Bridgewater State Online College Helping Seniors Connect and Learn During Pandemic

BRIDGEWATER – With many seniors isolating themselves at home with the coronavirus pandemic, Bridgewater State University’s Senior College program has given them an outlet for socialization and learning while being stuck inside .

The program, aimed at providing low-cost classes to seniors in the community, celebrates one year in September. While classes were previously held at the university and community spaces like the Bridgewater Public Library, the program’s spring semester classes have been moved to an online-only format via Zoom from March due to the pandemic, said program director Jennifer Reid.

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“Instead of canceling out entirely and turning everyone down, we really worked collaboratively with our attendees,” Reid said. “There was a lot of willingness and eagerness to go online, so we ended up moving our program online last spring with six classes hosted through Zoom. “

Reid said she was surprised at how quickly participants got used to using Zoom, and these six classes served as a test pilot to move all classes online in the fall, Reid said. The decision to continue the program online was a big one for participants typically aged 60 to 70, with some participants even being 80 and 90, she said.

“Seniors in particular need to be very careful and distance themselves from others socially and physically, so it’s important for their learning and mental health, but it’s also important for their social health,” Reid said. “When we enter Zoom, we don’t just start the course. We all hit it off a few minutes earlier and we’re all checking in with each other… There’s this other important part of having a way to see people on the screen and connect to each other as friends.

The program began with a total of eight courses spread over two six-week semesters in the fall of 2019, but a year later the program has nearly quadrupled, offering 28 courses lasting approximately four weeks each, according to the course, throughout the fall.

A total of 12 courses will be available from September including: a ten week course on the upcoming elections and the 2020 electoral process, leadership exploration, political philosophies, the United States of the 1960s, research genealogy, the safe return to world travel, blogging, Angela Davis and how her activism influenced current movements like Black Lives Matter, cross-cultural communication, healthy eating, how the wolf evolved into the modern dog and the personality and me.

Other courses starting in October will include topics such as: cybersecurity and information security, history and cultural influence of Chinese folk dance, a four-week course on the 2020 elections, economics, holistic well-being, pursuit of genealogical research, the Olympics, deja -vu and mind tricks, Microsoft Excel, media, performance-related identity, ancient Egypt, the Second World War and several subjects on American history.

A special course, said Reid, is “Marine Conservation Challenges” starting in November, taught by internationally renowned marine biologist Andrea Bogomolni, who has taught at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“You couldn’t really pay to have a session with her the other way around and be able to have our elders have this really intimate class with her, that’s such an honor,” said Reid.

With the move online and the expanded program offerings, other changes come along as well. Previously, due to the limited physical space where classes met, the number of participants and the time available to meet was limited, which is an issue that was eliminated by moving online, she said. declared.

“The good thing about being online is that we are totally flexible in the sense that we don’t have to worry about having a room at the library and having the class at those. specific times, ”Reid said. “There really is something that would work for everyone.”

Course registration has remained the same at $ 55 per attendee, but instead of that fee being capped at three classes, Reid said they now allow attendees to take as many classes as they want for one. flat rate, which people who register are already benefiting from.

“So far we have about 60 people signed up and we have people signing up for four or five courses,” she said. “… The good thing is that I don’t expect a class to be extremely large.” I think we’ll end up with 25-30 max in some classes, and some classes are more popular than others. Some will probably have 10 people in them. “

And while there is no deadline for registering for classes, Reid encourages those interested in attending to register as soon as possible so that program officials can accurately plan class sizes and classes. registrations. The college also offers group tutorials to help participants learn how to use Zoom, although one-on-one assistance is also available, Reid added.

“The most important thing I like to communicate to people when I talk about Senior College is learning, the rigor is there academically in these programs and our seniors are incredibly engaged in the learning, but really the most important thing is just socializing and being able to see other humans, whether it’s through a screen or in person, ”she said. “It was really lovely. People recognize my setup and the dog and we get to know each other, I think even better, because you see someone in their own environment.”

More information about Bridgewater State University Senior College, including course descriptions and how to apply, can be found at Editor Corlyn Voorhees can be contacted at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @corlyn_ENT.

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