The value of learningApr 24, 2018 02:27PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The University of Delaware is viewed by many in Delaware and throughout the region as a place where teenagers and twenty-somethings earn degrees.
It actually offers a lot more through its Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS) offerings, according to Steven M. Kendus, the manager of marketing and communications for Professional and Continuing Studies. He would like everyone to know there are classes and programs for children as young as 4, as well as for people in their 80s and older. They might be considered non-traditional learners, but they are important to the University of Delaware.
Dr. Jim Broomall, Associate Vice Provost For Professional and Continuing Studies and Online Initiatives, said that the division has been around since 1923, but has grown considerably since the mid-1970s. According to the university’s 2017 impact report, the PCS impacted almost 17,000 learners. While most were seeking credit, there were about 2,000 non-credit students. There were also more than 3,700 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) members.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is designed for people over 50, and there are locations in Wilmington, Dover, and Lewes/Oceanview. According to Kendus, it is the second biggest Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the country, and there are more than 131 throughout the United States.
Originally established in 1980 as the Academy of Lifelong Learning, OLLI offers hundreds of courses to its thousands of members, who pay an annual membership fee. There are classes in 25 subjects, including languages, music, art, history, religion, information technology and literature. There are also courses about planning for retirement.
According to Kendus and Broomall, continuing education is very important to retirees, and it contributes to healthy aging. The presence of OLLI in southern Delaware is a major reason people choose to retire in places like Rehoboth. It's a great way for retirees without a built-in social network to find like-minded people.
“There is a pretty large social aspect built into it, but the core is the classes,” Kendus said.
Newark resident and OLLI member Paul Hess, 73, has been in charge of OLLI’s concert band for the past 10 years and is currently the chair of the music committee. The band is comprised of about 80 individuals. Hess’ wife, Joyce, also works with the concert band and teaches a clarinet ensemble. Both Paul and Joyce Hess are graduates of the University of Delaware and worked as music educators.
Paul, who taught at Shue-Medill Middle School for 18 years, said that OLLI offers about 25 different performing ensembles, including a jazz band, a string ensemble, a rock band, a flute ensemble, and a recorder ensemble. He retired from teaching in 2007, and not too long after, he was recruited to run the concert band. The person who had been running it could not do so anymore.
At first, Paul was not sure he would be interested. “I wasn’t open to it until I saw what the band was,” he said. “Then I welcomed the opportunity.”
The music program involves about half of OLLI’s population. “The people at OLLI are amazing – they just really are,” he said. “They have diverse and interesting backgrounds.”
Joan Miller, 77, who lives in Brandywine Hundred, was the chair for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute until recently, and has been involved with the institute for 11 years. She got involved after she moved to Delaware from the New York City area, and she has been lecturing for the past six years. She has lectured on a variety of subjects, such as the history of New York City and Colonial America.
Most people who lecture also take courses, and Miller is no exception. Recently, she has been taking courses on butterflies, and the battles of Great Britain. She has also studied Latin at OLLI.
“It all depends on what I’m in the mood for,” Miller said.
There are also languages courses on German, Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, and Italian available.
Miller said that OLLI is one of the reasons she decided to retire in Delaware. She told her real estate agent that she liked learning new things, and the agent told her about what the University of Delaware had to offer. She signed up for a class before she bought her house.
OLLI offers something called Special Event Wednesdays. The events are available to all members, and they occur at the Wilmington campus at lunchtime. Miller said that the governor has spoken, and there was recently a performance by The First State Ballet Theatre. The Delaware Theatre Company has also performed.
According to Miller, those running for office frequently meet with OLLI participants. “We’re a highly intelligent and active group of people who also vote,” Miller said.
OLLI may have thousands of members, but it is always looking for more. Miller said that representatives frequently go out to community centers and churches to encourage others to join. There are grants and scholarships available to those who are not able to afford the cost of participating.
“We call OLLI the best-kept secret in Delaware,” Miller said.
