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Does your OLLI offer computer courses?

Posted on July 30th, 2012 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Dee Aguilar, OLLI at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Asks OLLI:

If your OLLI offers computer courses, please help us by answering the following questions:

a. Who develops/provides the course curriculum?
b. Are courses taught by member volunteers?
c. How do you recruit volunteers?
d. Who trains volunteers to teach these courses?
e. How challenging is it to keep the volunteers?

May we contact you with additional questions?

8 Responses to “Does your OLLI offer computer courses?”

  1. We used to offer computer courses. They were taught by professionals. I love the idea to have volunteers teach them. If we had the luxury of our own computer lab, I’d love to have open lab time staffed by volunteers to answer questions.

  2. Hi, Dee — OLLI-USF offers a great deal of computer training. Before we became an OLLI, we were affiliated with SeniorNet, who helped us get our program up and running, and who provided us with curriculum and support for well over a decade. As of this writing, this section of our website is under construction, but you can view our course offerings here:

    a) We develop our own curriculum. We have developed some expertise over the years and have several volunteers who do this for us.
    b) Yes, all our courses are taught by volunteers.
    c) We mostly recruit volunteers from among our computer training students; sometimes, via referral from another instructor.
    d) New instructional volunteers in computer training first serve as a classroom “coach,” one of several assistants in these classrooms. This allows them to experience our pedagogy and our students prior to teaching their first class.
    e) We are fortunate that we have a long history of offering these classes; we still have several of our “founding instructors” teaching for us, and these instructors have a wonderful mutually supportive relationship.

    We are happy to answer questions and to connect you to some of our CT leaders who can fill you in on specifics! And BTW, the OLLI at Cal State Long Beach has a similar history. You might contact them directly, if they don’t respond to this query. Their website:

  3. OLLI-USF’s computer training experience goes back to our founding in 1993-1994. We were then affiliated with SeniorNet, who helped us get this program started and who provided curriculum and support to us for over a decade. About one third of our offerings are computer training, and we have an active computer training SIG that meets most months.
    a) Our faculty write most of the curriculum, with help and guidelines developed by our curriculum review team.
    b) Yes, volunteers teach these courses for us.
    c) Most volunteers are recruited through the classroom, then developed into instructors over time. Occasionally, a highly trained retiree is recruited by another instructor, but everyone goes through a process where they first function as a computer “coach” (classroom assistant) before they teach.
    d) We have a mentoring and vetting process (described in c, above) that was developed by our volunteers.
    e) We are fortunate that we have several of our founding instructors still teaching for us; the computer users’ group also functions as continuing education for instructors. They have their own self-supporting community within OLLI. Of course that takes time!

    You can view our offerings here (as of this writing, our computer training pages are under renovation, but many courses are listed)

    The OLLI at Cal State Long Beach has a similar history. You can view their course offerings here:

    Yes, please feel free to contact us for further information. I’m happy to refer you to one of our leaders in this area for specifics!

  4. Yes, we offer many computer classes. Some are taught by a retired professional, who we pay, but he’s pretty reasonable. Some are taught by members for free. All have to be offered on Fridays, because that is the only day I can get access to a lab. The instructors develop their own curriculum. We recruit volunteers the same way we do for our other classes - we find someone who has a talent/interest and we ask them. We used to use a woman who also did classes for the local senior center. She was very good and patient, but she moved. We also have free computer labs once a month. Members from our Technology Committee are there to help with specific issues our members have. Most of our members are very up on computers. In fact, we found in a recent survey that 17% have smart phones and 24% have a tablet or e-reader. Oh - and we recently approached the Geek Squad at Best Buy to lead a class for us on how to select smart phones, etc. They started with a huge price tag and we really negotiated them down.

