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Lifelong Learning Demographics
Old 06-22-2013, 03:29 PM   #1
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Lifelong Learning Demographics

Since I ER'd a couple of years ago I have taken classes through our university's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and I've put on a couple of classes for them as well. The classes are held during the day and the member population is basically 50+ yrs old. We have 1600 members.

We have been trying to make sense of our demographics which is:

1600 members
70% women/30% men
80% of the men are married
90+% white
I suspect that many of the married men are spouses of women members but I don't have those stats.

We've been told that nationwide (and maybe worldwide) that Lifelong learning programs similar to ours are typically 75%women/25% men. I guess I would exclude learning through the workplace such as technical and management training. I think we are talking about 50+ and retired people.

Does anyone have any thoughts about what accounts for the skew between women and men? And then, of course, race is the next big question.

The classes are taught by university professors and grad students or experts in a field (such as music, dance, opera, etc). There are no grades but the content is substantive and geared toward a the general population. It's a well traveled population so there are classes on different cultures.

Do men just have other things to do? Are women just joiners (as my DW suggests)?

We have classes such as:
Paleontology (one of my classes)
Cases before the Supreme Court
The Obama Presidency
Latin American Cinema
Burma/Myanmar
Personalized Medicine
Reading Moby Dick
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Old 06-22-2013, 03:57 PM   #2
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Some possibilities that popped into my head:

Fewer men in that demographic, as they are starting to die off
Some men are still working, yet possibly their SAH wives are able to take the classes
Some married men have often depended on their wives for their social activities; if a man is now divorced or widowed he may not even be aware of these classes.
Classes offered are not of interest to the men in your area
Some men, being outnumbered by the women 3:1, may simply not feel comfortable attending
I've been told that stereotypically men are more purpose-driven -- they'll take a class on X if they have a reason to learn X, whereas women are more apt to take a class partly for the social aspects as well as for the potential to learn something

Another thought -- to whom and how are these classes being marketed?

omni
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Old 06-22-2013, 04:08 PM   #3
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I would add that currently about 60% of college students are female. So there are factors involved that have nothing to do with stay at home wives, age, or retirement.
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Old 06-22-2013, 04:22 PM   #4
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I would add that currently about 60% of college students are female. So there are factors involved that have nothing to do with stay at home wives, age, or retirement.
The member population of this Institute is 50+ and classes are held during the daytime.

omni
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Old 06-22-2013, 04:30 PM   #5
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Those are interesting stats. I just assumed it was due to women tending to be more social, and men tending to be more deceased, but omni pointed out a bunch of other variables.

OLLI sounds like it would be a good place for a single guy like me to meet some nice, mature, intellectually curious broads.
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Old 06-22-2013, 04:59 PM   #6
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The member population of this Institute is 50+ and classes are held during the daytime.

omni
I get that. The point I was making is that the gender split of 70/30 is not all that different from the gender split of regular age college students which is 60/40. That is, women are more common even at typical college age.
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:22 PM   #7
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How do people find out about these classes? Maybe more women just know that these classes are offered.
Have not seen a complete list of courses, but maybe if classes were offered in things like gardening, composting, car maintenance, or personal finance then more men would attend.
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:23 PM   #8
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I guess I could look at the specific ratios for our region. Also look at university vs community college enrollment. Lifelong learning might be more like community college. But are the same cultural factors at work here? If that M/F ratio wasn't true when we were younger why would it be true now?
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:31 PM   #9
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How do people find out about these classes? Maybe more women just know that these classes are offered.
Have not seen a complete list of courses, but maybe if classes were offered in things like gardening, composting, car maintenance, or personal finance then more men would attend.
We are trying to be a little more collegiate about the classes rather than the classes being entertainment/recreation. We are still an integral part of the university which is exploring how it should serve people throughout their lives. Kind of like joining a book club to read the classics vs romance novels. But you bring up a point about what kind of classes men might be interested rather than women. We do notice an increase in the ratio of men who have taken science classes.

Maybe it would track along the lines of likes/dislikes in reading, TV, movies, etc. After all, it is our free time we are talking about. We are not pursuing a career. I would hate to think that all men are interested in are say, sports, though. A class on the sociology of sports is a possible idea.
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:37 PM   #10
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How do people find out about these classes? Maybe more women just know that these classes are offered.
I know it is on-line and in some of the university calendars. We also have booths at street fares and brochures that get put out at various places. At least with Osher programs, there are also about 100 of these programs in all 50 states so there is some word of mouth effect. There may be similar programs through Meetup.com. We are working on this angle.

With 1600 members (and a 20% increase this past year) we have pretty large numbers to conclude we are getting wide notice in the area. I suggested we look at the membership profiles in Meetup groups to get some idea about what people are doing.
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:38 PM   #11
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OLLI sounds like it would be a good place for a single guy like me to meet some nice, mature, intellectually curious broads.
You would think so . . .
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:44 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
Some possibilities that popped into my head:

Fewer men in that demographic, as they are starting to die off
Some men are still working, yet possibly their SAH wives are able to take the classes
Some married men have often depended on their wives for their social activities; if a man is now divorced or widowed he may not even be aware of these classes.
Classes offered are not of interest to the men in your area
Some men, being outnumbered by the women 3:1, may simply not feel comfortable attending
I've been told that stereotypically men are more purpose-driven -- they'll take a class on X if they have a reason to learn X, whereas women are more apt to take a class partly for the social aspects as well as for the potential to learn something

Another thought -- to whom and how are these classes being marketed?

omni
Another stat: 25% of our men members are still working. I don't know about the stats for women.