In addition to keeping people over 50 active and engaged, the University of Delaware’s Professional and Continuing Studies helps those younger than “traditional” students.
For example, there are grade-appropriate reading programs designed to help children read at a higher level. Kendus said they have been increasing in popularity recently. There are programs for children as young as 4.
There are also speed reading and study skills programs for older students. Test preparation classes are offered to help high schoolers study for the SAT and ACT. High school students can even take courses to earn college credits while still in high school, and about 280 students took advantage of that opportunity in 2017. In addition, exam prep courses for the GRE, LSAT, and GMAT are offered.
The University of Delaware is also committed to making sure that people can update their skills in order to adapt to today’s constantly changing professional marketplaces. They have newly redesigned social media marketing programs. Social media courses have existed for about five years, according to Kendus, and they are constantly being updated as social media changes. The university wants to be able to help people build careers around social media.
In addition to teaching the basics of using the social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest and YouTube, the courses teach students who want to make social media a career how to build social media campaigns.
For example, the two courses teach how to measure the results of social media campaigns and how paid advertising works. The goals of the courses include gaining market share, building brand awareness, and driving engagement through the social media campaigns. The more advanced of the two courses also teaches about platforms such as Wikipedia, Houzz, FourSquare and Yelp.
In 2016, the university’s Social Media Marketing Strategy Certificate won a national award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).
One of the university’s more offbeat offerings is professional drone pilot training. According to Kendus, drone training is now required if a person wishes to use a drone for professional reasons. For example, first responders, private investigators, real estate agents, professional photographers, and construction professionals require a certification to operate a drone.
Kendus said the course actually sold out two months early. It was held in Wilmington in March, and it covered topics such as FAA basics, emergency procedures, weather, flight training, airport operations, airspace restrictions and aviation physiology.
Brian Wagner, an employee of the Belcher Roofing Corporation, participated in the two-day training in
He took the course so that he could use drones to inspect roofs, which is a great deal safer and far more cost-effective than how things have been done in the past. People do not need to go up on ladders to inspect a roof, and several roofs can be inspected at once.
He took the test to receive his certification to fly unmanned aircraft two weeks after he took the course, and he passed. He said he had been doing self-study for about a month prior to the flight training course, but the class opened his eyes and answered a lot of the questions he had. It benefited him, he said, because he likes to learn face to face.
“It was extremely positive for me, and I had a great time,” Wagner said. “The instructor was great and very knowledgeable. I took a lot away from it.”
The University of Delaware’s Professional and Continuing Studies also offers a number of courses and certificate programs for healthcare providers, including courses on healthcare risk management, occupational safety, and a RN refresher course. In fiscal year 2017, 84 students were enrolled in healthcare education courses, and there were 120 certificate program students. There were 744 conference attendees. In total, there were 948 people enrolled in their 10 programs.
Jack Berberian, who is the CEO of SecureNetMD.com, recently took the university’s Advanced Telehealth Coordinator (ATC) certificate program. The 14-week course is designed to help its students improve access to healthcare services and specialties, as well as coordinate telehealth technologies. SecureNetMD.com provides HIPAA-compliant managed information technology services to healthcare providers.
Berberian said that his company has seen many institutions that adopt Telehealth programs, but they lacked the proper procedures, training and policies necessary for their teams. He believes that the telehealth industry is about to see an explosion of services, so he took the ATC course so his company would be prepared.
He added that Carolyn Morris, the program’s instructor, has compiled a course necessary for every healthcare professional to take in order to properly implement the correct policies and procedures to establish a Telehealth program.
“The UD ATC class is a must for anyone looking to build their Telehealth team,” Berberian said. “The ATC course provided me with the knowledge and tools necessary to assist our clients with their Telehealth needs.”
The University of Delaware’s Professional and Continuing Education also offer courses and programs in data analytics, HR certification, paralegal studies, and project management.
“We are always looking for new and innovative courses, which are needed because of the evolving job market,” Kendus said. “We’re also looking for courses people want to take.”