Interested in brushing up on math skills, learning a new art or taking that history lesson again? Residents of Vermont need only a public library card to enroll in free online classes.
The Department of Libraries has recently renewed its statewide subscription to Universal Class, a learning program that offers access to more than 500 non-credit courses; ensuring it will remain available at every library throughout 2014.
Essay writing, cooking, guitar, real estate, science and government are among the subjects available to study. First introduced at Vermont public libraries in 2011, the program receives federal funding from the Institute of Museums and Library Services as part of the Library Services and Technology Act.
"This is the one product I have had the most responses to. It has been extremely positive," said State Librarian Martha Reid, who noted that in 2012 the Vermont library system was second only to the Air Force in its number of students participating.
"We were the first library system to enroll in a statewide subscription," said Reid, who has been in her position since 2008 and is responsible for first organizing the opportunity within the library system.
Unlike with some other online learning programs, teachers are available live, and able to help with study questions in real-time. Up to five courses may be taken concurrently, with a six-month timeframe allotted to complete each one.
"I thought ‘wow, this is terrific,'" said Reid. "People can look for whatever their passion is. It's great for retired people looking to try something new and it's perfect for students who may be transitioning from college to the job field."
Students have the ability to connect with peers, as well as complete continuing education programs on selected courses.
In Pownal, the Solomon Wright Public Library has seen success with community enrollment. "It's geared for all ages," said Linda Hall, library director.
"We've had students who need a little extra review, people who want to do a new hobby and a special education teacher who wanted some new ideas," said Hall. The southernmost library within the state, Pownal also provides online access to newspaper and magazine articles, radio broadcasts and other multimedia databases.
Regular library hours are Monday and Wednesday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon. Sunday, closed. For more information visit www.solomonwrightlibrary.org, www.vermontstate. universalclass.com or call 802-823-5400.
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