With Universal Class, never stop learning at Riverhead Free Library


Interested in learning how to garden? Want to brush up on those math skills you haven’t used since high school? Or maybe you need to know how to write a grant proposal.

Well, as long as you’re a Riverhead Free Library cardholder, you won’t need to leave your couch to acquire or refresh skills in any of a host of areas.

This spring, the library unveiled an online program called Universal Class. Through this program, residents can sign up for classes in 32 subject areas, each containing numerous course offerings.

The classes are not interactive, so students can progress through course material and assignments at their own pace. And although there are deadlines for the completion of some work, they are generous.

“The level [of the course] depends on what you want,” said Mary Lee Gaylor, the library’s interim head of adult and information services. “If they say 101 after them they’re very basic … it’s good if you’re trying to learn more about something.”

Many of the courses, although not all, qualify for continuing education units, Ms. Gaylor said. A CEU is “a unit of credit equal to 10 hours of participation in an accredited program designed for professionals with certificates or licenses to practice various professions,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

Enrolling in Universal Classes that count as CEUs allows people to fulfill professional requirements at no cost. Completing CEUs is often necessary to ensure that people are up to date with requirements in their field and can often help people renew or obtain certifications in areas like finance and health care.

Program offerings that don’t qualify as CEU, still give library patrons an opportunity to experiment and try new things. Many of these courses fall into the arts, crafts and hobbies categories and address topics like fitness, gardening, face painting and cake decorating.

Calverton resident Pat Kurpetski, 74, enrolled in four classes last month: genealogy, life wellness, enhance your everyday vocabulary and finance.

“I always think you should keep learning,” she said.

Her favorite aspect of the classes is the ability to do the coursework whenever and wherever it suits her, she said. Because the classes are taken online, she said, she often finds herself completing an assignment at 3 a.m.

During July, Ms. Gaylor said, 14 new classes started, 100 lessons were viewed and 87 students submitted work.

Ms. Gaylor said the library introduced the classes this spring after seeing a growing trend among libraries nationwide, which were offering similar programs.

She added that Riverhead Free Library is also working to develop on-site programs that complement the courses offered through Universal Class, such a grant proposal-writing workshop set for Sept. 19.

“We try and supplement some of these things when we see certain areas of interest,” Ms. Gaylor said.

To explore the range courses offered, go to and click the Universal Class icon on the right side of the home page.

Photo caption: Cher Armstrong of Riverhead works on a math assignment offered by Universal Class, a free online program available to Riverhead Free Library cardholders. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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