Finding Solace At A Keyboard

In our technology-driven world, you might not think to go looking for solace at a computer class, but that is where you will find a certain kind.

Solace, in downtown Westerly, offers task-oriented computer instruction that can remove computer-related frustration and agitation in both the personal and business spheres, and replace it with, well, solace. Owner Jessica Stratton started the company three years ago as an on-site computer repair business, visiting customers in their homes or offices.

A year ago she rented a small space next to the Pizza Place on Broad Street in downtown Westerly (across from the library) and began offering computer classes in a sunny room with grass-green walls and a high ceiling.

“It was kind of the next natural progression, to start teaching,” says Stratton, the business's sole proprietor.

Stratton gears her classes to practical ends and limits class size to three. Customers also can sign up for individual instruction. The concept for Solace came to her after she found that people would take daylong classes covering a general computer topic, say Microsoft Word or Access, and then promptly forget about 99 percent of what was taught.

Her philosophy is to tackle subjects in one-hour, task-based segments. For example her HDTA offerings (How To Do Anything) include “How to Answer Any Question with Google” and “The Pictures Are on the Digital Camera: Now What?” Other offerings cover computer troubleshooting, blogging, e-mail basics and planning a party on the Internet.

For small businesses her classes run the gamut from “Creating Customer Surveys and Forms with MS Word,” to “Managing E-mail Overload.”

Popular class topics right now include anything related to digital cameras and photo storage and access as well as protecting privacy and preventing identity theft.

Group classes are $25 an hour and one-on-one sessions are $55 an hour. Stratton provides laptops for the students and says the limited number keeps sessions intimate with plenty of time for questions. Stratton also offers a frequent-learner incentive: Take five classes and get one free.

Stratton says she tailors her offerings to what patterns she sees in customers' questions. Future offerings and the course schedule will be customer driven.

In fact, that has already started to happen. A new class, “Use the Internet to Research And Buy Technology” came about because so many students asked for advice on buying computers and other technology.

Stratton, who has a degree in communication studies from the University of Rhode Island, says she is uniquely qualified to help people learn to use technology. Her degree makes it easy for her to communicate abstract concepts, and computers are practically in her blood.

In addition to doing an apprenticeship with a Narragansett, R.I., firm that sent her out to small businesses to help them with their computer problems, Stratton grew up around computers. Her father is an electrical engineer who was working with the technology back in its oversized infancy.

In addition, she often gives talks and writes on computer issues. She also is a contributing editor to the computer tome “Mike Meyers Presents Computer Literacy: Your Ticket to IC3 Certification.”

“I know them inside and out from the circuitry to programming,” she says. “I just kind of have a knack for it. I have an understanding for it from the ground up.”

And, more importantly, she can explain computers to students in plain English. Stratton says she can take the most computer illiterate person and teach them what they need to know to accomplish their goals. “I have a lot of patience,” she says. “I enjoy it. The people are really nice. They're so appreciative.”

Need additional proof that Stratton is a computer person through-and-through?

She named her dog Reboot.

JUST THE FACTS:

Name: Solace

Address: 43 Broad St., 1st floor, Westerly

Phone: 401-596-5377

Web site: www.solacelearning.com

Hours: Call for class schedule and availability
Article UID=2834e46b-ea65-4348-a526-6afa657a29b3

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