Local learners study online with Calgary counterparts

Lorne Huston, Past-President, McGill Community for Lifelong Learning

Like most Members of McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, I occasionally miss the days when we gathered in our class space downtown, chatting with friends in the lounge and jabbering away in the crowded kitchen while waiting for coffee.

But returning to the present, I’m truly gratified with the way we’ve kept our community going. Although the switch to online learning last spring was hard for members who were reticent toward new technologies and had to get used to Zoom, the result was two semesters of successful online study groups and lectures in spring and fall, and a series of summer lectures, all well attended.

Along the line, we realized that virtual learning could connect us with people we would ordinarily never have met!

For the first time we created a joint study group with seniors in another city, members of the Calgary Association of Lifelong Learning — an idea suggested before the pandemic by MCLL member Elizabeth Robinson. With our social connections now so limited, Elizabeth’s idea was ripe for development.

MCLL contacted the executive of the Calgary association, and enthusiasm was so great that in time for the fall semester, two study groups were formed — one on current events in Quebec and Alberta, and one on the literature of Quebec and the Prairies.

I was in the literature group. Born in Alberta, I thought I would be an exception, having a good knowledge of both cultures. To my surprise, most of the people in the group had lived in the other region for part of their lives. It was interesting to discover the life stories of people who had moved from Montreal out west, and others who had left that part of the country to come to Montreal. It was fascinating to see what we “hybrids” got from the fruits of each other’s literary traditions.

The success of our new initiative can be measured by the enthusiasm shown by members from Calgary and Montreal alike to keep the experiment going. Both the literature and the current event groups will be continuing in the winter semester starting in January. If you are interested in this or any other study groups, or in Friday lectures, check out our new winter program at www.mcgill.ca/mcll. Registration is open as of December 2 at 9am. The sessions start on January 11, 2021.