Case Western Reserve University’s Siegal Lifelong Learning quickly converted its spring roster of courses and lectures to a remote-learning format to continue programming during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
Rolling out this mode of learning allows instructors to offer a live exchange of ideas on a broad range of topics from their home computer. Without the restrictions of geographic proximity, remote learning provides Siegal Lifelong Learning the opportunity to engage a national audience while still maintaining connectedness with current local participants.
While remote learning is an evolving effort, Brian Amkraut, executive director of CWRU Siegal Lifelong Learning, noted: “The majority of our instructors and students have adapted well to this new mode of teaching and learning. This transition has opened the doors for us to provide remote learning options long after the quarantine is behind us.”
The continuation of this modality will allow alumni, interested learners who are out of town, or those unable to get to classrooms to enjoy the robust selection of learning opportunities provided by Siegal.
Siegal will maintain a limited number of participants in courses that require interactive teaching and learning, however, lecture-style programming allows Siegal to “open the doors” to much larger numbers. The current “Origins Science Scholars” lecture series is hosting more than 125 participants per session, for example.
Another advantage of the transition to remote learning is the opportunity to broaden Siegal’s pool of talent beyond local faculty and experts to instructors who live outside of Northeast Ohio. Janice Vitullo, a popular instructor who recently moved from Cleveland, was able to rejoin Siegal this spring to teach two remote courses, one on “Plato’s Republic” and the other an introduction to reading Latin poetry.
“While nothing will ever take the place of teaching face-to-face, the online classes are not only a great alternative, but in some cases, even better,” Vitullo said. “In my Plato class, there are people from California, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. This never could happen otherwise. It’s great fun having people from all over the country in one class, and I think we’re all enjoying it immensely.”
Students are adapting well to the new type of learning. Following the recent course titled “Crossings: A History of the Transatlantic Passage,” student Susan Golden emailed instructor John Grabowski: “Your Zoom class is an exemplar of how creative you are as a pedagogue! Thank you for this wonderful escape from the stressful quotidian.”
“Now accessible anywhere, we are pleased to be able to offer our programming to anyone with a love of learning,” Amkraut said. “We are especially excited about CWRU alumni from around the country who have found a new way to engage with their alma mater.”
As an entrée into the innovative and engaging programming offered by Siegal Lifelong Learning, most of the single-session lectures are currently being offered for free.