. Update from Covid-19 Working Group 11 April 2020

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.”

The COVID 19 virus swooped on us like a tornado, sending things asunder and depositing the debris in strange and interesting places. Our regimented series of classes at U3APP was rudely interrupted and placed into suspension for an unspecified period. Face-to-face instruction was no longer allowed so as to prevent the disease being transmitted throughout U3A. Committee of Management (CoM) had several critical choices to make regarding the future of the organisation:

  • Put the whole organisation into hibernation until such time as the “coast-is-clear” and classes can be safely delivered (timeframe unknown)
  • Adopt and adapt an online teleconferencing program and deliver courses over the internet and use e-mails as a backup
  • Do nothing.

Being the proactive organisation that is U3APP, CoM decided to investigate online delivery, so a Working Group comprising members from the Executive, Information Technology (IT) and Course Co-ordination (CCT-Tutor Support) was established to investigate the issues involved and to recommend/implement a program to establish the course framework for the University (after approval by CoM, of course).

Input was sought and received from Tutors as well as anyone in the organisation who wished to make a contribution to the cause.  Tutors were asked whether they intended to continue/start their course and how they expected to deliver the course (ZOOM, e-mail, written material or some combination of these). The response to online (ZOOM and e-mail delivery) was overwhelmingly positive.  Some tutors responded that online delivery was not suitable for their proposed courses.

We now have a road forward to get course delivery starting on 14 April, the beginning of 2nd Term.  The process has been accomplished in less than 4 weeks –amazing!!

In simple terms, IT and CCT will establish the schedule for the various classes by setting the day and hour of the course (identical to the schedule proposed by the Tutors).  We do not need be concerned about room numbers as participants will be in virtual classrooms (The Mary Kehoe Centre is currently closed and will remain so until the Port Phillip Council lifts restrictions on public buildings).

IT will set up the meeting schedules on ZOOM for all of the classes so tutors need not devote time and energy to those issues. More instructions for tutors and participants will follow soon.

In the meantime, I suggest that EVERYONE download ZOOM to their computers (go to zoom.us in your browser and download the free version of the program).  More information is available on the U3APP website. Become familiar with the program so that when your online class starts you will know how to join and participate in festivities.

May the Yellow Brick Road lead us to Emerald (Hill) City

Jim Pribble, CCT - Tutor Support

. Update from the Covid-19 Working Group 27 March 2020

At the last Working Group meeting on Thursday 26 March, the Group discussed the various means for delivery of online courses during our forced isolation. Over the last couple of weeks some tutors have been using a program called Zoom to conduct trial classes. Some report resounding success, although nearly every Tutor indicated that there were areas needing refinement.  IT and the Working Group are working diligently to resolve these issues. Making sure that participants were properly connected to the program was an issue with just about every meeting called on Zoom.  All of the connectivity issues were satisfactorily resolved.  Most ‘difficulties’ arose from differing types of electronic devices used by classmates.  The obvious way to ensure everyone can be properly connected is for Tutors to run a trial of the Zoom program prior to commencement of classes proper. Conducting trials by Tutors will be addressed at a meeting of Tutors to be held on Zoom on 2 April (we avoided 1 April for obvious reasons).

Many of you may have used Facetime or Skype or Tango or similar tools to see and talk with family or friends, who are remote from you.  If you are interested, you may like to try Zoom at home, and check it out on your computer or tablet or mobile phone.  To do so, just go to zoom.us in your browser and click on Sign Up, It’s Free.  You might even like to use it to see and talk to family members or neighbours. In these times of isolation, a program of this type is an ideal way to maintain verbal and visual contact with friends and families.

Tutors are keen to continue course delivery and since online seems about the only option at the moment, we, the Tutors, are going to some interesting lengths to guarantee continuance of courses at U3APP.  While there are some limitations imposed by the Zoom program, some Tutors have found some ingenious ways of getting around those limitations. Music programs are particularly limited because the program does not allow more than one microphone to be active at any one time, hence, group singing/playing/reciting are not supported.  It does, however, lend nicely to solo presentations by Tutors and classmates. Several Tutors have adopted this approach in trial classes and report good success.

Another major consideration for Tutors establishing delivery is the myriad electronic devices used by our members: iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Apple computers, PCs and probably others.  The display of Zoom on each type of device is similar, but with a few kinks that need rectifying.  The IT group – known lovingly as Webmaster - is addressing these and other technical issues.  Dedicated souls, spearheading specific areas of concern are: Helen, Jude, Karen, Diane and Kate.  GIVE THEM A ROUND OF APPLAUSE!!! . Be assured that they are a team of VERY capable tech-savvy individuals and are working arduously to secure a system that will satisfy our requirements.  Realistically, the system should be up and running before the beginning of Term 2.  We do need your input and participation to make the system work.  You are the reason for our effort!!!!   Stay tuned!

