Keene State College’s traditional students are not the only ones who had their in-person classes disrupted due to COVID-19. The Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) is a program that offers a variety of courses to people 55 or older in the Monadnock region. CALL is made up of two eight-week terms in the fall and spring where the adult learners take classes on campus every Friday. There is also a four-week winter term. However, with the spread of COVID-19 causing Keene State’s campus to close, all CALL classes have moved to online learning.
Program Coordinator Heather Jasmin said that not all of the original classes were able to make the transition to online learning, but that the professors and the students are trying their best to make it work.
“Of the 42 classes we had planned, 29 have transitioned to remote learning,” Jasmin said. “Most are using Zoom and meeting at their regularly scheduled time. A few are doing asynchronous learning, sending emails with resources such as links, videos and narrated PowerPoints. A few faculty are able to use a public Canvas class if they already teach at Keene State.”
The reason why some classes had to be canceled varies depending on the situation.
“Some classes, such as pottery, were unable to be taught remotely. Others had to be canceled since the instructors don’t have reliable internet service,” Jasmin said. “For example, our watercolors teacher was planning to teach her class using training videos that she would create and upload, but her internet service in Westmoreland was too unreliable.”
Director of Education at the Historical Society of Cheshire County Jennifer Carroll has been teaching a class each term for CALL for about the past six years. This term, however, she had to cancel her course.
“I canceled my CALL class, Documenting African-Americans in Cheshire County,” Carroll said. “This was the first attempt at a hands-on history course, as opposed to our traditional lecture-style course. The students would have been working in teams to evaluate original archival documents online, in local historical societies and libraries to record the names of Africans and African-Americans in our local history. Each team of students was assigned a town to research. If the course had moved online, the students would have had to do this work alone. Also with the school closing, as well as my own archives at the Historical Society and local libraries special collections closing, it became an impossible task.”
While some students were still willing to do the coursework, Carroll felt it was for the best to not carry on.
“I really grappled with my decision to cancel the class because there were many students who really believed in the relevance of the project; they were willing to stick it out and meet in pairs in their own homes to do this coursework,” Carroll said. “In the end, I didn’t feel comfortable putting people’s health at risk. This course can easily get done at another time of the year and I’m looking forward to it.”
One CALL participant Sara Carbonneau said that, for herself, both online classes and in-person classes have their advantages and disadvantages.
“Now I can take more classes because with a full-day program where you’re on campus, I had to worry about my dog. So I can stay home with my dog and do more classes, which is nice and I don’t have to worry about doggy daycare,” Carbonneau said. “Certainly, I miss the personal interaction with the other students and the instructors. They’re different, they have different advantages. I was able to work on my Spanish this morning, whereas if I was taking a class with the instructor on Friday, it would be really just Friday instruction. Now that I’m taking Spanish, I can take the class whenever I want, which is kind of convenient.”
Overall, Carbonneau thinks it is working out well so far.
“From a participant standpoint, I know we’ve had a few glitches with getting used to Zoom and getting the narration with a PowerPoint presentation. It’s taken a little bit of a technology curve, but I think we’re getting there,” Carbonneau said.
One disadvantage to CALL needing to go online is the drop in participants during what was supposed to be a term with a large turnout.
“We started with 481 students who were planning to meet on campus for an eight-week spring semester (March 13 to May 1),” Jasmin said. “This would have been our largest spring semester ever. Currently, there are 303 people taking classes online.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at