Today, I start a new class Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization, offered online through Coursera by the University of Pennsylvania. I am excited about it, since ancient near eastern history is an interest of mine. This will be my second online course. Last month I took a four week Coursera course on Graphic Design, offered by California Institute of the Arts. It was the first of a four-course certificate program. I was able to increase my knowledge of graphic design, but the biggest learning experience was having to actually draw something and have it critiqued by fellow students. I hadn’t had to draw anything other than an organization chart or flow chart since I was in grade school!
One of the great things about being retired is having time to pursue interests we couldn’t fit in to our busy lives before. Learning new things is a great way to fill our time with activities we enjoy, and it is also a way to keep the brain cells active and growing, as a defense against dementia. I think I gained a few little gray cells with the Graphic Design course!
Many organizations now offer recreational learning opportunities for older adults, labeled Life Long Learning (as opposed to job or career training courses). They offer courses in their communities, both academically based and individually. Colleges may offer non-credit continuing education courses or they may open auditing seats in their regular for-credit courses. Community colleges may have special free tuition programs for older adults. The Osher Foundation for Life Long Learning funds courses through colleges and universities. You can find a list of them at http://www.osherfoundation.org/index.php?olli_list. Other places to look for courses are senior centers, arts organizations and recreation departments. Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, was a pioneer in lifelong learning, offered in the context of travel. Some years ago, I took a course at Oxford on Norman Architecture. It was an incredible experience, studying in the halls of Kings College Oxford! Don’t write off courses that are not taught by university professors. Non-academics with an abiding interest in and enthusiasm for a particular topic can give you an in depth and enjoyable experience, and a perspective gained outside of the academic world.
If you don’t have lifelong learning options near you, there are online courses galore! And if you think that you can’t manage an online course, well, that is your first learning opportunity. And it is one that will open many doors for you – beyond what you can imagine.
First, there are MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. Initially, these were offered by major universities, and were online versions of for-credit courses that they already offered. More recently, other nonprofit and for profit companies have gotten into the online education business, and the formats have become more varied. Many of these courses are free. If you want college credit or a certificate, there is a fee, and more stringent controls are in place to assure that the registered course taker is the person actually completing the assignments. Some of the companies facilitating courses are EdX, and Coursera. Udacity offers technical courses. You can find listings of MOOC courses offered currently at https://www.mooc-list.com/. Another site is https://www.ed2go.com/, which provides online courses offered by many local organizations and schools. It is more weighted toward professional courses, but you might find something of interest there, perhaps less expensively than your local organization charges for the same course.
Other organizations also offer short courses on a wide variety of topics. My favorite is Udemy, where my own course Your Lifestyle in Retirement: An Introduction resides. Another one is Lynda. These two sites offer a lot of technical, job-related courses, but there is a huge variety of topics offered, and a wide range of teaching styles. Some courses are free; others have a very small fee. I learned a lot about video production and editing through the Udemy’s teacher training courses. Another learning curve!
So! See you in class?