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I've been told that stereotypically men are more purpose-driven -- they'll take a class on X if they have a reason to learn X, whereas women are more apt to take a class partly for the social aspects as well as for the potential to learn something
I think there is a lot of truth in this. I also suggested we look to see if there is any kind of correlation with the types of careers our members have lived. That might also lead us to your point on this.
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:55 PM   #13
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I guess I could look at the specific ratios for our region. Also look at university vs community college enrollment. Lifelong learning might be more like community college. But are the same cultural factors at work here? If that M/F ratio wasn't true when we were younger why would it be true now?
As I posted, the female male ratio in college overall is about 60/40. So at least part of the explanation has nothing to do with women being more available during the day or things specific to older age.

My own feeling is that women as a group are a bit more likely to like learning through attending classes whether at 20 or 60. So are more likely to attend classes at any age. I would think most of the age spread at older ages reflects there being more healthy women at those ages than healthy men.
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Old 06-22-2013, 06:25 PM   #14
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martyp,

My experience with OLLI.

I love lectures and classes of all types, so I thought/hoped OLLI might become a new fav for me.

I live about 15 miles from an OLLI. I looked them up online once, as I wanted to check out their offerings. (BTW, I only found out about OLLI from finding an brochure at my local library. Whatever other marketing is done by OLLI, if any, I've never seen.)

I tried going online just for a preliminary registration and I could never get it completed. Something was seriously messed up with it. I called and left a message and was playing phone tag with someone in the office. I finally gave up as it was not that important to me.

I did notice that a lot of classes here seem to fill up fast. Other classes consist of multiple sessions which precluded my attendance as I take some extended trips during the "school year". Many other classes simply weren't of interest to me.

I also travel for extended periods in the winter which is right when the OLLI lectures are offered.

I'm a female BTW, but similar issues might deter men from attending.

omni
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Old 06-22-2013, 06:40 PM   #15
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I tried going online just for a preliminary registration and I could never get it completed. Something was seriously messed up with it. I called and left a message and was playing phone tag with someone in the office. I finally gave up as it was not that important to me.

I did notice that a lot of classes here seem to fill up fast. Other classes consist of multiple sessions which precluded my attendance as I take some extended trips during the "school year". Many other classes simply weren't of interest to me.

I also travel for extended periods in the winter which is right when the OLLI lectures are offered.

I'm a female BTW, but similar issues might deter men from attending.

omni
I can't speak for any particular OLLI's on-line computer support. Each OLLI is self supporting so they have to balance the amount of staff they can afford with the fees and expenses of putting on the classes. Our OLLI has 5 staff members for 1600 members.

Even on this board you can see that there are a fraction of ER's that take to traveling extensively. This can definitely interfere with a calendar like OLLI. As I said, we have a well traveled membership. I took a class in cross cultural communications from a former director of the Univ. International House. Fascinating class and most of the class was extremely well traveled. Some of the members had been to more than 25 different countries.

We have some very popular classes that fill up early and we have some small workshop classes that are limited in enrollment. We have 20+ class/workshops in each of the Fall, Winter, and Spring sessions with about 5 more in the summer. Plenty of choices but obviously there might be other areas where we could offer classes that might draw a different demographic. I am on the curriculum committee. Quite of few people who want to teach are rejected because we are trying to keep the course quality high.
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Old 06-22-2013, 06:46 PM   #16
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My own feeling is that women as a group are a bit more likely to like learning through attending classes whether at 20 or 60.
The difference between men and women. It may be that our stats are close enough to reality that there isn't much we can do about it or should do about it. Just trying to find out . . .
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Old 06-22-2013, 10:56 PM   #17
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My own feeling is that women as a group are a bit more likely to like learning through attending classes whether at 20 or 60. So are more likely to attend classes at any age. I would think most of the age spread at older ages reflects there being more healthy women at those ages than healthy men.
I would agree and add my general observation that women are more likely to lean towards the esoteric while men, especially as they grow older, seem to be more interested in the here and now, and practicality. Of course, in the age group described, there is a greater likelyhood that there were more stay at home moms... more likely to have been exposed to reading and with a wider range of interests than the working man.
... but who knows?

As an aside... Bernard Osher graduated from my college exactly 10 years to the day, before i did. His intellectual curiosity rubbed off on me, but, unfortunately his business acumen did not. The college probably won't name a building after me. He has given nearly a billion dollars to the arts, education and social services.

Since we're pretty far from any OLLI classes, we've decided to go for MOOC's. http://www.alternet.org/education/wh...ocs?paging=off
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:21 AM   #18
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OLLI sounds like it would be a good place for a single guy like me to meet some nice, mature, intellectually curious broads.
LOL. When I read the stats I thought the same thing. That seems like pretty much why most guys do anything in the teens and twenties. But then, gym classes of all ages are filled with women with only a handful of men so the single guys are clearly not taking advantage. I guess women are just more sociable in general and enjoy group activities more than men.
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Old 06-23-2013, 10:38 AM   #19
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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.

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. 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.

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.
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Old 06-23-2013, 10:54 AM   #20
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LOL. When I read the stats I thought the same thing. That seems like pretty much why most guys do anything in the teens and twenties. But then, gym classes of all ages are filled with women with only a handful of men so the single guys are clearly not taking advantage. I guess women are just more sociable in general and enjoy group activities more than men.
Or maybe these activities are occurring during mandatory sports watching time? 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. But, if I was single and a buddy said there were a lot of single good looking ladies, let's go and act like we like to learn to "get to know them", that may get me in the door.
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