Feeling bored with summer already? The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Eckerd College recently announced a new All-Access Class Pass that allows unrestricted participation in its online, non-credit classes and activities scheduled for Summer 2020 (July-August).
The program – described as “One Price. One Registration. Unlimited Learning” – offers 31 courses as well as social activities that folks can participate in from their own home using Zoom.
“The single fee is a good deal if you are attending a number of classes,” says OLLI member Ken Salak, noting that a typical course costs $10 for members and $15 for non-members. He adds, “It also makes class registration easier.”
“As I see it, the single registration is a real bargain for all and any classes,” says Angela Baisley, another member who is also part of OLLI’s Curriculum Committee. “The offerings are widely varied – from History to Science to the Performing Arts – and attending from the comfort of our homes (where one can just step out of the shower and turn on the class!) is good.”
Since physical distancing became a necessity in early April, all OLLI courses have been using the Zoom platform.
“It stated out a little bumpy at first,” says Bob Salerno, Chair of the OLLI Curriculum Committee, and member of the advisory council. He notes that potential students and even some teachers might be reluctant to leap into e-learning for fear of technical challenges or a concern over the quality of the digital experience, versus in-person learning.
But Salerno describes a thorough preparation process to sidestep technical difficulties.
“We train the instructor ahead of time, and we generally get on with an instructor a half an hour before the course is actually delivered to make sure there aren’t any last minute hiccups.”
Salak , who’s taken several OLLI courses online already, thinks they work well.
“They have tech available if there are problems,” he says.
But how do online classes compare to “the real thing”?
Salak is quick to point out the advantage of digital learning. In-person (non-pandemic) classes have a limited number of seats, he says, and people can miss out. But, “online they can handle a larger class.”
Baisley also sees benefits to the online platform.
“Our Summer enrollment is always our lowest season, as many residents are off to summer homes and summer is still considered ‘vacation’ from regular attendance to classes,” she says. “However, by using Zoom, we’ve drawn in some of our snowbirds; we draw in attendees from as far away as Toronto for the book discussions!”
Speaking of book discussions, the OLLI program isn’t strictly limited to classes. Recognizing that school can be as much about a social experience as it is broadening intellectual horizons, the All-Access program will include social activities.
“We do Zoom Social Hours,” says Salerno, “both in the evening and they’ve done Saturday morning brunches, and we’re actually starting a trivia night!”
The price for an All-Access pass is $75 for OLLI members, $90 for non-members, and the pass must be purchased by Tuesday, July 14. Registration is now open here.