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Columbia Business Monthly

BMW, the Commerce Department, and the Greenville County Library join forces to offer free lessons in computer coding statewide

Dec 07, 2018 09:52AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Dustin Waters

At this moment in South Carolina, the only thing you need to receive an education in computer coding is access to the internet and a desire to learn.

Launched in September, SC Codes is an online educational platform available at sccodes.org that provides South Carolina residents with access to free tutorials in a variety of coding topics ranging from beginner to advanced. Starting as a two-year pilot project in Greenville, the initiative brought together the state Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation, BMW, and the Greenville County Public Library System.

After the lengthy test period, those in the Office of Innovation decided it was time to expand SC Codes to the entire state. That’s when Build Carolina, the nonprofit behind Greenville-based Carolina Code School, was brought in to deliver SC Codes to the wider public.

“Part of the goal with S.C. Codes as a platform is, yes, to have a curriculum and tutorials and ways for people to learn, but even more than that, it is to be a place to bring people together in local communities,” says Lelia King, executive director of Build Carolina. “My hope is now we can say we’ve got a handful of people who want to learn and are learning in your local community and we’ve got mentors in your community and locations where people want to come together and learn and connect. We are going to be able to bring that all together.”

By signing onto SC Codes and accessing the module called “Getting Started,” users can get a quick lesson in what is available on the platform and the duration of each lesson. The orientation course also serves to point users to the lessons most applicable to what they are hoping to learn. As users advance through the courses, SC Codes will begin to offer recommendations and guidance tailored specifically to their personal experience.

“For example, if a student is on the platform and completes a couple of tutorials, we’ve built in a communication system that will say, ‘Hey, tell us a bit more about what you are looking for and if you’re looking for additional education and support,’” explains King. “If they tell us ‘Hey, I’m a military veteran’ or ‘I live in this particular community,’ based on that information we can recommend they look at a certain scholarship program, internship, or company. This is still fairly new, so we are building a lot of that as we go, but so much of that information is just now being uncovered now that SC Codes is available.”

One vital component to making SC Codes a success will be ensuring that users who may feel intimidated by technology or lack guidance are able to communicate with experienced mentors. While online mentors are available through SC Codes, the ability to schedule weekly meetups or other types of gathering based around coding will help ensure that students anywhere in South Carolina can get the most out of their curriculum.

“Any citizen in our state right now who has access to the internet and a keyboard can go on to a self-led process. But to really make sure we are honing in on certain populations and parts of the community, this is where we’re really leaning on partners,” says Laura Corder, managing director of the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation. “There is a very active call to action throughout the entire state to help lead classroom and cohort-style opportunities so that it truly is accessible for everyone involved. Right now we’re looking into especially rural cities that really need this and don’t have it regularly available in their local academic setting.”

Those hoping to mentor, either online or in person, can submit their applications through the SC Codes website. The team behind SC Codes is also coordinating with community partners like Goodwill and local library systems to better serve residents. The Office of Innovation is working on achieving accreditation for the SC Codes curriculum, so that those who complete the program can receive recognition from educational institutions. But whether you are simply looking to understand the very basics of computer coding or wish to build your own applications from the ground up, SC Codes provides a cost-free opportunity to learn.

“The objective of SC Codes is to increase digital literacy for all South Carolina residents,” says Kimberly Christ, connectivity specialist with the Office of Innovation. “In order to do that, we have to reach out to communities in South Carolina that are looking for a program like this to help their local citizens improve those skills. Then we partner with organizations and businesses in the state that want to become a part of helping South Carolina citizens become more digitally literate.”
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