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Senior College Goes Virtual

Program for lifelong learners continues to thrive online

The assumption is often made that senior citizens are not savvy when it comes to technology. However, the Bridgewater State University “Silver Bears” are proving that theory wrong.

When BSU transitioned fully to online/remote learning in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the university’s Senior College did likewise.

Despite the challenges of moving online, the program is still thriving, with seniors and instructors successfully adjusting to remote learning.

“We imagined there would be more challenges for seniors going online, but for the majority of them that hasn’t been an issue," said Jennifer Reid, director of BSU Senior College. “They have adapted and are really savvy. Their generation is so resilient.”

The program was first introduced this past fall with 105 seniors signing up to participate in a slate of seminars and courses designed to educate, and foster creativity and self-discovery. Registration numbers jumped to 160 for the spring semester.

“We have been blown away by the level of interest,” Reid said.

When word came down that things were moving online this semester, the Senior College did lose some participants, but most stayed on, including Evelyn DeLutis, ’63.

“In the midst of this pandemic, it was so exciting to know that the senior students would not lose out on the semester I had so looked forward to,” DeLutis said. “Being housebound over these weeks, it has given me something to look forward to.”

Instructors were forced to adapt as well. For some, there was some apprehension as they have only taught in person.

“In my years of teaching, interacting with students in a classroom face-to-face was so rewarding,” said Senior College instructor Michael Kryzanek. “But realizing that a personal teaching experience is just impossible I jumped on the Zoom bandwagon.”

Zoom, a company that provides videotelephony and online chat services, has become a popular platform during the pandemic for online learning and business meetings.

Reid said the feedback has been positive and seniors are grateful that BSU was able to keep the program alive during the public health crisis.

“For this population, the pandemic impacts them even more so. They perhaps are more socially distant than working-age people,” Reid said. “We knew right away we were doing to do what was necessary to get content delivered virtually to these folks.”

DeLutis is impressed the university was able to continue with the Senior College.

“With all that BSU is having to deal with, it is admirable that they did not let the program flounder,” she said.

And while he still prefers the vibrancy of the classroom, Kryzanek believes that remote learning has its merit and is happy to still be teaching.

“I firmly believe in the value of life-long learning that is taking place at BSU’s Senior College. It has been a pleasure participating in this important educational program,” he said.

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