While life inches toward a new normal in King County, for many of us, there is still a real need and desire for virtual experiences. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington is a fully online resource full of fun and learning. Courses feature live-stream programming created for adults over the age of 50.
As the pandemic hit in 2020, OLLI-UW lost half of its membership due to cancelations. At the time, the program was only offered in person. OLLI-UW leaders responded quickly and brought all 10 of their courses online for the first time in the program’s history.
“A silver lining really emerged from this setback,” says OLLI-UW Director Natalie Lecher. The pivot to online classes enabled programs to scale from 20 people per in-person class to over 45 on Zoom. It also broadened the reach from the physical footprint of the Puget Sound to connected computers in home offices and living rooms throughout the state of Washington. Another bonus: more engagement with UW professors.
“While the in-person format meant scheduling conflicts, the flexibility of virtual meetings has meant UW professors can more easily join and lecture,” says Lecher. “This increased access to subject matter experts has really boosted the quality of our courses.”
Surprisingly, the remote format didn’t hinder the social aspect for members. In fact, according to Lecher, “For some members, the onscreen format improves socializing as the ability to hear and see one another is aided by screens and volume control.”
While no formal announcements have been made, Lecher is hopeful that in-person classes will resume in 2022, but a Zoom option “will remain forever,” Lecher says.
A new set of courses is now open for registration, including The Fight to Vote in America 2021, The 1960’s: Fracturing U.S. Historical Narratives, and Museums of New York.
OLLI-UW membership is $35, and courses range from $35–$135, with most courses costing less than $50.