By Pamela Dean

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) to implement distance learning, staff running the University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) had to rethink how to offer programing through the rest of the spring semester.

Aimed at adults 50 and over, OLLI offers intellectually stimulating four-to-eight week college-level, in-person courses on a variety of topics without the burden of homework, tests or grades.

According to OLLI Director Daniel Banyai, requests were received from many OLLI members to continue programming. One such request came from Thousand Oaks resident Millie Rathburn who has been taking OLLI classes since 2005 and was very concerned when classes were initially canceled.

In response, staff put together five virtual classes now offered free of charge to anyone via Zoom. Topics include baroque art, music in film, history of Southern California architectural styles, history of cinema and the psychological dimensions of climate change. Each class meets once a week for seven weeks. Classes are also available online for anyone who misses the live presentation.

“I was excited when we were advised several of our classes would be offered with the Zoom format,” says Rathburn. “I was also pleased the classes were being offered for free this session as it likely meant more of our OLLI members would be able to attend.”

In order to make sure all participants were comfortable using the Zoom platform, OLLI staff provided training to more than 400 students.

“At first I was a little apprehensive Zoom might be difficult to understand and implement,” Rathburn explains. “The preliminary sessions Jerry Clifford (Physics Lecturer), Daniel Banyai and Michael Trainor (OLLI Program Coordinator) offered were excellent and solved that concern.”

Rathburn says she is really enjoying the new format.

“I feel like I'm sitting in the front row in the OLLI classroom. Not only can I hear the instructor well and clearly view the slide presentations, I can now see some of my fellow classmates without spinning my head in class.”

According to Banyai, the response to the virtual programming has been remarkable.

“We had around 230 participants in the first week alone,” he explains. “We have some amazing instructors that are teaching with really interesting backgrounds. Anyone in the community can take these classes. We even have a student taking classes from New Jersey.”

“Having these classes available during this home-quarantine time has been an incredible opportunity,” adds Rathburn. “It provides a sense of normalcy and an escape from the never-ending news presentations. We greatly appreciate the efforts of the instructors and the staff at Channel Islands for giving us the continued gift of staying involved and active.”

For more information contact the OLLI team at olli@csuci.edu. Classes are available to the community on the OLLI website for anyone who can’t make a live lecture.

Back to Top ↑