Robbinsdale Area Schools Community Education had no online classes planned for adults before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Diane Dickmeyer, the program specialist for adult enrichment and special events. The program administrators quickly moved from an in-person method to online only.
There was a steep learning curve, she said, adding the program relied on the Minnesota Community Education Association for guidance on what would work well. The community education instructors were willing to try something new. Many had never taught online classes, she said.
The program offers many classes and adds more each day, Dickmeyer said. Classes range from yoga, cooking, and art to subjects like setting up revocable trusts.
All classes are live, except for one pre-recorded presentation by Doug Ohman, a Minnesota photographer and historian. Classes are on Zoom and participants are able to ask questions and talk with each other. “You can still interact and still learn something new,” she said.
The spring schedule is out and classes for the summer are in the works. Typically, the program doesn’t offer many adult classes because people are busy during the summer, Dickmeyer said. That will change this year because it doesn’t know what summer will look like for everyone, she added. Administrators are working on adding certificate programs in subjects like data analysis and financial management. Links to the class schedule are posted on the Robbinsdale Area Schools Facebook and Twitter account and sent through Constant Contact.
Anyone can take the classes. Dickmeyer said she is surprised by how quickly some classes fill up. People signed up for exercise classes like yoga as soon as it was available, she said.
This is all in uncharted territory, Dickmeyer said. Those putting together programming are working to keep people excited and interested in community education. She brainstormed with an instructor about the fall and what it will look like “if we aren’t going to be able to be together,” she said.
People are craving community and to learn something new right now, she said. In community education, participants will likely learn from someone who is a neighbor, she added. It’s a way to meet people. Once people can be together again, participants may see each other and remember they were in a class together.
Participants sometimes have a wide range of technological abilities. One of the challenges of online classes is identifying people’s technological skills, she said. Some people can barely get on a computer and others are on one all day, she added.
Online classes are beneficial because people don’t need to leave their homes. It’s a way to bring a community together that you wouldn’t normally be able to, Dickmeyer said, adding even if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
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