Three years ago, Howard Greenberg and Paul Della-Nebbia earned a living as instructors, traveling across North America teaching Lotus Notes and Domino development courses. While they say it was satisfying work, difficulties with teaching in the classroom environment -- such as inconsistent attendance, time constraints and high course prices -- proved hard to overcome.
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Today, the two men continue to teach, but in a new way.
Together they head up The Learning Continuum Company, Ltd., a firm devoted to offering distance learning courses for Notes and Domino developers.
According to Greenberg, director of the Boca Raton, Florida-based company, distance-learning programs have several advantages over CBT (computer-based training) courses.
"All the training is done using the Lotus Notes client," said Greenberg. "A lot of CBTs will have you go through a program that is completely outside of Notes, so it's all a simulation. In ours, because you're really in the Notes client, you're actually using Notes to learn Notes."
"The reason we call it distance learning, is all our courses have instructor support. You can post a question using your Web browser or your Notes client," Greenberg said, and promised that all posting to the online discussion database is answered by the next day.
Taking on R5 LotusScript
The company's newest course "R5 Beginner LotusScript for Notes and Domino" is the first in a series to help experienced developers design LotusScript R5 applications.
After downloading the course and installing it on the Notes client, a user would begin simply by clicking on the Notes workspace icon. From there, one could work on the interactive course, which includes actual code development, at his or her pace.
While it takes about three full days to complete the course, Greenberg said his clients find it convenient to be able to fit the course into their individual schedules.
"[One customer] had an hour train ride to and from work every day. He just took his laptop on the train, and he did the courses every day on the train, and if he had questions, he would submit them when he got to work," said Greenberg.
After completing this course and two other soon-to-be-released courses "you'll be a fairly proficient programmer and ready to take the certification course that Lotus has," said Greenberg. "That would allow you to become a Certified Lotus Professional."
The intermediate level course will be released this month, and the advanced course will be available in December.
Greenberg recommends that programmers lacking experience should first take his company's "R5 Application Development" courses, which provide fundamentals in design development.
Reaping the benefits
Notes and Domino developers typically tend to look for training either by attending organized classes or using CBTs. Each leaves much to be desired, Greenberg said.
"Part of the problem with classroom training is you have to be away from the office, and the cost is very high -- about double what we normally charge," Greenberg said. "Lotus Education has a similar three-day course, and the list price is $1200... and that's not counting the travel expense and the expense of being away form the office.
"A class also goes at the speed of the slowest student, whereas in our courses you just go at your own pace," he said.
A CBT, Greenberg said, usually consists of screenshots alone, and some find it harder to learn without an interactive format. CBTs also rarely allow a user to ask questions.
While the company often sells courses to individuals, Greenberg said he has arranged corporate contracts with enterprise customers, as well. IBM and Raytheon are among the companies that have purchased course bundles and designed training regimens for employees.
"R5 Beginner LotusScript for Notes and Domino" is sold directly through The Learning Continuum Company's Web site, and is offered for $599. Prices of other courses and bundles vary, depending upon the length and content of the course.