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Curiosity never stops: OLLI quickly adapts to transition to remote learning

OLLI Art student, Mary Wolf in class on Thursday morning, June 27, 2019

OLLI art student Mary Wolf.

Apr 29, 2020
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The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at University of the Pacific has adapted to the realities of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by continuing to serve its mostly 50-year-old-plus members with a toned-down but significant array of online learning opportunities.

In doing so, OLLI is serving a heightened purpose, said program director Jennifer Juanitas.

“We have a vibrant, outgoing membership. But there is no doubt the coronavirus situation has impacted some seniors,” Juanitas said. “Isolation, loneliness and depression are concerns. It can be very positive to have consistent interaction with others.”

OLLI always has an ambitious and varied set of programs and events. The schedule starts in the fall and mirrors Pacific’s academic calendar. Many OLLI events happened as scheduled before the virus caused Juanitas and her staff to move some offerings online.

“We are one of 124 OLLIs in the country, and some of them had to shut down operations,” Juanitas said. “We did not want to do that. We knew there were classes and events that could move online and we have been pleased with the high percentage of members who have stayed with us through the changes.”

Kathy Hart, who retired in May 2019 as president of San Joaquin Delta College, had been waiting for the opportunity to join OLLI. Hart said she “could not be more impressed.”

“I wanted to join long ago, but just couldn't because of my job. I knew I would like it and was very impressed with the offerings in the catalog,” Hart said. In her first semester with OLLI, Hart attended lectures on California history and John Muir, toured a historic rural cemetery, experienced Pacific’s modernized library and learning center, went wine tasting and much more.

“Then came the announcement that we could no longer meet in person. At that point I figured that we would be probably just be out of luck,” Hart said. “But thanks to Jennifer Juanitas, our fantastic and flexible program director, and Joanna Linkemyer, the program's administrative assistant, we learned that they were going to continue some classes. And the quality has been as good in every way as the in-person classes.”

Juanitas credits the lecturers and instructors for quickly adapting. Almost all of the lecture series remains intact, and some speakers have added talks.

Here is how OLLI at Pacific has adapted:

  • The popular lecture series continues each Monday at 3:30 p.m. To get updates, you must be on the email list of approximately 1,700 people. If you want to be added, email
  • A number of arts classes, taught by OLLI art instructor Deanna Hunt, were moved online and proved successful with OLLI members doing artistic work in their homes.
  • Make-up dates will be set for the EdVentures series.
  • Canceled events include a trip to Yosemite, a murder mystery dinner and the Summer Balance Clinic. Shared interest groups also are canceled.
  • Other classes scheduled include intermediate birding, art appreciation, Tai chi and computer labs.

“Since the university transition to remote learning, I’ve felt so grateful,” Hunt wrote in an email. “The enthusiastic and generous appreciation expressed by students for the instruction — email handouts, instructional video links, PowerPoints and live class sessions — has been a gift to me, encouraging me as I push through the challenges of the new model.”

Visit the OLLI website for more information and a schedule of events.

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