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Iowa State Extension offers interactive online classes throughout the year on everything from holiday meal preparation to home finances, healthy eating, as well as for childcare providers.

"We're trying to tear down a lot of barriers," said Brenda Schmitt, human sciences specialist, family finance. "Some people can't make it to the office and some people don't want to."

Being able to take an interactive course online provides the convenience of being at home, Schmitt said. All that is needed is a computer or tablet and an Internet connection. Going to a public library or local extension office to participate is another option.

Class members hear the teacher and see the demonstrations and PowerPoint slides. They can interact by typing comments and questions into a chat box or by using a microphone to talk.

If someone wants anonymity for a finance class, they have the option to sign up by first name only, Schmitt said.

If class participants are tech savvy and have a strong Internet connection, Schmitt will also use the camera pod which allows participants to see and communicate verbally with one another during portions of a class. That has been the case with the EcoFamily course in the past.

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"I will use that because it's even more engaging," she said.

After the first session in the course, families stop thinking about it being a virtual class, Schmitt said. They're at home sitting around the table eating dinner with their computer on the table for the class.

Children from families across the state and sometimes out of state look forward to being able to interact with one another, she said.

Upcoming classes this winter include:

  • Eating Well, Moving More — A four-part series learning about the DASH eating plan show to lower high blood pressure, weight and risk for heart disease. Feb. 16, 23, March 2, 9.
  • Just A Bite — An online class for childcare providers regarding food allergies. End of January, date to be determined.
  • More Month Than Money — First Monday of each month.
  • Reclaim Your Holidays — A two part-series for after a holiday of over-eating and over-spending. Jan. 20 and 27.
  • Tips for Losing Weight and Keeping it Off — Third Monday of each month.
  • EcoFamily — Learn how your family can live sustainably. Jan. 15, 22, 29, Feb. 12, 26, Mar. 12, 26.

Classes are held from 6 to 8 p.m. Fees vary but range from $5 per $15 per night for most courses. For more information, contact the local county extension office, Schmitt said. No one is excluded from participating for financial reasons. The Cerro Gordo Extension office may be reached at 641-512-0650.

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