OLLI offers remote learning experience

  • Jim Isaak presents “Analytics, Social Media and Privacy” to a combined OLLI student group in Concord and Conway. It was the first course taught to live audiences in both Concord and Conway thanks to OLLI's remote learning experience. Courtesy photo—

  • Members of OLLI in Conway joined a class in Concord thanks to the program's first-ever remote learning experience. Courtesy photo—

For the Monitor
Published: 3/1/2019 4:24:27 PM

OLLI at Granite State College, a “learning-for-the-fun-of -it” lifelong learning organization for adults 50-plus years old, comprises four separate learning sites: Concord, Manchester, Seacoast and Conway. Each site has its own volunteer leadership committees and its own curriculum committees which develop courses presented in the local area. All presenters are also volunteers, some of whom travel from site to site offering the same class to different audiences.

Members also travel from site to site; membership in OLLI entitles individuals to attend courses and events in any of the four sites, no matter which is their “home” site.

This past week, OLLI rolled out its first remote learning experience.

Jim Isaak, a veteran presenter and member, pioneered OLLI’s first course taught to live audiences in both Concord and Conway. Standing at the front of the classroom in Concord, Isaak was able to interact directly with his live Concord audience. Also, a screen at the back of the room carried a live view of the Conway audience with whom he could also interact with in real time.

Even though the school tested the technology last week, Granite State College sent an IT expert to Conway and posted another in the Concord classroom to be sure everything went just right for this first dual-site class. And it was a grand success. For Conway, 11 OLLI members got access to Isaak’s expertise, with the full classroom experience of being able to ask questions and participate in discussion.

Meanwhile neither they nor Isaak had to worry about the risk we always face in New Hampshire in February – traveling and road conditions, not to mention the two hour drive (each way) for a 90-minute class. In Concord, 13 OLLI members interacted with colleagues many had never met and probably never would under normal circumstances.

Granite State College is no stranger to remote learning techniques, having been named, for the eighth year in a row, one of the top 100 colleges for online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News & World Report. Ranking No. 76 among the 1,200 programs evaluated by the magazine, GSC also ranked No. 94 in best online graduate business programs (excluding MBA) and 47th in best online bachelor’s programs for veterans. More than 77 percent of GSC’s students take classes online.

The OLLI remote learning experience is a little different from the GSC online offerings. GSC students online courses, interacting with instructors and even classmates generally from their own at-home computers. The OLLI experiment connected students in two locations for a classroom experience guided by a single live instructor. For OLLI, the social interaction in the classroom is an important part of the overall experience in support of healthy aging. OLLI is not only about learning, but rather learning in a collegial environment, fraternizing with peers, sharing their thoughts and experiences.

Feedback from class members was positive. In the words of one of the appreciative Conway members, “What a great class and an awesome way to be able to experience the instructor ... I also look forward to more opportunities for Conway to be able to participate in classes in other OLLI areas in the future and vice versa.”

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