Antioch’s Continuing Education Program is offering a broad selection of its online courses, programs, and webinars for free in response to the widespread isolation and financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, this initiative has brought more than 42 free programs to thousands of people—current students, alumni, and people who are new to the Antioch community. Now the program’s directors are planning to extend it through the summer and encourage those interested to peruse their catalog of offerings.
As 2020 started off, Antioch was busily expanding its online continuing education classes, which previously focused foremost on creative writing, into fields like environmental studies and gender studies. But when the novel coronavirus began sweeping the nation, it moved quickly to allow students to take classes for free.
Says Ken Pienkos, Program Manager for Extended Education, “We decided that it wasn’t in the university’s mission—and we weren’t comfortable—trying to launch a new [paid] product… So instead the Continuing Education Team decided to reach out and pool our resources and convince faculty and alumni to join us in a community-building effort.”
Between when they launched the free community offerings in March and the second week of April, more than 1400 people registered for continuing education, community building, and free offerings. Now the Continuing Education Program is trying to build on that momentum by offering more free webinars and courses as the pandemic continues.
Courses have included varied offerings, from the serious “Food and Education in Times of Crisis: A Bridging Classroom & Community Dialogue” and “The Critique of Modernity and the Crisis of Homelessness and Mental Illness” to the more creative “Use the Tarot to Establish Your Journaling Practice: Power of the One-card Draw,” and the practical “Essential Oils: A Seasonal Approach.”
One of the most popular free offerings so far has been a webinar on “Writing Your Trauma,” offered by Patrick O’Neil, a graduate of AULA’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sixty-seven people attended this three-hour webinar, and he is now expanding that content into a four-week class offered for a fee. Six people from the webinar have registered for the class.
Another free webinar that is primed to be a big success is “Uncovering the Hidden Meaning of Dreams” taught by AULA alum Steve Friedlander, LMFT. It explores the premise that dreams are important and specific communications produced by the unconscious mind, and through paying attention to them we can access intelligence beyond waking awareness. Already more than 70 people have registered for this course, which will be held on June 20th.
Some offerings speak specifically to the moment that we are currently in, such as the free webinar “Close Quarters: Relationships in Quarantine.” The instructor, Chris Aesoph, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and he will be speaking to the conflicts that can arise during prolonged confinement together. Chris is a graduate of AU Seattle.
Pienkos, the program manager, hopes that these free offerings will help provide valuable instruction for people affected by the pandemic. He also believes that in the long run, it will benefit Antioch’s newly-expanded community offerings. He hopes that some people who come for free courses will see the value of the longer paid courses, too, and will consider enrolling.
For those who just stay for what’s been offered for free, that’s fulfilling the mission of the university, too. “We’ve got what I think is an amazing and formidable, full area of continuing education for the university nationwide,” he says. “I’m really proud to have worked on this development.”
Written by Jasper Henderson