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Lifelong Learning at UD – We’re Online!

Are you looking for a fun learning opportunity? With topics ranging from iPhone photography to salsa dancing to genealogy, there’s something for everyone at the University of Delaware’s lifelong learning program for adults age 50-plus. This fall, all courses are offered online, with classes starting September 8 and October 20.

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. OLLI programs are located across Delaware.

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,” says 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.”

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 assistance.

“Being technically savvy may not be high on some of our resumes,” says 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,” adds 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.” Lewis is currently teaching an OLLI class on dinosaurs as well as participating in five other online courses.

“I am amazed at how much I’m enjoying the virtual interaction,” shares 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 online ‘Whatever Makes You Happy Hour’ with fellow OLLI member Susan Watkins. “This has helped maintain the social connectedness that is so much a part of the OLLI program,” says Felty. “We are making new friends but keeping the old, as the saying goes.”

More than two hundred UD OLLI Online courses are offered this fall with examples 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 will be available in August, and prior OLLI membership is not required. OLLI gift certificates are also available. For details about UD OLLI Online, visit olli.udel.edu/fall-online.

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