VERSAILLES – Always wanted to learn how to use a digital camera; create a Web page; be a travel writer; sell items on eBay; be a successful caterer; reduce debt; survive in the wilderness; care for aging parents; or better understand teen-agers? These are just a handful of the over 350 online courses now available through Indiana Virtual Academy, (IndVA) the former Ripley County Learning Network, based in Versailles.

Thanks to a recent grant from the Indiana Rural Development Council, IndVA is partnering with Southeastern Career Center’s adult education department to provide courses that people can take to enrich their personal lives or their careers.

Tricia Johnson, SCC adult education director, is especially thrilled with the new venture. SCC has been providing night courses for area adults for decades, but the program was in trouble. “We’re having trouble getting classes to go here ... If I can’t get enough people, I can’t offer it.”

Since a set number of people have to enroll in order to pay for the instructor, only one welding class had enough students to justify holding a class this fall. Johnson said eight student backed out because of the high cost of gas. “This (IndVA) offers something that’s more flexible through the Internet,” she explains.

Dr. Fred Sagester, IndVA director, stresses that the large majority of online courses being offered are noncredit. Less than 20 (including an A+ computer and a paralegal course) will result in a certification. Continuing education courses for nurses are also available at IndVA through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

The hopes are that the courses will offer much-needed workforce development opportunities for area workers. Even noncredit courses can help boost resumes, according to Sagester. A certificate of completion, given to each successful student, can be presented to employers or potential employers.

“Basically the grant we received from rural development was to bring in rural businesses and rural schools to increase what we’re doing,” noted Sagester. “Oftentimes employers are not as concerned with university credit as they are with skills their employees pick up.”

Though the grant was obtained several months ago, Sagester and Johnson took time to find an online education site that was high quality and provided a large number of courses. They chose www.ed2go.com, an organization that offers online adult courses through educational vendors in the United States, Canada, Guam and Australia.

Classes last six weeks and include a two-week “grace period” for assignment completion. New classes are beginning every month. The next round starts Oct 19 with more courses starting Nov. 9. Noncertified courses cost $89 with certified courses up to $200. IndVA and SCC adult education receive a portion of the course fees.

There are two lessons each week with a short multiple-choice quiz on each lesson. A final exam will complete the course. The role of Sagester, IndVA program coordinator Ally Sizemore, and Johnson in students’ lives will be minimal. They will just be periodically informed by ed2go of how many registered students they have. “Once they’ve registered with us, we’re done. They’re on their own.”

Interested students can learn about courses by visiting www.IndVA.org and clicking on the ed2go link. Course details are available as well as resumes of instructors.

Johnson says those without Internet access can use public libraries, Work One centers or even the IndVA office to take classes. Computers are available there during work hours weekdays and, in the future, may be accessible during evening hours, if a need exists.

Sagester and Johnson are just beginning to get the word out around the state about the courses available. They say new courses are always being added and, if there’s a need not being met, ed2go will try to develop new classes. “There’s a little bit of everything. The list is endless,” says Sizemore. “There’s one (a class) in there for everybody. It’s just so diverse,” adds Johnson.

Debbie McIntyre can be contacted at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 114; The Herald-Tribune, P.O. Box 89, Batesville, IN 47006; or debbie.mcintyre@cnhimedia.com.

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