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Old 06-23-2013, 02:49 PM   #21
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I have no idea as to why white students attend your classes more than black and why women attend more than men. Personally I don't see the value in stereotyping various genders or racial groups.
I don't know what to say about the term "stereotyping" but we do feel that a diversity of perspectives is one of many factors that matter in a learning environment. I asked about gender and race because there are stark differences and they are traditional categories. There are other categories that could be considered too. I gave a class on Synthetic Biology and Social Ethics. I was hoping for some anti-GMO perspective in the class but didn't get any. It would have made for a more interesting class discussion if there were different political perspectives.

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If some rigorous math and engineering classes were offered, instead of "Reading Moby Dick" and the like, maybe more people with interests and talents in these areas would be interested.
As an OLLI member who has put on a couple of science classes I try to strike a balance of presenting information to a general audience as well as providing reading resources that are a little more technical. We do, in fact, have retired doctors and scientists in our classes. I also wouldn't characterize a literature course, like "Reading Moby Dick" as any less rigorous or lightweight than a science class.

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Or, a class on some aspect of ham radio might help. A class on brewing beer might also attract people with a different set of interests.
We recently had someone propose to teach a class on the science of cooking. I think this would be great idea but he just wasn't the right person to do this class. I don't think "ham radio" would be popular in our particular city but it might be elsewhere. We do have a digital photography workshop that is limited enrollment and always fills up. I've heard that we need 25+ enrollees in a class to break even so we have to be careful about how many small classes we offer. Plus anything with equipment costs are more costly and logistically difficult with a small support staff.

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Expanding the topics as I suggest might or might not increase the numbers of men and non-white attendees, but it certainly would open the classes to those with other interests.
When considering course offerings you have to think about the audience you are targeting. Our current membership is always clamoring for more politics courses but we've resisted, in part, to provide a greater diversity of topics. Our quandary is that the current topic diversity has resulted in a particularly skewed demographic and we are not sure why that is so. As I mentioned, it is not unique to our particular program. But to the extent that it is a "problem" to be solved we are looking into it. We are not making money on this. We do want to serve the wider community more equitably. We also want to provide classes that meet the university's high standards.
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Old 06-23-2013, 02:56 PM   #22
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Or maybe these activities are occurring during mandatory sports watching time?
This may actually be a factor. As retirees we could go to day games during baseball season.


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I have completed my specialists degree, so I have been around the learning scene. I would rather take a Singapore caning than go into a classroom and have to learn something. Been there done that, because I had too, now I don't, so I wont.
That's why I am not looking for more science classes for myself. Been there done that. However, classes outside my field of expertise, i.e. non-science classes, are appealing to me. I had one emeritus physics professor in my Synthetic Biology class because it was a field of science he knew nothing about. I had an electrical engineer in the same class because his daughter was going to study biology in college and he wanted to know more about what she was interested in. However, if any classroom activity of any type is not of interest to somebody then so be it.
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Old 06-23-2013, 02:59 PM   #23
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I should add that one of the motivations for providing lifelong learning opportunities is the growing amount of evidence that continuous learning is beneficial to mental health as we grow older. So is physical exercise, diet, and good medical care. We are just doing our part.
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Old 06-23-2013, 03:01 PM   #24
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This may actually be a factor. As retirees we could go to day games during baseball season.

That's why I am not looking for more science classes for myself. Been there done that. However, classes outside my field of expertise, i.e. non-science classes, are appealing to me. I had one emeritus physics professor in my Synthetic Biology class because it was a field of science he knew nothing about. I had an electrical engineer in the same class because his daughter was going to study biology in college and he wanted to know more about what she was interested in. However, if any classroom activity of any type is not of interest to somebody then so be it.
I certainly admire anyone who enjoys learning for learning's sake, and is it in no way the fault of the learning institutions for my attitude. For me, I have had enough and am more into physical activity.
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Old 06-23-2013, 03:22 PM   #25
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Wow, I had never heard of the OLLI: The Bernard Osher Foundation | Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes

Our community college had something called the Older Adult Institute (like I'm ever taking a class that calls anyone an older adult ) but now is called Lifelong Learning Institute. I don't see anywhere that it's an Osher but the classes are five to six weeks. I've taken a lot of "regular" classes at the community college and really enjoyed the age diversity in the classes (although I see the OLLI classes seem to be open to everyone.

If you go anywhere outside of the business centers during the workday you will see mostly women out and about (this is anecdotal, just my and DH's impressions), so I'm not surprised that mostly women take classes during the day.

