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Only at Osher

Members of the U community ages 50 and up embrace the switch to online learning with virtual chocolate tasting, floral arranging and much more.
Screenshot of a zoom call with 24 participants

Steve Hall teaches World War II in the Pacific to Osher members via Zoom during the Spring 2020 semester.

For students who have grown up communicating via Skype and FaceTime, logging into a class on Zoom may not come with a steep learning curve. But for the U’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which serves students ages 50 and up, there were some unique challenges when, due to COVID-19, classes moved online.

“Several of my friends were quite nervous about the new platform,” said Angie Matinkhah, an Osher member and volunteer. “But I just explained to them that it’s really easy. For some, we will talk on the phone 15 minutes before class starts so I can make sure they’re connected.”

At 60 years old, Matinkhah is retired but has very little down time. She has been taking Osher classes year-round for about three years and currently volunteers for the special events committee, planning activities for members such as trips to museums or chocolate tastings. While they can’t visit these places in person right now, they’re still finding ways to host these unique events.

“Considering we’re from a demographic that’s not very computer savvy, I’ve been very impressed with the staff, instructors and volunteers,” said Matinkhah. “Everyone has been very nimble and open minded to continue creating these experiences for the members.

We were supposed to do a floral arrangement class where we’d go pick our own flowers and then make our arrangements and initially, I thought, ‘there’s no way we can do that virtually,’” said Matinkhah. “But kudos to the instructor because we were able to deliver the vase and flowers to Osher members’ homes and we did the class via Zoom. We also did a virtual ‘Football 101’ class where some of the U football coaches got on and answered our basic football questions about the positions and what each position does. And we’ve done some cooking classes where we’ll send out the ingredient list a few days before so everyone can get the ingredients and then we cook it together.”

Within one week of making the decision to transition to virtual classes, the Osher team was up and running with 27 spring semester classes.

“I’m an old guy and computer, internet and Zoom instructions are often difficult for me to fathom,” said Stephen Hall, who teaches World War II History for Osher. “But Lauren Andersen (director of professional education and personal enrichment for Continuing Education and Community Engagement) was infinitely patient and helpful, and I soon coped. The only real challenge now is when I have my PowerPoint up, I can’t see the whole class to know if they’re laughing at my jokes!”

Matinkhah said there are even things she enjoys more about online classes, including not always having to leave home and the ease of hearing and focusing when only one person can speak at a time.

“I have really liked it and am so thankful for everyone at Osher for keeping us engaged and learning during this difficult time,” said Matinkhah.

There are special events and regular classes throughout the summer. Learn more and become an Osher member here.