The Ask OLLI blog is a resource for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute administrators to facilitate discussion on a variety of topics related to the creation and management of OLLI institutes nationwide.

Entries to the blog are called "posts" and can only be submitted by blog editors. Please contact Anne Cardale at the OLLI National Resource Center if you have an article suggestion for the AskOLLI editors.

Each post has a "comment" section where blog subscribers can submit their own remarks and responses to the post. A subscriber must be logged in to comment on a post. A login link is available at the bottom of the right-hand column, as well as at the end of each posting page.

Although the Ask OLLI blog is publicly viewable, commenting is closed to non-subscribers. For more information on Ask OLLI, or if you wish to create a subscriber account please contact Anne Cardale.

How do you define a special event versus a course?

Posted on January 27th, 2012 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Dee Aguilar, OLLI at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, asks OLLI:

How do you define a special event versus a course? We are seeking clarification on the distinction between a special event and a course and would like input from other OLLIs.

12 Responses to “How do you define a special event versus a course?”


  1. We consider a special event a one time/one day event. A course is a class once a week for the length of a term (4, 8 or 10 weeks long).


  2. OLLI at UNM defines a special event or a member event as raising funds or friends and members. We might have an RSVP process but we wouldn’t register members formally through the computer system. For many of these events, you don’t need to be an OLLI member to attend and we actually encourage people to bring friends.
    Classes and lectures are more formal, advertised via the catalogs and the expectation is that not only will the participant be registered as an OLLI member, but they’ll register for the course/lecture.


  3. I concur with Lucy. At OLLI Stony Brook, a Special Event is a one time/one day event, learning experience, planned by our volunteer committee. In our case, its for member’s only.
    If space becomes available, we then open it up to “family & friends”. They do not have to become a member and/or pay an “extra fee” - just the cost of the event. Each one of our “workshops” are 12-13 week sessions, following the University academic calendar.


  4. At Osher at JHU, courses are covered by the annual fee. Special events are offered several time a semester and a separate fee is charged for them.


  5. At the University of Utah special events are field trips to learn something on site. Special events are included in our basic membership fee. Occasionally there is a fee charged by the host - e.g., tea tasting. See our current offerings here: http://continue.utah.edu/osher/specialevents


  6. A course runs for the semester. A special event is a one-time event.

  7. #7 by: Lonnie Horn

    University of California Irvine
    Special events are one time/ one day events to some venue. If space is available non OLLI members may sign up. We add a small charge to the actual cost, bus, tickets etc., and use it as a fund raiser.


  8. OLLI at the Unniversity of Nevada Reno
    An event does not involve any instruction. It is a “get together.” Examples for us are our annual picnic, a spring celebration, and our winter holiday luncheon. We consider these as the “socialization” part of our mission. As in the case of the holiday luncheon which is held offsite, there may be a fee involved.

    A course is led by an instructor/facilitator who delivers information to our students.


  9. Most of our ’special events’ are one-time offerings (such as lectures, and some with book signings), free and open to the public, and of a nature that they are likely to attract a larger/wider audience than just Osher members. Because these are free public events they are placed in Richmond area community calendars at no cost to us, so we benefit from the free publicity. We also use ’special events’ to cover our trips (which have fees) and our annual member/guest back to school mixer (free food/drinks/entertainment).


  10. At present, special events are whatever doesn’t fit in the categories of courses and ED-ventures (out of classroom learning experiences). Some events that we classify as “special events” are new term kickoffs (instructor showcases, etc…), annual meeting, celebrating special days (e.g. International Women’s Day) and volunteer appreciation/recognition events.

    We used to have stand alone socials but have found we have more participation if we schedule a social component (lunch, dinner, snacks) in conjunction with an ED-venture.

  11. #11 by: Michael Smith

    The Curriculum Committee of the OLLI at the U of Kentucky describes special events thus:
    A special event is a one-time, stand-alone presentation that is often independent of the normal semester scheduling. We spotlight special events and may open them to non-OLLI members. Among our special events are Saturday Seminars that feature special speakers, and co-hosted musical concerts.


  12. Ruth Flexman

    At Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware in Wilmington we offer about 240 courses each 14 week semester. For a course, the instructor submits a course proposal including the name and description of the course, preferences for days/time and biographical information. A syllabus is also required. The area coordinator with knowledge of the subject matter area gives initial approval and then all of the courses are approved by the Curriculum Committee. A variety of options are available for Special Events…. a celebration program and meal as for an Anniversary Celebration, a series of lectures, a single special program. A series named “Special Events” offers a different program every Wednesday during lunch.

Leave a Reply…

You must be logged in to post a comment.