ETA: I just described the Osher Institutes to DH and he said he would absolutely take a class there.Right now, if they were in our area. Go figure.
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Old 06-23-2013, 04:21 PM   #26
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I certainly admire anyone who enjoys learning for learning's sake, and is it in no way the fault of the learning institutions for my attitude. For me, I have had enough and am more into physical activity.
I also joined a gym and do some light hiking.
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Old 06-23-2013, 06:53 PM   #27
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I should add that one of the motivations for providing lifelong learning opportunities is the growing amount of evidence that continuous learning is beneficial to mental health as we grow older. So is physical exercise, diet, and good medical care. We are just doing our part.
That's great; you keep at it. In Get a Life, the author asked retirees "What's the most important thing a person can do to create a happy retirement?" Over and over, the answers came back:

- Learn new things
- Develop lots of interests
- Find useful ways to connect to the world
- Cultivate important relationships
- Take steps to protect your health

I think OLLI can help with each of those, especially the first. I am still trying to decide where I will live, when I retire. One of my main criteria, though, is that it should have plenty of opportunities for lifelong learning. Every one of my top contenders have OLLIs in them.

I find it interesting that you turn some people down who want to teach classes. I suppose that is necessary. I guess I had the picture that people just volunteered to teach a class, and that was that. Do you tend to turn people down because you think the class won't attract the minimum number of students to break even?
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:49 PM   #28
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I find it interesting that you turn some people down who want to teach classes. I suppose that is necessary. I guess I had the picture that people just volunteered to teach a class, and that was that. Do you tend to turn people down because you think the class won't attract the minimum number of students to break even?
Many of the teachers are retired professors. I've been doing something a little different. I've been putting together what amounts to a speaker series. I get working professors, post-docs, and grad students to speak for 1 - 2 hrs. Usually they explore a topic by talking about current research. My job is to put together a coherent series of speakers. Some teachers are experts in their field. I just took a documentary film class taught by a local journalist/film critic who also brought in the directors of the films to answer questions about them. Some of the dance classes are taught by a local choreographer and former ballerina. That sort of thing.

Not everyone who has taught or aspires to teach makes for a compelling teacher. We screen them like any hiring process. Better to turn them down than to subject 50-100 members to 6 weeks of disorganization and boredom. The guy who wanted to teach the science of cooking was a PhD chemical engineer. He was knowledgeable about chemistry and had a passion for food and cooking but he was young and couldn't convince us that he could put together an organize talk for six 2-hr classes. We had a journalist, who covers sailing, put on a summer 4 class series on the America's Cup race (which will be held locally this year). He knew the racers, history of the race, the physics of sailing, and the business/politics of the race. Sounded like a substantive class.

We have had some classes with as few as 12 people sign up. We usually have 3-4 classes that have over 100+ people sign up. My first class had 30 people and the second class had 60 people. The workshops are 15-20 people. The big classes subsidize the small class. You just need to manage it responsibly.

We also have to consider that members pay a membership fee and then pay for the classes. They deserve to get some quality for their money. The teachers get a nominal fee for teaching (about $100/class).
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:33 PM   #29
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Interesting, thanks Marty. It is a challenge to put together that much material and keep it interesting, so I can see how you'd have to turn some aspiring teachers down. Nice of them to volunteer, though. That's essentially volunteer work, so it must kind of suck to get turned down. I understand you have to keep up the quality, though.

There are OLLIs in other parts of the country that don't have the populace that you do (Bay Area, right?), so they would have fewer people volunteering to teach, and I imagine they would be less selective in who they let behind the podium.
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:44 PM   #30
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There are OLLIs in other parts of the country that don't have the populace that you do (Bay Area, right?), so they would have fewer people volunteering to teach, and I imagine they would be less selective in who they let behind the podium.
I don't know much about the OLLI's but I suspect you are right.

UCLA has an interesting program that qualifies as lifelong learning. It's called the PLATO society

UCLA Honors Programs Academics
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Old 06-24-2013, 05:07 PM   #31
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Thanks to PBS, Science channel, and History channel, I get to explore lots of topics from the comfort of my sofa... :P
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Old 06-24-2013, 05:16 PM   #32
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These have probably been posted before but might be worth posting again, for anyone who doesn't know about free online classes:

Coursera:

https://www.coursera.org/

Udemy:

https://www.udemy.com/

Khan Academy:

Khan Academy
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Old 06-24-2013, 06:19 PM   #33
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These have probably been posted before but might be worth posting again, for anyone who doesn't know about free online classes:

Coursera:

https://www.coursera.org/

Udemy:

https://www.udemy.com/

Khan Academy:

Khan Academy
Plus:

EdX

https://www.edx.org

and lots of courses on YouTube and iTunes.

When I was w*rking I listened to dozens of courses from the Teaching Company during my 40 min commute.

http://www.thegreatcourses.com
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:00 PM   #34
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Cool, thanks for the additions. Didn't know about those.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:06 PM   #35
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I think having the time to take the classes is a factor. Some people are w*rking or too tired from it to take classes, IMO.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:21 PM   #36
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I think having the time to take the classes is a factor. Some people are w*rking or too tired from it to take classes, IMO.
25% of the men are working. I'm not sure how many are really semi-retired. But for the most part the OLLI membership is retired people.

This afternoon, I was asked to serve on their Research Committee so I may be able to look into this in more detail.
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