Learning to Use Software

Article excerpt

By Bill May

Journal Record Staff Reporter

After years of thinking about it, Jana and Lonnie Phillips finally made the move late last year and now they couldn't be happier, they said.

The Phillipses are owners, operators, instructor, curriculum writer, accountant, hardware specialist and consultant for PC Learning Center, 4101 Perimeter Center, which specializes in teaching how to use software on today's personal computers.

Although they started putting the company together late last year, the first class of seven students didn't start until January. Now, they have classes scheduled Monday through Saturday, both day and evening.

Classes, which are limited to seven students each, range from introduction to personal computers to the latest sophisticated software on the market.

"We felt that was the right amount of students to have at one time so they could learn more easily," said Jana, who has six years experience teaching computer applications at vocational-technical education centers and community colleges. "If we have more students than that, then we have a big spread on capabilities where some are faster than others and they lose interest. Even with keeping classes this small, I still have had to develop certain exercises for those faster students to keep them occupied while the slower ones are still struggling."

Before teaching computers, Jana wrote curriculum for a couple of private companies which operate similar to PC Learning Center, she said.

"We saw what the other companies did wrong and we both felt that we could make something like this go," she said. "So far, it seems that we were right."

What is making the company successful is the blending of the talents of the pair, who have been married for 17 years.

"I like to write curriculum and I really enjoy teaching," she said. "But I never could have done something like this on my own, for it's hard for me to sell myself.

"But Lonnie has the great management abilities, the ability to market the company and do all the other things which gives me time for the classroom."

Lonnie, an accountant, has been involved with computers since "practically the beginning," he said.

"I know what it's like to do a spreadsheet by hand, then make all the corrections and ensure that all the totals are redone to make sure they are right," he said "When the personal computers came along, because I was in accounting, it was right up my alley and I got involved almost immediately. But, I could see some of the problems with the software that was developed.

"Now with a spreadsheet it's great to do the work, then make a correction in one column and see all the other columns immediately corrected at one time. It sure makes things a lot easier."

Besides handling the management, business and marketing end of the company, Lonnie also has become a self-taught expert on computer hardware and serves as a consultant to help companies upgrade their equipment.

"One reason we got into this is that with all the computer (retail) companies out there, they don't want to do training," he said. "They have people who understand how to install and set up a computer, but they can't teach you how to operate the software; that's not what they are in business for.

"In fact, a lot of our referrals come to us from those companies that sell computers.

"I think that we have a good partnership here. Jana always has been a good writer and understands how to write a curriculum and how to teach the computer software so that anyone can understand it. I think we work well together."

What has driven the company so far is the same thing which has driven the computer industry for the past few years, Jana said.

"When I got involved with this industry, the hardware was the thing," she said. …

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