More Ways to Learn


Andrea Sisino knows that for many this is likely the first they’ve heard of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The director of the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s affiliate of the 124-school nationwide network believes her program is in a better-than-ever position to be introduced to the public.

“We got hit hard by COVID, we had to make some hard adjustments,” said Sisino, in her 11th year as head of the program devoted to providing non-credit educational classes and programs for Lowcountry adults 50 and older. “We came out the other side of this as a stronger, technically advanced organization, better equipped than ever to give our students the best possible experience.”

When the COVID pandemic shut down in-person classes at the school’s three campuses on March 16, 2020, discussions had begun about developing distanced learning among local OLLI officials, but no official steps had been taken.

“Within a month, we pivoted to serve our members. We taught ourselves and our instructors how to use Zoom, how to use Vimeo to put the classes on-demand,” Sisino said. 

OLLI staffers and volunteers also coached members on how to use the new technology, sometimes one-on-one, sometimes in small groups. OLLI’s nationwide efforts were so successful that they were profiled in an April 2021 edition of the TV news program “Inside Edition.”

“We’re proud of what we achieved. Locally, we brought 90 of our programs online and then offered them on demand as well to our members,” Sisino said.

As the program makes the transition to in-person classes and a pre-COVID-size participation, OLLI’s tech work has created a program able to better adapt to any individual members’ life challenges.

“We have some seniors who can’t drive, some that are visiting relatives or gone on vacation and still want to take their classes, and now we can offer them an online option, both to take the class live, asking questions like they were there, and taking the classes on-demand,” she said.

Sisino pointed to one recent Beaufort-based history class that had 80 members in person and 45 members joined online.

“It was so cool to see that evolution, to see us serving our members on a new level,” she said.

The tech pivot has also broadened the kinds of classes the Lowcountry OLLI can offer. OLLI found a chef in Verona, Italy, to teach an authentic Italian cooking class live from Verona via Zoom, Sisino said.

“We developed a relationship with NASA to give a series of classes and lectures, the most recent one on where all the space junk goes from all the rockets launched into space,” she said.

 This often results in what Sisino calls “pop-up classes,” programs not listed in the course catalog that come together last-minute and are offered via an e-mail blast to members.

“There are no limits to what we can dream up now. My staff is so energized,” she said. 

The program is transitioning from its traditionally light summer schedule of classes (about 50 classes on-demand, available to watch through August) to a 100-program schedule in the fall, with 98 percent of them set to be available on-demand.

“We have some experiential learning classes like hands-on pottery or drawing that just don’t work being taped, but other than that, it’s all going on-demand as well as in-person,” she said.

Annual membership for the program is $40 (you can join at any point during the year). Summer classes are free for members, while fall classes run anywhere from $10-20 apiece. The program offers an unlimited option for $125, allowing members to sign up for as many classes as they want, as well as access to the full on-demand library.

“We have some students who want to take 15 or 20 classes from September to December, so that proves to be a great value for them,” Sisino said. “These classes broaden their brain power, their connectivity to others and their involvement in the community. We can’t wait to meet the next wave of the Lowcountry’s great senior learners.”

Register online at, at 843-208-8247 or in-person at the school’s Bluffton, Beaufort or Hilton Head Island offices.