Get over 500 free online classes now with a library card

By Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System

Have an interview coming up and are your interviewing skills a bit rusty? Need to train employees in conflict resolution before they go for each other’s throats? How about some gardening tips to keep your plants green during this dry spell? Want to write comedy, poetry, or romance but don’t know where to start? Are you a budding wedding planner, landlord, or soap maker with a problem? Answers to these and millions of other question can be found by using your library card to take any of over 500 free online classes through the Darlington County Library System with Universal Class.

The Library is committed to providing the residents of Darlington County with opportunities for lifelong learning. The Library recently subscribed to a service called Universal Class so that individuals, homeschoolers, businesses, and government agencies in the county have free access to a quality educational and training alternative.

Universal Class provides young adults and adults a unique online education experience. Through engaging video-based lessons, students can work through a class to master a subject. Each class has a real instructor who students may communicate with using email. Learning success in each class is measured through tests. When a class is completed certificates of achievement are provided and Continuing Education Units, based on the difficulty of the class, awarded.

Each Universal Class is designed to be taken by an individual at his or her own pace from any computer, including any public computer at our four locations, Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill, 24/7 via the Internet. To enroll in a class, go the Library’s website at to set up a Universal Class online account. You will need to have your library card in hand and a valid email address to create your account. Once you have created your account, you may take any of the classes offered. Your only limitation is you may take only five classes at one time. Once you start a class, you have up to six months to finish it.

While Universal Class is an approved International Association for Continuing and Training authorized provider, there is one caveat that comes with its offerings. These are non-credit classes. They are not intended to be a substitute for any state or government licensing or educational requirements, nor will they transfer as college credits. However, an employer may require an employee to take specific classes to fulfill a continuing education job requirement, as part of a disciplinary process, or as fulfillment of general continuing education requirements.

When I looked at the classes offered, I discovered there is something for everyone.

Providing job related training for staff can be expensive. Not only is there the registration cost, there can be travel and lodging costs, lost productivity, and possibly even overtime for another employee. There are many useful classes for businesses, social and government agencies, and others faced with expensive continuing education cost.

Money management in a tight economy is crucial. Mid-level managers today need to understand a balance sheet and budgeting. Money management classes are available, like Accounting & Bookkeeping 101 (3.2 CEUs), Accounts Payable (1.1 CEUs) and Accounts Receivable (1.2 CEUs) Management, Business Analysis (1.2 CEUs), and Business Budgeting 101 (1.0 CEUs). These and other classes on topics like business plan writing, investing, grant writing, and fundraising may make a difference between success and failure.

Personnel and human resources management are often a challenge in the workplace. Universal Class offers a variety of classes to address the challenge. These include Human Resources Management 101 (0.8 CEUs), Employment Law Fundamentals (1.2 CEUs), Job Performance Appraisals (0.7 CEUs), Conflict Resolution 101 (0.9 CEUs), and Crisis Management 101 (1.2 CEUs). Information learned in classes like Fundamentals of Cross-Cultural Communication (0.8 CEUs), Sensitivity Training in the Workplace (0.9), Sexual Harassment Compliance (0.3 CEUs), and Mindfulness in the Workplace (0.9 CEUs) might prevent future personnel problems.

Sometimes, it can be difficult for parents homeschooling their children to find training materials that will fill a curriculum gap. There are 60 classes listed under Teacher Resources at Universal Class. You can start from the beginning with the ABCs of Algebra (3.0 CEUs), English Grammar (1.5 CEUs), and Geometry (1.3 CEUs), as well as English Composition 101 (1.1 CEUs). If you don’t know much about history, then Ancient Civilizations 101 (1.0 CEUs), the American Revolutionary War 101 (1.0 CEUs), and the American Civil War 101 (1.3 CEUs) may help. For those of just needing to brush up on subject, it is likely there will be something helpful in the classes offered.

Computer training abounds in Universal Class with 60 offerings. You can learn to use the various Microsoft Office products, like Word, Project, or Access, and Adobe products, like Fireworks, Illustrator, or inDesign. Get introduced to webpage development, CSS, HTML, Javascript, SQL, and WordPress. Learn about Gmail, Google+ for business, how to eBay, social media, and the pleasures of Pinterest. This is a perfect way to develop marketable tech skills that will land you a better job.

And let’s not forget about the fun stuff you can learn through Universal Class. Who is up for drawing, acrylic or watercolor painting, photography, or face painting? What about candle or soap making, floral arrangement, or scrapbooking? Aspiring chefs will find Tex Mex, Spanish, and Italian cooking classes. There are classes on cake decorating and pie making. You can learn about wines, and the art of mixology. Animal lovers will be thrilled to know there are many classes in dog and cat care, first aid, training, and grooming. There is a bird watching class. Pet lovers might even want to look into the class on the business of pet sitting and dog walking.

All of this with just a library card from the Darlington County Library System – we are more than just books!

Author: Duane Childers

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