PARKERSBURG - On Saturday, Parkersburg native P.J. Williams launched Convenient Classes, an online school for adults.
It offers live continuing education and training courses for self-enrichment rather than a degree, Williams said.
Williams lives in Houston, Texas, but opened the business while in West Virginia. "We set the start date of June 15 when we started building the site and recruiting teachers about a year ago. When I planned my trip back home to visit family, I realized the vacation would overlap the grand opening, but that is OK. Since this is an online school we have the freedom to work from anywhere," said Williams, a 1994 graduate of Parkersburg High School.
Students and teachers also have the freedom to work from anywhere. Convenient Classes teachers are far flung. While several are Houston-based, some live in Tennessee and Ohio.
"The teacher who will be having the first class on June 19 lives in Houston but will be teaching from Ohio because she flew up this week to take care of her ailing mother. The beauty of online classes is it removes the barriers of location."
Williams has a bachelor's in education from Marietta College. She has been a teacher for 15 years, both on and off-line, where she's taught everything from Pre-K to adults.
It was her husband, Houston native Coby Williams, who had the idea for the business. "He took a language class in a live, virtual classroom and loved it," she said.
Williams' husband provided IT-support and software development for a university, private tutoring agency, and a brick and mortar continuing education program over the last 15 years. His programming expertise made Convenient Classes a reality.
"Our skill sets complement each other well. He takes care of the technical aspects, and I handle curriculum and instruction training," she said.
To celebrate the grand opening, Williams will lead several free tours of the online classroom to show potential students how the online environment works. "Convenient Classes is different than most online classes. The classes are live in real-time. The teachers and students can see and hear each other much like in Skype. There are lots of tools in the classroom to keep students engaged," she said.
The tour will demonstrate how to write on the virtual whiteboard, interact with the instructor and fellow classmates, control video stream and mic, participate in a classroom poll, go off into a virtual breakout room, discuss a video clip, and see how Powerpoint is presented in the class.
The first regular classes to be offered include how to use social networking, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to help small business and nonprofits. More classes will be offered later in the summer, including grant writing, screen writing and publishing for the first-time author, Williams said.
Classes will be offered soon in foreign languages, how to navigate insurance and Medicare, and much more, she said.
Classes and teachers will continue to be added. "I would like to have some teachers from West Virginia join our ranks," Williams said.
"I hope that this online school will allow me to spend more time back in my beloved West Virginia," Williams said.