doing her homework on learning

Something about dropping my oldest child off at college this past fall put a yearning to learn in me. Maybe I just wanted to revisit my college days too. The fact that our son was attending my alma mater probably fueled that fire a bit. But, I had loved diving into a subject matter, meeting tons new people, grabbing a cup of coffee in the student union, and doing homework by the lake with a beer in hand….aahh. So I joined Pitt’s Osher program and thought I’d give it another go…this time stress free.

At Pitt, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) offers the usual Osher style five-week courses from “politics to poetry” and, because of its direct affiliation with Pitt, OLLI also allows you to take just about any Pitt undergraduate course you might prefer on the condition that the professor is amenable and space is available in their class. Courses are offered on an audit basis—so there are no degree requirements, no tests, no homework and no grades.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Because I wanted to refresh my memory about statistics (like dusting off cobwebs from a rusty file cabinet somewhere in my brain’s attic) I did the homework. I did it every week and it was often painful. I did not however humiliate myself by taking the tests. Question 1. How many standard deviations is the oldest person in the room (Rekha) from the mean?

I digress though. It was a fantastic experience and I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot:

• I had a great learning group of four students. I learned new ways of learning and I think taught them some different tricks too.

• I learned a lot about how my kids are learning, the strategies, and the tech that they use.

• My experiences in my professional life allowed me to ask and frame questions that I think were relevant for the other students in the room too. Hopefully, I wasn’t too mouthy or obnoxious with those questions.

• I loved being on a campus again. I won’t pretend I’m 18 again but it is energizing to be in a learning environment.

• Being a member of OLLI also gives you access to PittArts—a series of discounted tickets for cultural events around town. Nice bonus!

• Don’t be afraid of heading to Oakland! My class was at the Cathedral of Learning—it was so cold that first day that I parked at Soldiers and Sailors and quickly discovered that students—oh hey, that’s me!—can access discounted parking.

• OLLI offers many additional events, special lectures. I hope to continue to explore more of those opportunities.

• Lesson learned. My next class is likely going to be more along the lines of wine appreciation or history of film. No homework.


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