the CWOps Basic Course now for a couple of weeks and felt that it was time to post my thoughts on being a participant of the program and what I got out of it.

They offer multiple courses for different skill levels.

  • Beginner (Introduction to CW and learning the characters)
  • Basic (Build head copy skills and on-air QSOs)
  • Intermediate (Recognize words as sounds, increase head copy speed)
  • Advanced (Move rocks with your mind while wearing a Jedi master as a backpack)

Ok, I made that last description up, but you can see the progression from start to finish and Advanced is really about getting that speed up which includes contesting speeds of greater than 30wpm.

Already having spent quite a bit of time learning the characters, I started with the Basics course. This is very much a student driven course. That means that they have developed the program which lasts 8 weeks, and have setup practice routines for every day in-between. It is up to the student to drive their own practice and effort. Students then meet twice weekly as a group with a CWOps Advisor.

Classes are virtual and make use of both audio and video to ensure that everyone is able to interact as necessary. We practice using Farnsworth at 20+wpm and begin at 6wpm spacing, ramping up to 12-14 by the end.

Personally, having a group of like-minded individuals that were coming together at relatively similar skill levels to converse and grow together made a huge difference in my advancement in CW. This honestly surprised me as I tend to be more introverted by nature.

Our advisor was Christopher Barber – WX5CW – and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. He is driven for his student’s success, passionate about CW and getting on-air, and a generally great guy. Always available to answer questions, as we progressed in the class he even took time out of his weekends to try and get on the air for practice between sessions.

All that while balancing work and family.

At the start of the program in late-August, I had done a couple of “QSOs” (I use quotes since they were embarrassingly bad on my part and sometimes incomplete).

Having just completed the course, I’ve racked up 30+ QSOs all across the US and have even done one POTA activation. I am operating at 13-14wpm, whereas I was previously stumbling through a QSO at 6-8wpm (if that).

Instead of abject terror when I send a CW, I am incredibly more comfortable copying what I hear and even asking for clarity when I cannot do so (instead of fearing a whole new onslaught of dits and dahs that I won’t understand).

They say that the “proof is in the pudding”:

How do you like that pudding? Each grid square is a CW QSO that I’ve done since the start of the class. None of my classmates are included above – all are random on-air QSOs with strangers.


In the end, I cannot recommend CWOps courses highly enough. You will get out of it what you put in, but I believe that for any skill level they have a well thought out course and anyone looking to become more proficient in CW would benefit in some way.

Classes run three times each year, and you can sign up at their registration page.

I’m signing up for the Intermediate course if that tells you anything.