We are in good hands, and we shall prevail!!  See you in one of the test sessions.

Jim Pribble

. Physical Distancing rather than Social Distancing

The Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) has wreaked havoc within the Australian community, as well as around the entire world.  We at U3A are not immune to the impact of the virus, so must roll with the punches and find a suitable pathway through the labyrinth without destroying the very fabric of our organisation. On the downside, owing to the severity of the threat and that the very nature of U3A relies on close social interaction, the Committee of Management reluctantly decided to suspend all U3A classes until the end of Term 1 and to assess the situation at that time with the view to recommence classes or maintain the closure.

These are very difficult decisions as, literally, lives may depend on these decisions.

The Committee of Management has appointed a Working Group to work through COVID-19 issues and co-ordinate a plan of attack to combat the issues identified. The WG is meeting regularly and has generated a master plan for the operation of U3APP.

Enough gloom and doom.  In the spirit of U3A volunteers (and the general membership), our tutors have risen to the occasion and have generated some novel ways to deliver course content without needing to meet face-to-face, i.e., remotely.  Their reactions to the challenge have been exceptional!!  Here are some of the innovative solutions, but be aware any proposed solution may not have applicability to all courses:

  • Production of material which can be e-mailed (or posted) to participants – Lecture notes, music, ‘stick figures’ showing exercises and exercise routines
  • Referring classmates to online programming such as You Tube
  • Telephone conferencing
  • Arranging meetings in open spaces to meet at suitably safe distances (the risk of each such encounter needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis)
  • And, a most promising technological solution, teleconferencing using existing online programs, such as Zoom, to provide visual contact for participants during discussions.  We are in the early stages with this, with a couple of our members leading the charge on getting interested tutors up to scratch. Three volunteers  trialled this technology on Thursday March 19 with great success.  Once the program is set up properly, it works very well.  I think it will be applicable to U3A and its use probably only restricted by our imaginations.

In all, the future looks a little brighter on the coursework front, even if the worldwide scene is a bit depressing.  We need to charge ahead and grasp every opportunity to lead the lives we want, not what is dictated by chance.

Jim Pribble

CCT  (Tutor Support)

. U3APP Volunteer Information Expo

On Thursday 5 March, and despite the wet weather, a good sized group of eager Members attended an information day about Volunteering opportunities with U3APP.

Graham Gosling, U3APP President, thanked Members for attending and spoke about the importance of Volunteering, both for the organisation and the individual. As usual our Catering Team supplied a spread of tasty sandwiches, biscuits and a cuppa.

Each of our Volunteer groups set up information 'booths' where Members could ask questions and get an idea of the best area for them to Volunteer in:-

  • IT & Enrolment
  • Events
  • Office
  • Course Coordination
  • Tutors
  • Audio Visual

If you were unable to attend, but would like to find out more about where your skills can best be utilised please contact us at [email protected]

 

. Update from Covid-19 Working Group 3 April 2020

Thursday 2 April was a big day for U3APP.  We conducted our first large on-line meeting of Tutors, using Zoom as the meeting platform, with 49 enthusiastic individuals participating.  Discussions ranged from “how do I get sound/video” to more philosophical topics like “what is the future for Courses at U3A?”.  The meeting lasted nearly two hours and everybody had a chance to ask questions or make comment.  Several Tutors reported on their recent experiences relating to on-line Zoom meetings with their students.  All reports were positive, although there were some limitations, and the Tutors are keen to continue with on-line delivery.

Without boring you with all the details, the overall outcomes of the meeting were:

  • Zoom, the teleconferencing program, seems to be the best available for our purpose, although it has some limitations - nothing is perfect.
  • Most Tutors are fully committed to ensuring continuation of coursework at U3A via this on-line platform, at least until we can resume face-to-face Course instruction.
  • Using Zoom to deliver certain Courses could present a few interesting challenges, which invites Tutors and Members to develop innovative solutions.
  • Rest assured that most Courses at U3APP will continue and these Courses will be delivered on-line via teleconferencing (Zoom being our preferred platform), e-mail, or using links to selected videos, or some combination of those delivery methods.
  • Tutors are, at present, completing a questionnaire from the Committee of Management, via the Working Group, to tell us whether, and how, they intend presenting their Course on-line in Term 2.  There are other questions, but this one is the main, and most critical, one.  
  • If your Course will not continue, you will be advised, otherwise assume the Course will commence as scheduled.

Tutors are eagerly beavering away in the background to get their Courses in order – some have already convened their Classes, where a Course is continuing from Term 1, while others will first meet their students when Class lists are developed and distributed.  Should the Tutor adopt Zoom as their delivery vehicle, the process will be that a Tutor will call a Zoom Class Meeting.

