Computer Literacy Classes for Seniors Taught by Volunteers at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on Campus
A beginning computer course for seniors titled, “How Do You Turn This Computer On?” is currently being offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in the College of Extended and International Education (CEIE) at California State University, Dominguez Hills. The course, which is taught by volunteer instructors from among the university’s staff along with a longtime OLLI student, focuses on computer basics such as word processing, e-mail communications, and navigating the Internet.
According to Jim Bouchard, senior program development specialist and OLLI coordinator, a second section had to be offered after the course began on March 12 due to an overwhelming demand that surpassed the classroom’s 18 workstations. Openings are still available at press time for the additional eight-week class, which begins on Wednesday, April 1. Students must be a member of OLLI to take the class. Cost is $30 plus the purchase of an annual OLLI membership of $30 which includes two lecture series for no additional charge.
Carol Johnson, a long-time OLLI student who once worked for the Rand Corporation teaches the class assisted by university staff members including Stewart Baker, web services and reference librarian; Caroline Bordinaro, reference librarian and information literacy coordinator; Wei Ma, electronic resources management and reference librarian; and Iris Jonas, specialist, Accounts Payable.
Jonas notes that seniors are interested in learning more about computers and says that an expansion of that knowledge would encourage more activity.
“I think if they get to know more about what they could do with a computer it would surely spark more interest,” she says. “In my experience of working with the seniors, they are eager and curious to learn more about computers. It can be a little intimidating, especially if they have no experience. Some are not so familiar with computers at all, and a few are familiar with e-mails and surfing the Internet.”
Johnson says that in the last 10 years, she has seen senior use of the Internet increase through the example of her fellow OLLI students, 80 percent of whom now have e-mail addresses. While the students use e-mail groups to communicate amongst themselves, to discuss academic subjects, and may even have their own web pages, she says that their technical knowledge could use some enhancement.
“They can use e-mail and such, but know almost no terminology,” she says. “If I ask what word processor they use, they ask ‘What is a word processor?’”
Baker reinforces the fact that seniors are limited in their scope of computer knowledge, only learning by experience what they need in order to do what they want to do.
“My grandmother, who is in her 80s, is able to use computers at her public library to check e-mail once a week, but that's all she knows how to do,” he says. “I don't think she considers herself computer literate by any means, and she has only learned to do that within the past year. She uses the computer solely for the purpose of keeping in touch with people, although she still uses the telephone much more than that.”
An OLLI open house will be held on Tuesday, April 21 in the CEIE auditorium, EE1213, 1:30 - 3:30. To register for a class, contact (310) 243-3741. For more information on courses offered by OLLI, click here.
- Joanie Harmon