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OLLI offers unlimited seating in select spring courses

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Andy Atlkinson / Mail TribuneCarl Prufer makes a pass during a walk-soccer game Saturday at North Mountain Park in Ashland.
Andy Atlkinson / Mail TribuneMaria Gigel scores in front of Carl Prufer on Saturday during a walk-soccer game at North Mountain Park in Ashland.
Andy Atlkinson / Mail TribuneMaria Gigel celebratesa Saturday after scoring a goal during a walk-soccer game at North Mountain Park in Ashland.
Andy Atlkinson / Mail TribuneMaria Gigel and Carl Prufer battle for the ball Saturday during a walk-soccer game at North Mountain Park in Ashland.

ASHLAND — Courses begin this week through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University. This season’s course schedule takes students from their home computers to the soccer field.

Nearly all spring courses will be offered via Zoom, allowing people to participate from anywhere while remaining “stimulated and socially engaged,” said Anne Bellegia, Chair of the Ashland Senior Advisory Committee.

OLLI classes are intended for students 55 and older, but anyone may sign up.

The spring 2020 term prompted unexpected lessons in adaptability, ushering in a new learning and teaching format online, Bellegia said. About two-dozen spring 2021 courses have unlimited enrollment.

“Freed from the constraints of a physical classroom, there are more ‘seats’ available to members this spring than ever before in OLLI’s 27-year history,” Bellegia said. “As we plan next fall’s curriculum, when we anticipate choice of in-person versus online delivery of courses and community lectures, we expect we’ll be offering both formats.”

This season, in his course titled “Interesting Topics in Cybersecurity,” Tom Anderson said students will learn the ins, outs and behind-the-scenes context of cybersecurity and its implications in daily life.

Anderson previously worked in the chief technology office for technology companies including Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs. His recent work focuses on artificial intelligence, 5G and cybersecurity.

Anderson said his course has practical applicability for older populations — often targeted by hackers who expect a lesser degree of savvy with internet security — but many students are simply interested in understanding contemporary domains.

Robert Adams’ course, “Leonard Bernstein: Composing a Life,” takes students in-depth into Bernstein’s composing career and how his work reflected the events of his life.

Adams, a classical musician, spent 27 years in academia and holds a PhD in music theory and composition.

“I like to pick something — when I’m going to teach an OLLI course — that I know something about, but where there’s still a whole lot for me to learn,” Adams said. “I’m sharing my passion for music, and one couldn’t do better than to be able to look at Leonard Bernstein and his music because he was perhaps the epitome of having passion for music.”

Students are not required to have any previous knowledge or formal training with music composition, Adams said. Classes typically draw both novices and working professionals — the material is designed to benefit all experience levels, he said.

Adams said he spent the past six months compiling the course, which offers students weekly audio playlists with songs, full concerts and recorded interviews.

Carl Prufer’s course, “Walking Soccer,” connects students to a pastime rapidly spreading across Europe, Canada and the U.S.. The two-week course emphasizes a British co-ed version of the sport, with no contact and no above-head play, Prufer said.

Prufer holds a FIFA referee certificate and spent 40 years playing, coaching, watching and refereeing soccer.

“It’s a sport that older folks — 60-year-olds, 70-year-olds, even 80-year-olds like myself — can continue to play this game,” Prufer said. “I am a big believer that we all love playing outside on a field.”

Prufer said the OLLI format offers him access to a large pool of older community members who might be intrigued by the strategies and rules of walking soccer — the building blocks of a league he hopes to form in the Rogue Valley.

Every Saturday, Prufer’s group of walking soccer players meet at North Mountain Park in Ashland. Walk-ons are welcome, he said.

Scholarships are available for people who cannot pay a one-term $75 membership fee, according to an OLLI press release. Membership gives students access to more than 80 course subjects this season. The term runs March 29 through June 4.