By Nicole Crescenzi, Black Press Media contributor
This article was originally published on Victoria News
Some people would be intimidated by trying something new – especially in the midst of a pandemic – but that wasn't the case for senior students at the University of Victoria's continuing studies division, where a majority of students are over 55 years old.
"When the pandemic hit, we had a lot of seniors taking online courses for the first time," said Jo-Anne Clarke, dean of the division of continuing studies. "What we found, interestingly enough, was that we have a huge appetite from people who found they really enjoy learning from their own home."
Initially there were a few hitches getting started, but afterward students took off with fervor.
"With online courses you don't need to put as many caps on class sizes," Clarke said. "But some online courses are so popular that we now need to create waitlists."
For many seniors, typical class times of evenings and weekends could be difficult to get to, especially with the logistics of commuting and parking. Now, students can learn from the comfort of their own home, all while grabbing a cup of tea.
Popular programs include writing, self-publishing, art, music, digital photography, various health topics, biology, as well as courses on fungi and gardening.
"One that was popular was an interesting series called 'Digital Reactionaries.' It was about extremism in online spaces, and it looked at conspiracies," Clarke said. "Those kinds of courses do well because we have a pretty engaged senior population."
Another course that people jumped for is a new amateur landscaping and gardening program which grants students a micro certificate.
"That one went crazy," Clarke said.
Continuing studies programs vary in length and structure, with some being a single workshop while others are ongoing series.
The courses are also priced low to encourage community engagement, but continuing studies bursaries are also available.
While in-person courses are now being reintroduced under the guidance of recent public health orders, more resources will continue to be devoted to online programs.