Last year the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association launched a year-round ‘Masters Series’ to extend the reach of  popular Building Energy Conference.  Marc Rosenbaum, one of the most popular presenters at the conference, taught a Zero Net Energy Homes course – I was asked to help as an administrator, and what I witnessed was the greatest training course I’ve ever seen.

50 people registered.  Ten weeks later, 30 submitted a full design for a zero net energy home [here’s the list of graduates].  Do you know how many inputs go into designing a zero net energy home?  A lot.  It’s hard.

I’d like to deconstruct what happened so you can see how this was possible (hint: it’s not a webinar).  Harvard, MIT, and everybody else in the education business are trying to manage a digital transformation – based on the outcomes and content, I think this Zero Energy Homes course is right up there with the best in the world.  Here’s are three reasons why this course was so successful:

  1. The teacher is a well-known guru.  Marc’s reputation made it possible to recruit 50 motivated participants that appreciated the experience.  This is no free webinar – people paid for access to Marc, and if the marketing team didn’t have this to work with, we never would have gotten it off the ground.
  2. The course is really hard.  In a seminar only the smartest people speak up – there’s not enough time to make sure everyone really understands.  The online format allowed everyone to try every problem – to fail early and often – but ultimately to master the skill of designing a zero net energy home.  Here’s the full syllabus Marc used to accomplish this.
  3. Students walked away with a tangible skill.  Most trainers – even the really good ones – use a bunch of stories and lessons to give people exposure to advanced topics.  Teaching a tangible skill requires more than stories.  In this case, everyone who put the time in walked away with the ability to confidently design a zero net energy home.  They can hold up their capstone design and say, “I did that.”

On March 6th everyone from the class is  getting together for a ‘graduation picture’ at the Building Energy Conference in Boston.  If you’d like to meet Marc Rosenbaum, and see how online and in-person training can intersect in a thoughtful way – please join us!  We’ll be right there in the NESEA booth on that Wednesday morning comparing war stories from the class.

What’s the best training you’ve ever experienced first hand?  Send me a note at – my goal is to compile a list of the absolute best-in-class trainings that exist out there.  We’ll hold them up as models to show thoughtfully connecting people with technology doesn’t require huge investments lots of PhD’s.  Getting the basic things right can produce extraordinary results.

If you’re serious about designing a zero net energy home, obviously I think the course is great:  Here’s a look at the Spring session starting in March.

Some comments from the people in the course:

“Just got a job lead today because I told them I could energy model the building!!!”

“These calculators are great. The ability to tweak a couple of factors and see the whole system impact is outstanding. I feel like these are great tools to “nudge” clients towards better performing buildings as we can attach dollar amounts to heat loss….”

“I would just like to take this moment of enthusiasm and express how terrific I think this course is.”