online learningI spend a lot of my professional life touting the benefits of our library system’s free databases to our patrons and the public in general, and while I do actually use many of them myself while manning the reference desk, I have never actually enrolled in an online course through the continuing education databases that we make available. I hope to change that in 2015! With so many varied class topics to choose from in either personal or professional development, it seems foolish to continue to allow these opportunities to pass me by. And what better way to sell these resources to our users than to become familiar with the process myself?

Certainly libraries of different sizes and with varied available funding won’t all have access to quite the same things, but the two continuing education databases we subscribe to at the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System are Gale Courses and Universal Class. Both are free to library card holders in good standing and both offer a wide array of highly interactive, instructor led courses.

Gale Courses: Courses available through this database run for six weeks and new sessions begin every month. This is a certificate program geared towards professionals, including CEU (Continuting Education Units) and PLU Professional Learning Units)-granting courses, and online GED, SAT/ACT Prep courses. Enrolling is a simple process that only requires the user to have a library card and email address to create a free account. Once enrolled students must log in and view the first two lessons within 13 days after the start date of the course to avoid being automatically dropped. If dropped, you do have the ability to enroll in the course during a later session.  When a course selection is clicked on, users will be given an overview, syllabus, instructor information and requirements for enrolling. Clearly this is not an entirely self-paced set of courses as each session takes place within a six week time frame, however with classes ranging from Accounting and Finance to Writing and Publishing, users from all backgrounds are sure to find value in the classes offered here. An award of completion will be given after a passing final score.

Universal Class: While this database definitely offers courses that would be beneficial to professionals, it also offers hundreds of courses, all instructor-led, on almost any topic imaginable. This resources boasts over 500 online self-paced continuing education classes for adults in a range of subjects related to skills, jobs or personal growth. Face Painting, Weight Training, Flower Arranging, even a Beginner’s Guide to Wine class are all examples of the personal continuing education resources you will find here. When library card holders choose a course they will be taken to a page with a full course description, syllabus, information about the instructor and number of CEUs the class provides. Another feature of this database I liked was the recommended related classes that are also listed for the user when a course is selected. Signing up for that wine class? Maybe you’d like to pair that with Italian Cooking 101! Classes are self-paced here, which may be both a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful to have the flexibility to take a class at any time of day or night that suits your schedule, however with no completion deadline I can see how a lot of users might start something they never finish.

Both of these offer users so much variety in terms of the range of topics covered. For someone like me just looking to find something fun it’s almost overwhelming! Still, I am excited to discover something new and to accomplish my goal of completing one of these classes in the near future. As the day winds down that wine class is sounding better and better all the time…