PMHU3A eBulletin No. 1 March 2020
In normal times you would be receiving the term 2 newsletter about now and looking forward to resuming classes in a few weeks time. But, as we’re all too well aware, these are far from normal times and something that none of us has ever experienced before. Even in time of war or economic recession we have not seen such economic shutdown and social disruption across the world as we’re seeing now. And although we all hope to get through the COVID-19 crisis sooner rather than later, we have to acknowledge that the reverse is just as likely and that the disruption could continue for a very long time.
Given the situation the U3A Centre will remain closed until further notice. We have also decided to suspend publication of the quarterly newsletter for the time being and will instead issue bulletins as and when needed to keep you up to date with developments. The newsletter will return once we again reach some level of normality.
Our challenge as an organisation is to find ways in which members have the opportunity to remain engaged both with our courses and with each other. We recognise that the social interaction we usually enjoy is as important as the courses we attend, perhaps more so for many members.
With that in mind the committee, conveners, office and IT volunteers are exploring ways in which we might continue our courses in some form and also provide for social interaction, even at a distance.
By necessity the only means for keeping enough of us connected are electronic – telephone, computers and mobile devices. We realise that members who do not have access to the internet will be at a substantial disadvantage but hope that we can still provide something to alleviate their difficulties. We are also aware that some members have email addresses but choose not to share them with us. In the present situation we believe it would be very much in their interests to do so and would urge them to contact the Secretary.
Here are some of the things we are looking at:
You might have already received a message about this. In brief, the purpose of a Phone Tree is to maintain contact with other members by making or receiving a friendly phone call once or twice a week. This is especially important for members who feel unduly isolated in the current situation. The "Tree" can also be between class members where one member calls another and then the receiver phones another member and this continues until everyone has been phoned. Each member must agree to be part of the "Tree" and be willing to share their phone number with one or more members.
This is a flexible interactive platform for engagement in real time. It can be used for meetings or for live presentations with PowerPoint, videos and so on. It also allows meetings or presentations to be recorded and then played back later, which could prove a very useful feature. Zoom requires that each participant has the appropriate hardware and software but most devices these days have a camera and microphone so every participant is able to see and hear the others. ZOOM is an option which could also be valuable when we return to normal as it would allow presentations from outside to be streamed to our classrooms.
A website forum would allow any member to post a comment or question, possibly including documents, images, videos, embedded YouTube or web links, for other members to respond to, either directly or indirectly. At present this development is taking second place to ZOOM but hopefully will be available in the foreseeable future.
Email and mail
Email, either via our bulk system or through conveners’ own lists, is already used by most conveners for keeping in touch with class members and that is expected to continue. Documents up to a certain size can also be distributed by email. The postal system, which is necessary for those members who do not have access to the internet, is more cumbersome but still enables members to keep in touch through printed material. Telephone contact between conveners and class members (other than the Phone Tree) will also continue to play an important role.
Where to from here?
We are currently seeking information from conveners on whether and how they are communicating with class members, and what programs or platforms are being used. Once that information is received we can determine which options to prioritise and begin to set firm directions for the future.
Further bulletins will inform you of the progress being made but in the meantime please bear with us, be as positive as you can, and keep well.
Lorraine Beukers, President PMHU3A