Adults enroll in diverse education programs to enhance their professional life, enrich their cultural literacy, explore new interests or simply to keep their minds active and growing. The Internet has created a new avenue for learning at all those levels.
“The changing nature of work in the 21st century requires a continuous cycle of training and retraining in order to stay competitive,” says Associate Director of Linfield’s Adult Degree Program Janet Gifford. Linfield College was chartered in 1858 as one of the first colleges in the Pacific Northwest. “Online learning allows adults to acquire new skills while balancing family and work, and the trend toward later retirement also translates into a need for lifelong learning.”
Linfield College pioneered distance education nearly 40 years ago and has provided online courses since 1997. Adults can earn a bachelor’s degree or certificate in eight fields, mainly through online courses. Online courses allow time for learning and study at any time and from any location.
(www.linfield.edu/dce or 800-452-4176)
Oregon State University Ecampus gives adult learners everywhere access to more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. OSU Ecampus is consistently ranked among the nation’s 25 best providers of online education. Ecampus also delivers foreign language courses online, including sequences in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Italian.
Students can also hone their skills or acquire a new language (including Hebrew) for business or personal reasons with Berlitz classes. Native-fluency teachers are trained in the Berlitz method, and small group or private conversation-based classes assure active participation for all students.
(berlitz.us/portland or 503-274-0830)
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Oregon offers adults 50 and older year-round access to lectures, short courses, study and discussion groups, field trips and tours. No tests, no grades – just learning for the joy of learning.
(osher.uoregon.edu or 800-824-2714)
In 1999 the Jewish Education Exploration Committee became Morasha: The Jewish Community Education Alliance serving as a clearinghouse for Jewish adult education. Morasha published The Rav, a catalog of adult education classes of Jewish interest offered by synagogues, Jewish organizations and colleges. Though the catalog is no longer published, congregations and colleges continue to offer adult classes.
Among those ongoing classes is one of the few cross-denominational Introduction to Judaism courses in the country. For decades, the Oregon Board of Rabbis has offered the semester-long course taught by rabbis from across the spectrum of Jewish thought. This year a dozen rabbis will teach 18 sessions of the class, which is now offered twice a year. The first session starts September 6th.
In 2000 Morasha brought the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School to Portland. Melton is a two-year program for adults designed by scholars at Hebrew University in Jerusalem exploring Jewish thought, practice, ethics and history.
In June, the school celebrated the school’s founders and its b’nai mitzvah year, as the 2012 Melton graduates joined the more than 500 Melton alumni in Portland.
This year the Melton school reached 160 students, 36 in core classes and 130 in spotlight classes. Last year Melton reached 110 students. This expansion resulted from opening spotlight courses to students who have not graduated from the core program, said Portland Director Sarah Liebman. Spotlight courses are five-or 10-week courses open to any student who wishes to learn, and students of all backgrounds, including non-Jews, are welcome.
Liebman added that Portland’s Melton students are among the most diverse in the worldwide program. About 40% of new students are younger than 45, about 60% of new students are part of an interfaith family, and about 40% were previously unaffiliated with a Jewish organization.
Over the last four years, more than 85% of Melton students have consistently reported that they feel studying at Melton strengthens their Jewish identity and increases their participation in Jewish community activities. Students feel they are more able to take leadership roles in their synagogues and other Jewish organizations. They report that they feel empowered to be better parents and grandparents. Students also increase their giving to Jewish causes.
Melton has hired six new teachers for the 2012-13 school year to develop and teach spotlight courses. The teachers are Charles Schiffman, Merridawn Duckler, Elizabeth Schwartz, Rabbi Motti Wilhelm, Rabbi Tzvi Fischer and Rabbi Michael Kaplan. The new faculty joins teachers Jan Rabinowitch, Sylvia Frankel, Erica Goldman and Rabbi Joshua Stampfer.
Melton’s Core Program classes begin Oct. 16. (www.meltonportland.org).