Assumption University WISE program engages lifelong learners during pandemic and beyond
By Jane Keller Gordon
Worcester – Art history, bird watching, and immunology are three of the many topics explored in classes offered by the Worcester Institute for Senior Education (WISE) at Assumption University. Usually held in-person, this member driven non-profit has adjusted to the COVID pandemic. WISE Director Monica Gow said, “We are now 100% remote including myself and our office manager. Offering virtual classes by Zoom has allowed us to broaden our reach to different parts of the state and beyond – South Shore, North Shore, Western Mass, Florida, Texas, Washington – we even have students from Canada.”
WISE has also been able to recruit instructors from a wider geographic area. “Most of our teachers are retired professors or experts from the private sector… These instructors have to be on their A game because in many cases our students know as much or more about the subject,” said Gow.
Founded in 1993, WISE is considered a premier lifelong learning program. While others now exist, it is the only program of its type in Worcester. Its focus is to, “…(foster) a culture of teamwork, participation, acknowledgment, respect, inclusivity and transparency.”
Gow added, “We are very focused on adding diversity to our program, in classes, members and faculty. I have been meeting with different groups throughout the community. We offer free sessions so people can try out our program, and we offer scholarships.” WISE seeks to,”… break barriers of communication among members of different communities and learn about the rich culture of diverse populations.”
Sixteen courses are offered in each of WISE’s two spring sessions (A and B) and two fall sessions (A and B). Spring and fall sessions A and B each run for 5 weeks, with 90-minute weekly classes. This year’s summer session runs from June 14 to July 15, and includes 10 courses. A link to the courses can be found at: www.assumptionwise.org/courses.
Teachers follow their own classroom management, but in every case, WISE members help moderate the online sessions. “That means WISE members master all the Zoom features, such as raising hands and managing chats,” Gow explained.
Zoom Coffee Breaks
WISE member volunteers offer Zoom support by request and during a Zoom Coffee Break on Mondays at 9:00am. During that session, members may test their Zoom skills and ask questions.
The WISE Special Guest Speaker Series – free hour long lectures – are presented two to three times a month, usually at noon on Tuesdays. This gives potential members a taste of WISE classes.
A full-year membership from July 1 to May 31 costs $265. A half-year membership at $165, is also available. Members may take as many classes as they would like, join various clubs and attend special events. Full-year members may serve elected office and vote, while half-year members may not. The Summer Session is offered for a fee/class.
Gow expects that the future of WISE is a hyflex model. She said, “I expect that we will have a demand for a virtual platform as well as in-class learning. Some members will be in the classroom, while others will be Zooming in. We’re excited about reaching a broader audience with this approach.”
How can I sign up?