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Learning together: Shepherd offers free online Lifelong Learning courses to the community
March 27, 2020

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SHEPHERDSTOWN -- Shepherd University's physical closure for the 2019-2020 school year, while necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, left its Lifelong Learning program without meeting spaces for in-person classes. Then, after Governor Jim Justice's Stay at Home Order took effect on Tuesday night, the possibility of holding a traditional Lifelong Learning season became impossible, as the order banned the gathering of groups of people for nonessential services.

However, according to Lifelong Learning instructor Sheila Vertino, the courses are far from nonessential for many attendees.

"I think it's a way to stay fresh and to stay energized and intellectually stimulated. And, also, there is the element of social interaction," Vertino said.

When the instructors and staff members involved in the Lifelong Learning program realized at a group meeting a few weeks ago that the pandemic could lead to the school being closed, Vertino said many of them disliked the idea of completely canceling the semester. Thanks to many of the program's instructors being current or former Shepherd University professors, they suggested the program consider using the university's distance learning technology, the ZOOM software platform.

"It is virtual, but you'll be able to have interactions with people who you can see live. You get to see these other people live and have these conversations. That's a really important thing right now, to have that intellectual and emotional connection," Vertino said, mentioning students and instructors alike are being walked through the use of the platform with the help of Steve Ayraud, who usually acts as the classroom assistant coordinator.

While the group's trips will have to be put on hold, due to the Stay at Home Order, a number of the previously advertised courses for the spring semester will be offered via ZOOM. And, because the platform does not have a small limit to the number of people who can attend a class, the Lifelong Learning program has decided to make its courses available to the public for free.

"People who are curious about the Lifelong Learning experience can try it out for free, this one time," Vertino said. "We thought it would be a nice good-will gesture to offer this to be available to the community."

Some of the classes have already held their first meeting, but as the meetings will be held weekly for eight weeks, Vertino said new attendees are more than welcome to join any of the classes being offered this semester. The start dates and course detrails are listed below.

March 24: 8:30-10 a.m., Cafe Society discussion about contemporary social and political issues with Mike Austin and Jim Bowen.

March 25: 3:30-5 p.m., Election 2020 with Daniel Bennett.

March 26: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Current International Issues Discussion Group with Fred Turco.

April 1: 8:30-10 a.m., Jesus (and Paul) Before Christianity, Part 2 with Randy Tremba, who will examine the scriptural foundations of the original "Jesus Movement" and see how it went awry; 10:15-11:45 a.m. Psychology for Today with Dr. Marty Amerikaner, who will offer insights into protecting mental health during the COVID-19 crisis; 1:45-3:15 p.m., Encounters with the Constitution with Raymond Smock, who will take a broad look at the story of the U.S. Constitution from its drafting in 1787 to the impeachment of President Trump; and 3:30-5 p.m., Short Stories and Poetry: Genres of Focus for the Head and Heart with Roger Bernstein offering a discussion of masterful stories and lyric poems and exploring what is working to convey powerful moments of insight into human experience.

April 2: 9-10:30 a.m., 21st Century Wonders in Science and Technology with Steve Bartlett offering an overview of current topics exploring different areas of modern technological and scientific research and their impact on our everyday world, such as artificial intelligence, black holes, stem cells, and dark matter.

April 16: 3:30-5 p.m., Six Significant Union Strikes with John Case hosting a discussion of six labor strikes that illustrate key historical and social turning points in U.S. economic and labor history, some for good, some for ill, with plenty of references for the challenges of today.

For more information, contact Lifelong Learning Director Karen Rice at krice@shepherd.edu. To keep up with other courses that may be offered, visit the Lifelong Learning Facebook page.

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