Resolving to learn: MoBee’s Class Finder connects teachers and learners

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dee Owen launched in July 2014 as a way to connect learners and teachers with each other. (Photo by Claire Sachse)

Dee Owen launched in July 2014 as a way to connect learners and teachers with each other. (Photo by Claire Sachse)

As we turn the calendar page to a new year, our attention often turns to forming resolutions that will help us have a new perspective, feel healthier, challenge us to be and do better.

Often our resolutions involve learning a new skill or reinvigorating forgotten talents, energizing our intellectual curiosity, or simply just trying something from the bucket list.

Classes are a great way to meet the goals of our resolutions, whether taught at community colleges or universities, by experts in the field, by craftspeople in their studios and galleries, by thought leaders on a topic.  Education, in whatever form its delivered — online, in person, in a classroom, individually or in groups – is vital to a civilized society, but on a personal level, is crucial for all human endeavors, progress, and fulfillment.

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When Transylvania County native Dee Owen was going through career and personal upheaval a few years ago, she resolved to take an art class as a way of answering a personal calling to pursue sculpting. Owen had always wanted to try sculpting, so this former BMW employee who had been medically discharged from the company, went online to find a sculpting class.

She thought it would be a simple search. She Googled “sculpting class,” to no avail.

“This is stupid,” she said. “It should be so easy to find a class.”

From her frustration, however, an idea was born. After fruitlessly searching for sculpting classes, as well as other avenues for her to pursue her passions for animals and volunteering, Owen, who had no experience in web programming, decided to start a web site that would connect learners with classes, instructors with students.

The MoBee’s Class Finder website launched in the summer of 2014 after more than two years in development. Owen worked with a web developer in Greenville to create the searchable online database of classes. She used hand drawings to show the developer what she wanted the pages to look like. Owen also took advantage of business start-up advice and training from the Small Business Center at Isothermal Community College in Rutherford County.

“The site is built so that it can be used nationwide,” said Owen, but the classes that are on the site now are focused on a geographical area that includes Western North Carolina into the Chattanooga area of Tennessee and down to the Upstate of South Carolina. “Online classes offered of course can be taken from anywhere,” said Owen.

“The web site is going to be the place people will go to find a class,” said Owen. “If it’s easy enough for me to use, anyone can use it,” she added.

The website wasn’t created just to benefit a student, said Owen. There are teachers, too, who may teach a class in their studio, for example, who can use the site to market their classes. The site can take registrations and track the number of students enrolled.

Presently, basic class listings are free for the instructor to post. If the instructor or educational institution wants an enhanced listing, which includes social media links, video and photos, there is a nominal charge. Students can take advantage of all the site’s features for free. The website is searchable by topic, age level, location, and expertise level.

Owen said that the website lists many classes that are unusual and unexpected, such as how to start a catering company, scuba diving, a dance class for those with Parkinson’s disease, and zendoodling.

Navigating life as a single parent, overcoming the fear of public speaking, using coffee as an art medium, meditation, and Irish tap dancing are other classes that a student may not even know to search for, but exist, said Owen.

In addition to classes, Owen has added opportunities to connect volunteers with non-profits, and, a cause close to her heart, opportunities to help with animal welfare and rescue. She lives in Columbus with four rescue dogs.

Owen’s passion for launching the website matches the passion she has for learning.

“I struggled with learning all my life because of my dyslexia,” she said. “It makes me appreciate learning more. Lots of people take learning for granted.”

The website was not launched with the intention of turning a profit immediately, said Owen. It was more a labor of love, a way for Owen to share her passion for learning with others who want the same from life.

Who is MoBee?

The name MoBee is a nickname that Dee Owen’s former co-worker at BMW Manufacturing gave her. Before they were assigned to the same unit, others said that they would clash because their personalities were so different. With a completely different perspective on work, family and life, he still was a profound influence on her, she said, and they both learned a great deal from each other.

Why the ant and the apple?

At the top of the page on, a colorful ant and green apple core greet the site visitor.

“The apple,” said Owen, “is the symbol of education, but, it’s no good until you take a bite from it.”

The symbolism of the ant is a little more complex, but speaks to Owen’s approach to her belief in doing her part to shine a light to make a difference in the world.

When she visited the jungle in Costa Rica, she saw leaf cutter ants returning from treetops in single file each carrying little pieces of leaf they had cut from above. When they got to the ground, the ants chewed the leaf pieces into mulch. The mulch grew mushrooms, which the ants then ate. Each leaf that was turned into mulch allowed a small amount of light to reach the ground to support plant life below the tree canopy.

“The ecosystem wouldn’t survive without the ants,” said Owen.

“We all think the little things we do are insignificant, but the little things we do can make a difference. This  (the website) is my way of sharing the light,” Owen added.