Lifelong learners age 50 and older who welcome the experience of an online education are encouraged to register for courses offered through The University of Texas at El Paso‘s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) that start Monday, June 8, 2020.
OLLI teachers from around the region and, in a few cases, around the country, will offer about 35 “exciting and stimulating” courses during the next six weeks via Zoom, a distance education platform.
As an added incentive, these courses are free for OLLI members.
Oscar Estrada is among the students who looks forward to these classes. The 72-year-old retired supervisor from the Texas Department of Human Services has taken OLLI courses for four years. He said he tries to take as many liberal arts courses as possible to make up for all the classes he did not have time for as he pursued his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UTEP in 1972.
As the West Side resident learned more about the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to drop out of the first spring 2020 session because he had underlying health conditions. He said he was relieved to learn that OLLI leaders decided to offer its second spring session online.
“I enjoyed my face-to-face classes, but I was surprised at the degree of enjoyment that I got from the online classes,” said Estrada, who sets up his laptop in his living room turned classroom. His voice became a little more animated as he rattled off his summer course list that included philosophy, travelogues, and a self-paced course about voting. “I encourage others to enroll.”
Organizers have included a live-lecture series tied to Ken Burns documentaries about baseball, the Dust Bowl, country music, Prohibition, and the Roosevelts; and an “Around the World” travel series that will include “stops” in India, Mexico, the Dutch West Indies, the Czech Republic and the Galapagos Islands. There also will be self-paced courses about the Civil War, space travel and clean energy, as well as pre-recorded weekly discussions about music, cooking and architecture.
Additionally, OLLI students can listen to a few livestreamed courses offered through the national Osher Network, which is made up of 124 OLLI sites at universities throughout the country. In addition to the courses, the program offers its members daily meditations and a virtual lounge where they can gather.
Lynn Provenzano, OLLI executive director, said she was happy with her program’s summer course selection because it follows OLLI’s mission to promote health and wellness through mental, social and physical engagement.
People who want to enroll in the OLLI summer sessions can call 915-747-6280 or visit utep.edu/olli. The annual membership fees are $30 per person and $50 per household.
Provenzano said that the program would continue its online delivery in the fall 2020 semester for health and safety reasons, and that it would charge its students a $70 registration fee.
To assist with the transition, OLLI instructors offered students two weeks of Zoom training at the start of the second spring session. By the end of the six weeks, the students were comfortable with the video platform, Provenzano said.
“Zooming has given OLLI students the ability to continue to stay connected and active during this time of home sheltering,” Provenzano said.