PLATO offers non-credit, participatory courses meant for seniors who want to continue learning, sharing and making new friends.The content and format of PLATO courses are determined by volunteer Course Coordinators and course participants. Any PLATO member can propose and coordinate a course.

Coordinators and Participants Share Their On-line Learning Experiences

PLATO online classes have been meeting for a few weeks and the Curriculum committee asked the coordinators to let us know about their online course experience.

Here is a sampling from some of the responses:

What in the World Happen course coordinator Bruce Gregg offered the following comment:

Thanks for all your efforts to guide us to the virtual programs. We had a average class of 35-45 people but could not get picture of late arrivals so we would give picture spot to late arrivals. But it all seemed to work out. While we started out slowly each meeting seemed to be improved as were more comfortable with the program and what it offered to everyone. Jim Leidel was superb and without him we would not have made it.    


What in the World Happen course participants offered the following comments:

I think Jim Leidel and Bruce Gregg have done a great job getting all of us “tech savvy” and the “how do you turn it on people” to come to the table every Thursday, especially during this time of pandemic isolation it is so important to keep up with friends and intellectual stimulation and pursuits, I also would like to thank Therese for helping us get up and going and also Marsha and Alice as we have taken time from their family.

On the positive side:  No worry about road conditions, travel time, and "dressing up" you can walk around and have a cup of coffee during a presentation, just listen from a comfortable chair.

On the negative: I have varying experiences with the technology. On several dates, I was not able to hear (only see) .... on my laptop. Luckily, we have a desktop.... where we can listen consistently. I need two options to function. Never have we been "out in the cold."

I do wonder if this won't be "the way to go".....down the road. It has numerous benefits for those who can't drive....etc.

"I like the virtual classes a lot. In the past, I would find classes that I thought looked interesting, but they were in a location I didn't want to drive to, so I passed them up. With virtual classes I have a wider choice.

It might seem counterintuitive, but in some ways, I feel more connected to people in the virtual classes than when we met in-person. For one thing, you're looking right at everyone else's face, instead of the back of their head. Before the class starts you can easily be part of the chatting that's going on. There's only one topic at a time and it's easy to jump in. Whereas for in-person classes, there might be multiple conversations going on at the same time, and you figure the people talking are really good friends and you don't want to butt in.

The presentation part of it isn't perfect, because the presenter loses the ability to see the audience unless special steps are taken: either join the meeting on a second device or have a second monitor. I've tried both; each has advantages and disadvantages. When giving a presentation, it's important to me to get visual feedback from the audience - are they staying with me, are they bored, are they laughing at my jokes, etc.

I usually like to show video clips during my presentations, but haven't experimented with that so I'm not sure how successful it would be.

On the whole, I think PLATO is doing a wonderful job of keeping all these classes going. I really appreciate all the work that PLATO and the course coordinators are going through It has been a lifeline during these lock-down times.

A couple of comments for presenters:

  • Slides should change frequently
  • Don’t read the slides – viewers can do that. Use key words on the slides, then expound on them as you talk.

I also want to thank everyone who makes the virtual classes go so smoothly.


Biographies course participants offered the following comments:

For my first Biography class this semester, I used the phone-in option. After a half-hour I got nervous that the number might not be toll-free, so I left the meeting. I did indeed incur a long-distance charge of almost $12 for 30 minutes. I know that the PLATO newsletter had a brief mention of charges once, but I think it would be a good idea to have that be part of the standard language that goes out with the link to the meetings. Some people have long-distance charges already bundled into their monthly fees, but some unsuspecting people like me could get burned.

It's been wonderful to be able to see so many people who have been in this class for years and to meet some new members! Jim Leidel has done a great, shall we say heroic? job of navigating Google Meet and dealing with the occasional glitch. We've heard some great talks. Although it isn't the same as being able to meet in person, it certainly is preferable to not meeting at all! Thanks to everyone involved in making this possible!

I am currently taking Biography, History and Current Events all virtually. The first two are with Google Meet and the CE class with Blackboard Collaborate. For the most part I have found this medium acceptable to hear the speaker just fine. Having a good moderator is critical especially one who know how to navigate the online system. Jim Leidel in the first two classes and Jerry Burns in the CE class. Once the group respects the microphone system, everyone can hear just fine. The biggest learning curve seems to be presenters learning how to show their pdf's, photos, slides, and videos. Each course has seen this struggle at the beginning. Overall, I am thrilled we have the two systems to choose from. Many people still think Zoom is better, but Google Meet is fine with me for the next few months.

Note:  To view all of the Fall course testimonials from coordinators and participles go to the Coordinator's Spotlight page.

Look for more responses in the coming weeks.

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Coordinator's Corner

Tips for Participants for How to Join and Now that I'm online What Next? (PDF)

Tip#2 for Participants "Google Meet APP".  Instructions on where to find icons for those using an iPhone or Tablet. (pptx) 
added 9/3/2020

Resource materials for coordinators who are working with Google's G-Suite: Meet.

How to 'set up" a meetings in Google Meet (pptx)

Companion Guide to How to "set up" a meeting in Google Meet. (docx) Download

How to do a Presentaion in Google Meet . (pptx)

Companion Guide to How to do a presentation. (docx) Download 

pptx - PowerPoint, docx - Word

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For more information about PLATO, contact:

Christine Bartlett
UW-Madison Continuing Studies
21 N. Park St, 7th Floor, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: 608-262-5823
Fax: 608-265-4555

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