Going On Line–Keeping In Touch with Those Most “At-Risk”

Nothing like trying to finish a traditional in-class course with a modified on-line presentation. I’m just dusting off those old distance learning skill sets I acquired at Northwestern University. Of the nearly 60 courses I’ve taught, a dozen of them were on-line. It will mean the 86 students that are currently enrolled in this course will need to adjust. I’m hoping they do. It will not be easy for those mature learners that are reluctant to change and closed to technology.

We are members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of California Riverside. OLLI offers educational and social networking opportunities specifically to mostly retirees. Now, participants in OLLI programs across the country have also become members of the Covid-19 At Risk Club. For us isolation replaces socialization. The impact of COVID-19 on the lives of OLLI members cannot be overstated. OLLI is an integral part of the lives of its members. For some, it provides that primary public space for socialization. Equal to expanding our collective knowledge, it provides a respite to isolation. As instructors and university administrators, we are trying to figure out methods to lessen the blow of this life altering world that we now find ourselves in. Here is the intro to a note that I sent out yesterday:

Good Afternoon Osherite:

Wow!! What a difference a week makes. Yes, that’s all its been, a week. We went from being Osher students and instructors to members of the COVID-19 “At Risk” Club. (Those under the age of 60 are not eligible). We have been requested to self-isolate, you know, shelter in place. For the ‘Young-Ins” out there, it’s more of a suggestion. Besides the washing of hands, coughing into sleeves, and maintaining a distance of six feet, they mostly just need to avoid us and congregations of greater than 10. For us Club Members, it’s all of that and more. We are to limit contact altogether, namely, isolate ourselves from nearly everyone. To one degree or another, most of us have some affinity for what this means, protracted isolation. Being alone is one thing. Being lonely is something else. For some, the thought of extended isolation may be more of an issue than the virus itself. Unfortunately, it can’t be helped. It is what it is. So, in this cautionary environment how can we shelter in place without totally being isolated?

Osher may still be able to provide some sort of intervention. Just because we have been interrupted does not mean we can’t continue our intellectual and social exchanges. I would guess that the supermajority of us participants, either as students or instructors, are a part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute because we want to be. I don’t need to go into the litany as to why. We all know why and it’s not just the programmatic offerings. It’s also about social discourse and relationships. In any event, we may at least have one option to consider; On-line learning. In what UCR calls e-learning, this system is already in place and available to students in other UCR Extension programs. If you are interested in such a suggestion, keep in mind there is more than one method in delivering an on-line program. We are also exploring other methods such as chat rooms and pod casts. We will keep working on this.

Let me know your thoughts.

Stay Well & Stay Safe

Steve Harding

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