How does Program come up with our courses?

Ruth Brouwer

Ruth Brouwer, a former Chair of the Program Committee, talks about the two-year process the Program Committee puts into choosing and developing the courses.

Where do the topic ideas for courses come from ?
Mainly from our members, including, of course, our Board members. Sometimes, members tell us about lecturers and courses that have been successful with other Third Age Network (TAN) groups.

How do you decide which ideas to pick?
We pick ideas that have wide popularity among our members, as shown in our annual survey seeking suggestions for new courses, and that are feasible and not too arcane or specialized. We also have to be able to find someone with the expertise to lecture on a particular topic. And we don’t offer “service” courses (for instance, personal financial management or home decor).

How important is it to maintain a balance of topic categories? 
In the ten courses we offer in the fall and winter terms, we try to have offerings from the broad areas of the arts, history, political science, the sciences, etc. That said, our members’ suggestions tend to lean heavily towards the arts—literary, visual, performance—and we do try to respect their expressed interests, albeit without becoming too arts-focused.

Where and how do you find the course instructors? 
When members complete the survey asking for course suggestions, they frequently suggest a course director. We also check the lists of people who have lectured to other TAN groups. And we look at the faculty directories for York (including Glendon), University of Toronto, and Ryerson when we have been asked to provide a course on a particular topic (e.g., history of terrorism) and don’t immediately have someone in mind. If we are looking to the universities for a possible course director, we sometimes make use of our academic adviser at Glendon, who can help us find an expert in the field who is also an excellent communicator.

Does LLIR pay its course instructors?
Yes. An instructor who does all ten lectures as well as organize the course gets the full payment as set out in a formal agreement with LLIR. If some guest lecturers are used, they receive an honorarium for their lectures, and the full payment to the course director is reduced accordingly. Again, these arrangements are spelled out in the formal agreement with the course director who is typically hired a year or more before the course begins. We think our rates are very competitive.

How do you decide whether or not to invite an instructor back?
We pay close attention to the feedback provided in the course evaluation surveys conducted near the end of each course. Our experience has been that our course directors are generally very well received by our members. Even so, we usually wait a year or more before having them back in order to avoid undue repetition of courses.

March 2017