. 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)