Come as you are
What a difference six months can make! So true in many endeavors but especially relevant as I review the Certified Aging In Place Specialist Classes I offer. Exactly 6 months ago, I left the airport after a series of classes in Chicago – never to return to the airport since.
Now people are enjoying their online learning experience without any special preparation – no travel, hotel arrangements, food to purchase, arranging for child or dog sitting, or time away from home.
Classes as they were – in-person
Over the past several years, I have done dozens of in-person CAPS and universal design classes across the country – especially along in the Midwest and East Coast. Classes were held in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Georgia, Alabama, and of course, Florida. Additionally, classes were scheduled in Kentucky and Pennsylvania but not held after the virus became a factor.
In 2020, nine in-person classes were held through the second week of March. Then everything changed – and actually for the better. We were on track to nearly 50 sets of classes, just as we did last year. It will still happen, but in an online format instead.
True, in-person, people could see each other, shake hands or embrace (when that was an acceptable social expression), engage in small-talk, and have physical materials to review before and during the class.
Nevertheless, many people had been requesting an online teaching and learning experience because they had become so used to them from social media, communicating with friends and colleagues, taking college and professional courses, and telecommuting (working from home before it became necessary because of the virus).
Ushering in the online classes
Finally, in April, we offered the first-ever online CAPS class, with 27 people attending that first session. We actually had to turn away a few interested people.
Since then, we had done 14 more three-day classes, including a first-ever weekend series. Several more classes are scheduled for the balance of the year, and there is no reason it has to end at the end of December. In fact, it’s looking like we can continue for much or all of 2021.
Not only have people attended the classes from as far away from Florida (our home base) as California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada, they also have come from South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and other areas including Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, Nigeria, Taiwan, Spain, and Panama.
Assembling attendees from these diverse locations would be a huge undertaking and a major time commitment for people to find the time to locate a location that matched their schedule, arrange to travel there, find accommodations, then leave home and attend a physical class setting of their choosing.
Online classes are working
Now, when people attend an online CAPS learning experience, they have the opportunity to share experiences – professional and personal – with people from many places around the world. It’s not just the people who are relatively close to where the class is occurring.
Additionally, they arrive at the class rested, having slept in their own bed the previous night and not having the concern about leaving early to navigate the local traffic conditions. They are totally at ease since they are in a familiar setting. If they need to attend to a quick matter at home while the class in session, they can excuse themselves and do it.
The online format allows much greater flexibility in showing, illustrating, and discussing the material, and attendees seem much more willing to volunteer comments and experiences.
Since people are attending the class from their living room, dining room, den, patio, bedroom, basement, or wherever they have an internet connection – including their vehicle – they are much more relaxed and at ease. This is a familiar setting for them. It greatly enhances their learning experience.
Continuing with the new normal
We have created a new normal for the delivery of these classes which is the Zoom format, online class. It is our intent to continue them indefinitely, but for at least the next twelve months, it appears to be a reality. We like the results, and the attendees seem pleased also. We are able to bring together people and experiences from so many different locations to be present for a class.