Registration for University of Delaware Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs will begin Wednesday, Jan. 13, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Comprising members 50 or older, including more than 70 participants between the ages of 85 and 95, the program will offer a number of online courses this spring. Subjects include African American literature, iPhone photography, beginning band, craft circle, American Sign Language, French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, investing, quantum physics, Laurel and Hardy, computer coding, gardening, genealogy, railroad history and much more.
Spring 2021 classes start Monday, Feb. 22, and Monday, April 5, in 11-week and 5-week formats. Online course listings are available now.
The spring semester OLLI membership fee is $75, with a per-class fee of $50 or $25 for 11-week and 5-week classes, respectively. Aside from classes, additional virtual activities and benefits are free to membership-only participants.
For more information, go to olli.udel.edu/onl.
UD’s program already holds distinctions as one of the first and largest OLLI programs in the country. And now it’s one of the largest online OLLI programs, enrolling participants from 18 states.
The OLLI demographic successfully leaped to online learning when the coronavirus pandemic halted in-person classes in March. Some OLLI classes unofficially continued their discussions virtually for the rest of the spring semester. Virtual social groups enabled OLLI interactions to continue, and OLLI’s extracurricular needlecraft groups sewed masks to donate.
Almost immediately, OLLI staff and volunteers set their sights on developing and launching a fully online summer pilot program, enrolling more than 700 participants in a statewide cooperative effort. The model was carried over into the fall semester, which ultimately boasted over 1,800 enrollments and more than 200 course offerings.
The online, videoconferencing-based format was new to some OLLI participants, but instructors and students adapted quickly, crediting OLLI staff and volunteers for providing the needed technical support. OLLI staff and member-volunteers held Zoom training sessions customized for instructors and members, and persevered through many first-time challenges.
“I am amazed at how much I'm enjoying the virtual interaction,” said OLLI Kent-Sussex member Marge Felty. “We're navigating new territory together and learning in the comfort of our own homes.” In addition to taking OLLI classes, Felty hosted a biweekly Whatever Makes You Happy Hour with fellow OLLI member Susan Watkins.
OLLI participant and yoga instructor Dr. Anna Marie D'Amico said she has thoroughly enjoyed her online classes. “I must admit I am getting spoiled by the online format,” said D’Amico. “I roll out of bed 20 minutes before class time, make a cup of tea, sit down at my computer in my PJs, and I am in the classroom.”
The UD OLLI programs normally operate as largely independent locations in Wilmington, Bridgeville, Dover, Lewes and Ocean View, but joined forces in the summer to share strengths among staff, volunteers, instructors, committees and members for online programming.
For many, the OLLI online courses provided opportunities to maintain social distancing while connecting virtually with siblings, children, friends and even former roommates by enrolling and participating in online courses together.