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Western Reserve Public Media in Kent is helping to bring area residents struggling with computer technology up to speed through a free educational course.
The program, Every Citizen Online, comes through the partnership of WRPM and Connect Ohio, an organization focused on bringing high-speed Internet resources to all Ohioans.
Three times a week, the public television station at 1750 Campus Center Drive offers a six-hour training course, divided into three two-hour sessions, that walks not-so-tech-savy people through everything from basic computer lingo to email, word processing, Internet tools, web applications and more.
Dave Philibin, the course instructor, said people sign up for the course for a variety of reasons. Some are completely unfamiliar with computers, while others know how to access email or use spreadsheets for work, he said.
"We try to give them an idea of where you can go beyond that, and that's the shopping banking, Skyping, Facebook and Twitter," he said. "We just try to get them to know what all is out there."
Classes are held every Monday through Wednesday and include:
Level 1 Computer Basics -- 9 to 11 a.m.
Level 2 Internet Essentials -- 12 to 2 p.m.
Level 3 Web Applications -- 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Once people complete the course, they become eligible to win a wireless printer and receive discounts on computers and Internet services.
Philibin said the personality and needs of each class is unique, but every person leaves with a better understanding of how to get more out of computers.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time they leave kind of excited," he said.
After completing the Level 1 course on Friday with barely any previous computer knowledge, Sandy Gerz said the class was much easier to comprehend than she expected.
"I've learned so much," Gerz said, adding that Philibin instruction kept it interesting. "I did not find it overwhelming even though I thought it would be."
Jeff Good, director of education at WRPM, said the partnership with Connect Ohio began in light of federal stimulus grants toward furthering Internet infrastructure.
"As it was with the turnpike system back in the 1950s and 1960s, this is the whole idea of extending infrastructure for the Internet," he said. "The problem was people were getting it and saying, 'What do we need this for?' So that was the whole concept behind Connect Ohio and educating the folks who haven't had this before on what they can do."
To sign up for courses or learn more about Every Citizen Online, call Western Reserve Public Media at 330-677-4549.
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or firstname.lastname@example.org