  5. We, too, offer computer classes as well as free computer help.

    a. The volunteer instructors develop and provide the curriculum.
    b. Are courses taught by member volunteers? Some volunteer instructors are members. Others are not.
    c. How do you recruit volunteers? Curriculum team members and the OLLI Director identify and cultivate prospective instructors.
    d. Who trains volunteers to teach these courses? The volunteers tell us what they will teach. New instructors preview our computer lab prior to developing their course. They are invited back to visit the classroom prior to the start of their class.
    e. How challenging is it to keep the volunteers? Not very challenging. We have a retention rate of 75%. The 25% attrition had to do with health problems and life changes of the instructors.

  6. We offer computer classes at OLLI U of Arkansas.

    We use our professional computer trainers to offer our more advanced classes. We do not pay them, we trade them for services.

    Our iphone and ipad classes we use graduate students from the University. We do pay them. They write the curriculum - and then present it to our members.

    None of these courses are taught by members. The technology changes too quickly and they want to make sure they are up to date with the latest and greatest technology.

    Our grad students are working on iPhone and Ipad Intermediate classes for the spring of 13.

    You may contact us for more information.

  7. Hello Dee,

    My name is Kathy Winkenwerder. I am an instructor in our OLLI computer lab at CSU Long Beach. Barbara White asked me to respond to your questions.

    Curriculum: It varies. We have core classes like beginning and intermediate computer, Photoshop Elements, intro to digital photography, Windows and Mac operating system, Google and Picasa classes. We add on an intermittent basis: MS Word, Excel, social media, iPad (which has been very popular).The lab curriculum basically is formed by which instructor wants to teach what and when, although we do try to keep the core classes going. Our instructors develop their own lesson plans and other instructional material for their classes. They occasionally suggest text books for the classes.

    Instructors: We’re all volunteers. Our OLLI has only two paid employees, our executive director and our office manager.

    Training: Not much. Ours is a little like an apprenticeship program. We have a few coaches in each class in addition to the instructor. If someone seems like potential instructor material, we ask them to coach so they can see how classes are run and for us to see if they would seem to be a good fit. This seems to work fairly well because when someone volunteers to teach they have at least an interest in teaching itself as well as a certain amount of technical expertise.

    Keeping volunteers: This is a problem for us. A few years ago I ran into someone who teaches at the Fullerton OLLI computer lab. They are experiencing the same thing. As you know, in our demographic, we have a high attrition rate. As we lose instructors because of illness, death or moving on to other living arrangements, it’s getting harder and harder to replace them. We’ve tried word of mouth, newspaper articles, advertising in our OLLI publications. We’re not exactly sure why, but we’re not getting many results. As a consequence, we aren’t able to offer as many classes as we’d like because we don’t have the people to teach them. We do have university emeriti teaching here, but so far they have been interested only in teaching the lecture classes.

    Hope this information helps. If you have any other questions, please email me at

    Good luck,


  8. Ruth Flexman
    University of Delaware

    Although we have OLLI in Wilmington, Dover and Lewes locations, the information about computers refers to our largest program in Wilmington.

    Computer courses are vey popular and the offerings have changed over the years. Now we have fewer courses for beginners. More courses are being offered for Mac Computers. The requests for information about phones and iPads has grown.

    The Curriculum Committee has representatives for specific subject matter areas so the Information Technology representatives deal most directly with the course proposals and the Curriculum Committee gives final approval.

    The courses are all taught by member volunteers. They are recruited when an instructor notices an outstanding student in class or others know of a member’s expertise in computers.

    Most of our instructors are self-taught or they learn by first serving as an assistant in a course. Many of our instructors teach for years but they may teach different courses. Here are the courses offered for Fall 2012:
    Beginner: Windows XP, Windows 7
    Desktop Publishing, Digital Photo Editing, Excel. Google Cloud Computing, Windows 7, Word 2007/2010
    Excel, Ubuntu-Linux, Creating Web Pages, Windows 7, Windows Management
    Macintosh Labs
    Mac Computer Lab: Beginner, iPhoto, iWork 09:Keynote for Mac, iWork 09: Numbers for Mac, iWork 09: Pages for Mac, Mac iBooks Author, Photoshop Elements, Switching from Windows PC to Mac.

    For further information check
    My email is if you have questions.

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