In this archived interview, we take you back to a conversation with Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com and a pioneer in the world of graphics and digital arts education. Acquired by LinkedIn, Lynda.com was one of the first platforms to significantly shape the landscape of online learning.
This conversation focuses on the Ojai Training Center, an institution that stood at the forefront of web development training during its time. Located in Ojai, California, the center acted as more than just a learning facility; it became a communal space where professionals from all over the world could congregate and advance their skills.
Below, you can read the interview and explore how the Ojai Training Center had a profound impact on professional training during the formative years of web development.
Graphic Greats: Lynda on the Ojai Training Center
Wendy: Your Ojai training center appears to be a roaring success. What motivated you to launch this project? Do you have any new plans for Ojai?
Lynda: It started out as a fairly small idea. My husband and daughter wanted me to travel less. We wondered, if I taught in my home town would people come to me, rather than me traveling across the country to teach? Our original idea was that I would teach one class a month, and then the rest of the month the training center would be our office. It was definitely one of those: "If we build it, will they come?" kind of ideas.
We had a full class by the time the first session rolled around, and what shocked us was that people came from all over the country and the world. We've had students come to us from every state in the union, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as numerous international locations. This really is a WORLD wide Web you guys!
We hired another trainer and added another class, then another, and another. We've just signed the lease on a second training space in Ojai because the need for these classes is so huge.
Our little company has grown from myself and my husband to 18 full-time employees and we rent six different spaces in Ojai. It's an industry! No one is more surprised than me, but it's so exciting and validating and I just love it.
Wendy: Why is the training center so popular?
Lynda: The key is that we offer professional-level training and go way beyond where other training centers go. We constantly hear from our students that this is the best Web course and/or the best training center at which they have ever trained. I've taught at so many colleges and training centers myself, that I knew exactly what I wanted. My husband and I were able to create our place as the "dream" studio in which to train.
We have Herman Miller chairs, fast Mac and Windows computers, lots of RAM and hard drive storage, all the best Web design apps, 100 base T networking and T1 Internet access. We have a lounge with tables and chairs for eating and meeting, and even a comfy couch that fits 8 people at a time in the back of the room. Every class becomes a community unto itself. Web professionals tend to work in a vacuum, and part of the synergy of the class is that people get to meet each other, exchange stories and tips, and bond outside of work.
The fact that these are week-long intensive courses seems to be a real separator between us and other courses as well. People are so immersed in their jobs, that it's a great luxury to be able to get away in a retreat-like atmosphere to study and learn something new.
Even though I no longer personally teach all the classes, I develop and oversee all the curriculum, and set the philosophy for the training. I am very selective about who teaches with us, and only pick trainers who have deep knowledge and excellent teaching abilities. It's one thing to know a lot about Web publishing, but an entirely different skill to know how to pass that knowledge to others. It's a tall order to find an instructor with both talents. I have a great BS detector because I'm in this industry, which gives us a huge advantage over other schools that are run by administrators who can easily be fooled.
Wendy: What are the topics that people are flocking to learn?
Lynda: We develop our own curriculum and courses in Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, ImageReady, PhotoShop, GoLive and are about to expand into Final Cut Pro, After Effects and LiveMotion.
Today, almost every class we teach sells out and many even have waiting lists. We've had international students from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Hong Kong, Fiji Islands... you name it! We've had everyone from fortune 100 companies come, to independent Web designers.
Note: When I was putting this interview together, Lynda was in the final preparation days for the first FlashForward 2000 conference. She took a lot of time out of an impossible schedule to make this feature possible. I would like to personally and publicly thank Lynda for sharing her time so generously so all of us can benefit from the knowledge of this industry that she gathers every day. Thanks so much, Lynda.
The interview captures the ethos and challenges of early web development training, as seen through the eyes of Lynda Weinman. Her innovative approach at the Ojai Training Center set new standards for creating an intensive, community-focused learning environment, thereby shaping what we now recognize as commonplace in the industry. Far from being just a training hub, the Ojai Center acted as both a community and a movement, catalyzing connections and careers worldwide. Reflecting on this piece, we're reminded of the strides the industry has taken and the role visionaries like Lynda played in that journey.