Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UIS online students build community for "mid-lifers"

Amy Reeves decided to return to school after applying for a new position at her place of employment when she was told she would need a bachelor’s degree to be considered for an interview. Madeleine Ward said she simply wanted to continue her education in a more structured manner, so she is better able to contribute to society, and now hopes to go on to law school.

Reeves lives in Carlinville while Ward resides in Chicago. The two women met through the liberal studies program at UIS and bonded over going back to school in the “third age,” the age identified as being after young and middle but before “old.”

“Madeleine and I discovered we were in that same age group. We had a project to do about verbal arts and community, and Madeleine suggested a new community of older students (50+),” Reeves said. “It sounded so unique and on target that I jumped at the chance to work on it with her. The more we talked and the more Madeleine, in particular, dove into our subject matter, the more we realized just how much we could hopefully do for others like us.”

Reeves and Ward are now using social media tools to their full advantage to create a community of “third age” students. They hope to bring together other students who are in their age range and who need a community of support and encouragement to continue and finish their education. According to the office of Institutional Research at UIS, there were 277 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students who are over the age of 50 at the university both online and on campus in fall 2009.

One of their first steps was creating a blog, found at www.midlifecoed.blogspot.com/.

They created the blog so that others might help to enhance and complement the community of third age students and add information about the difficulties or successes of their school experience. Though the blog was started for a class project, they have plans to continue posting, increase readership and provide resources to other students.

The pair are currently blogging under the pseudonyms Betty and Veronica, who are characters from the Archie comics, popular when they were pre-teens and teenagers. They said they feel the history of the Archies is a bridge from their youth to today’s mid-life coed.

“It is important that a mid-lifer who is new to blogging or new to our blog realizes that we truly understand them; we’re from the same generation and remember many of the same things that happened throughout the years,” they wrote in a paper for class.

Reeves and Ward have also set up a Twitter account (ArchiesFriends) and Facebook page to bring together older students returning to school.

“They need to know they are not alone, and instead of getting information by trial and error, we can answer each other’s questions without each having to re-invent the wheel,” Ward said. “We would love to attract more students; all are welcome to join.”

Because so many older adults who return to school take classes online, especially at UIS, the two classmates felt that an online community made the most sense.

“I just hope we can reach out to others, who are debating about attending school,” Reeves said. “It’s so much different now; my program is solely online so I can work at a different pace that if I had to attend a class two or three times a week. I didn’t know online programs were even offered until I discovered UIS’ programs. How many others are out there like me?”

If you are interested in more information, contact Ward at 312/590-6129.

1 comment:

Pam R. said...

Congratulations Amy & Madeleine! I think it's such an awesome idea to create an online community of students who are "mid-lifers" because this faction tends to be overlooked by the younger crowd. Great work & I look forward to checking it out. Although I'm not what would be considered as a "mid-lifer", I certainly can appreciate and respect your great efforts.