You will receive instructions on how to download Zoom from the internet and how to join a Meeting, so everyone has an opportunity to experience the Zoom environment, ask questions, and generally get a feeling for how the course will operate.

You, the students, will know how your Course will work before the beginning of Term 2.  Our plan and hope is to do this before the beginning of next Term, so that means between Monday 6 April and Monday 13 April, with Term 2 beginning on Tuesday 14 April

Also, behind the scenes, the Course Coordination Team will be assembling the new Course Guide, indicating which courses will be continuing and the time-slot allocated to the Course.  We will not be constrained by room availability during on-line delivery.  Watch for Course changes in the upcoming new Course Guide. 

You will soon receive an invitation from your Tutor to join a Zoom Meeting, most likely at the time the Class would meet if face-to-face.  Included in the invitation will be instructions on how to join the Class Meeting, then all will be revealed and we will be on our way. It all sounds daunting, but it is all do-able and we have an excellent Brains Trust to get us through the initial period.

Roll on U3APP

Jim Pribble - Tutor Support

. Report: 2019 AGM & End of Year Celebration

As we come to the end of our U3A year, I want to congratulate the Committee of Management and all involved for the excellent AGM and Christmas function on Saturday 30th November 2019.

The new venue (South Melbourne Community Centre) was perfect with lovely light filled rooms and plenty of space, particularly for the Catering team to set up while the AGM was in progress.

The AGM heard presentations from our President Graham Gosling and Treasurer Jim Pribble (with a nod to Charles Dickens). Graham reported the many achievements of the current year, and plans for the year to come, while Jim reported on the strong state of our finances. Graham noted the particularly important role played in our U3A by volunteers, and encouraged all members to consider how they could contribute, whether on CoM, one of the subcommittees, or in the other functions such as IT, membership, office volunteers, and admin that our wonderful members keep running.

Congratulations again to the Life Membership recipients: Margaret Byron, Alison Harris and Sunny Acreman for 10 years of membership and volunteering; well-deserved recognition to all.

Elections for the Committee of Management were not required due to fewer nominations than available positions. The CoM hopes to fill the vacancies as soon as possible.

The food was delicious and special congratulations to Claire and her team, including her husband Paul who acted as barman, as well as many other duties, so it all ran like clockwork.  Also a special mention and thanks to David Sharples for sharing his wonderful singing talents to entertain us (and those jiving on the dance floor).

Ian Shaw, Secretary - U3APP Committee Of Management

 

2019 AGM

 

. Seniors Festival Community Forum Report

The Port Phillip Seniors Festival Community Forum on Saturday 12 October hosted by U3A Port Phillip attracted an audience of nearly 90, filling the hall at the Mary Kehoe Centre in Albert Park.

We had designed a Community Forum to enable representatives of the Victorian Government and the City of Port Phillip to outline how they were responding to the opportunities and challenges facing older people in our community.

To read about the very successful event click below.

Report on the seniors Forum final

. Awash With Colour – Art Show

The U3APP Art Show invites you to its Opening Night on Friday 23 August from 7pm - 9pm, at the South Melbourne Community Centre, corner Ferrars Place & Park St.  The show features the work of more than twenty artists including watercolour, mixed media and drawings.  Wine and cheese will be served and works will be available for purchase (cash or card).

You can view the flyer for this event by clicking here

. Farewell Colin Jones

Farewell Colin Jones - compiled by Diane Boyle from comments by Colin's class members, and with thanks to Mac for his photo of Colin

Colin led the Tales of the Sea course for over 10 years at U3APP.  His topics were wide-ranging from naval battles in every sea over the centuries, to histories of the Victorian Navy, ship construction, exploration of Australia by sea, even a series of talks about the Hornblower books.  His extraordinary knowledge also gave us talks on the Melbourne cable cars and blimps.  His talks were full of interest as he was a good story-teller and had a twinkling sense of humour.  His passion for history and for ships shone through.  He brought to class many an interesting book, including several of the over seven books he wrote, and vast numbers of pictures of ships and maps.  He loved songs such as sea shanties and Gilbert & Sullivan, parts of which he would sing to us from time to time.

Many of his class members returned year after year to listen to the fabulous tales Colin had to tell.  He had an encyclopaedic mind filled with anecdotes that kept the class of Tales of the Sea enthralled.

A celebration of his life was held at the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club at which his wife Robyn read an obituary which Colin had written for himself prior to his death.

Tales of the Sea class - written by Jill Hearman

When I was on duty in the office I always looked forward to Colin’s visits on Thursday afternoons when he came in to run his class. He was always so cheery and obviously enjoyed passing on his vast knowledge about ships and the sea.

I admired him enormously for continuing to teach despite his ongoing cancer treatments.

We have lost a born teacher and a delightful man in Colin Jones.