Online courses helping people be tech savvy seniors

WORTHINGTON -- Faced with ever-expanding technology, many of today's grandparents and greatgrandparents are learning to do things a little bit differently than they may have in the past.

Zuby Jansen
Zuby Jansen, Worthington, shows off her Web site at the Crafty Corner Quilt & Sewing Shoppe in Worthington. Jansen has taken several educational courses online to help her maintain the site. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON -- Faced with ever-expanding technology, many of today's grandparents and greatgrandparents are learning to do things a little bit differently than they may have in the past.

Instead of writing out checks, they are using cash cards. Instead of referencing the card catalog at the library, they are looking information up on computers. And instead of writing letters, they are sending e-mails and keeping tabs on family through social networking sites such as Facebook.

For some people over the age of 55, computers have even become an avenue for them to take collegelevel coursework.

District 518 Community Education has made it possible not just for seniors, but people of any age, to expand their knowledge through online educational courses. The classes require computer access, but allow participants the opportunity to learn on their own schedule.

Zuby Jansen of Worthington has taken four courses through the online instruction center at in recent years. Owner of Crafty Corner Quilt & Sewing Shoppe in Worthington, Jansen has taken classes to help her understand and maintain her business Web site.


"I just felt that I needed some extra help with my Web site," she said. "I needed some expertise in software, and I needed some expertise in photography."

While Jansen hired someone to develop Crafty Corner's Web site, she updates the site with new information for her customers, writes an online newsletter, updates products that can be ordered through the site and sends e-mails to customers.

To be able to do all of that computer work, however, Jansen had to learn how to work with certain software. In a town the size of Worthington, it would be difficult to get enough people interested in taking such a specific course, but through Ed2Go, she was able to find knowledgeable instructors.

Anne Foley, enrichment programs coordinator for District 518 Community Education, said the online classes make it possible for people to get the education they need without worrying about having enough students to make a class worthwhile.

Ed2Go is based in Texas, but its programming is offered through Community Education departments around the nation. At any given time there are about 75 classes available to participants, with a list of approximately 300 different courses offered throughout the

year, said Foley.

The classes are varied, ranging from anything related to computers and technology to end-of-life care, becoming a home inspector, bookkeeping, parenting, graphic design and grant writing.

New classes start each month and generally last one hour per week for six weeks. Participants download all of their materials from the Web site, can ask the instructor or fellow participants questions and complete the testing all without having to leave their home computer.


"We get comments from users who like the anonymity," said Foley. "They don't have to drive to another place (for class), and they like the flexibility."

Jansen said that as a business owner, the flexibility is key. She can log in to download materials anytime of the day or night.

"I'm not the conventional student," she said. "I don't take them for a grade. I get the information and I refer back to it."

While students like Jansen are thrilled to have access to classes they may not find locally, Foley said District 518 is happy to be meeting the needs of the community through online teaching programs.

"We don't have to worry about a minimum number of students," said Foley -- an issue she occasionally runs into with Community Education classes offered by local teachers.

"It's great for Community Education because we can offer these classes without the worry of finding teachers or to reach a specialty (audience)," said Foley. "We're just really glad that we're able to offer it."

Foley said several of the Ed2Go participants are taking advantage of classes on technology, learning things like how to set up their computer system or operate a digital camera.

With the classes she has taken, Jansen said she has found the teachers to be "very experienced and knowledgeable."


"I'm getting some very quality information at what I consider a very reasonable price," Jansen said. "It's been a good experience for me, and I would recommend it for anyone. You get the information and that's worth every penny that you pay for it."

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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