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The University of Delaware’s OLLI programs have partnered across all locations to offer more than 200 online classes this fall, with volunteer instructors drawn from the OLLI Wilmington and OLLI Kent and Sussex County programs. Pictured here are class participants in the UD OLLI Online summer pilot program’s ‘Current Economic Issues’ class taught by Martha Hays.
The University of Delaware’s OLLI programs have partnered across all locations to offer more than 200 online classes this fall, with volunteer instructors drawn from the OLLI Wilmington and OLLI Kent and Sussex County programs. Pictured here are class participants in the UD OLLI Online summer pilot program’s ‘Current Economic Issues’ class taught by Martha Hays.

UD’s OLLI offers all classes online in the fall

Photo by Cindy Dolan

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes offer fun learning opportunities for people age 50-plus

During the fall of 2020, the University of Delaware’s lifelong learning program for adults age 50-plus plans to hold all courses and activities online, with course topics ranging from iPhone photography to salsa dancing to genealogy. 

Classes start Tuesday, Sept. 8 and Tuesday, Oct. 20, and registration begins Monday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. Online course listings are available now.

UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes – affectionately nicknamed “OLLI” – are volunteer-based learning cooperatives for adults to take and teach classes together with no grades, exams or educational prerequisites. UD OLLI programs are located across Delaware.

Successful summer online pilot program

When UD’s on-site OLLI programs were put on hold this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff and instructors moved quickly to launch an online program. This summer, the UD OLLI Online pilot program enrolled nearly 750 participants in over 40 online courses and activities.

“I felt like a kid going into my favorite candy shop as I turned on my computer and signed in for my first OLLI class since March,” said Sue Dagenais, a retired educator and OLLI member from New Castle County. “I was so excited to be with old friends and to take classes of such interest to me.”

OLLI’s summer online offerings included the hugely popular Movies and Opera class taught by retired UD professor Larry Peterson and Photographic Conservation with Winterthur taught by retired UD professor Rebecca Worley with Debra Hess Norris, world-renowned conservator and UD’s Unidel Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts.

OLLI classes translate to online format

The videoconferencing format was new to some OLLI participants, but instructors and students adapted quickly, crediting OLLI staff and volunteers for providing the needed technical support and virtual hand-holding.

“Being technically savvy may not be high on some of our resumes,” said Karen Schaub, who usually participates in both the OLLI Kent County and Sussex County programs. “But we are a resilient group of learners. We rolled up our sleeves, put on our reading glasses and began a new learning opportunity. Soon instructors were sharing their screens for slideshows and videos, creating breakout rooms for group discussions and doing what they enjoy, which is sharing their passions.”

“The quality of the classes has not changed,” said Craig Lewis, retired engineer and OLLI instructor. “The content and presenter effectiveness are the same, possibly slightly better, due to everyone now having a front-row seat.” This summer, Lewis taught an OLLI class on dinosaurs, as well as participated in five other online courses. 

“I am amazed at how much I'm enjoying the virtual interaction,” said Marge Felty, an OLLI member based in Kent County. “We're navigating new territory together and learning in the comfort of our own homes.” In addition to taking OLLI classes, Felty hosts a biweekly “Whatever Makes You Happy Hour” with fellow OLLI member Susan Watkins. Felty said the sessions have helped maintain the social connectedness that is so much a part of the OLLI program.

Registration begins Aug. 17

More than 200 UD OLLI Online courses are offered this fall in subjects like African American Literature, History and Music; Band for Beginning Players; Craft Circle, Languages (French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish); LGBT Films; Investing; Science of the Delaware Coast and Tai Chi.

Registration begins on Monday, Aug. 17 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Past OLLI membership is not required to join UD OLLI Online. OLLI gift certificates are also available. For details about UD OLLI Online, visit the UD OLLI Online website.

About OLLI at UD

UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are volunteer-based learning cooperatives for adults age 50-plus to take and teach classes together with no grades, exams or educational prerequisites. OLLI programs are located across Delaware.

The University of Delaware is proud of its history as one of the first and largest lifelong learning programs in the country. Last year, when the country’s OLLI programs reported 170,000 participants nationwide, more than 4,000 of that number were members of the Delaware programs alone. 

In Delaware and across the country, OLLI is affiliated with and receives partial support from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on higher education, lifelong learning and the arts.

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