For more than 25 years, Hot Springs SeniorNet has provided older adults with computer and technology training courses to enhance their lives and introduce them to a world of information online.
Since 2003, the Senior Center on Woodbine Avenue has increased its enrollment numbers from 20 to 30 students to an average of 100 students for each session.
“We currently have around 70 students,” said Paul Woodward, instructor. “We have two classrooms here and can teach about seven or eight students in each class.”
SeniorNet offers three sessions annually with classes ranging from topics like computer basics to utilizing social media. They also offer day workshops.
“Our classes are one day a week and are about one to two hours long,” said Rosemarie Kawlewski, co-coordinator for Hot Springs SeniorNet. “Each student gets a manual and with two coaches and one instructor for each class, they get hands-on instruction.”
“Some instructors stay after class to help,” said Cheryl Denison, instructor and website coordinator. “If I see a student who’s really struggling, I try to help them individually. Our job as instructors is to encourage our students.”
Every instructor is a former student of the program and with around 34 volunteers, Hot Springs SeniorNet is able to cater to its students’ needs.
“Each chapter operates a little differently, but all of our manuals and teaching materials come from our national headquarters,” Denison said.
But occasionally during a class, the instructor will go to a website or check their email and students will want to know how they did it.
“For those things we don’t have in the manual, our students will scramble to take notes,” Kawlewski said. “They’re so enthused to learn and that is exciting for us.”
Because of this excitement, the volunteers at SeniorNet said very rarely do students not come back for more courses. And once students are comfortable with their new skills, there is a whole world online available to them.
John McFerrin, who teaches courses on Internet and email said one of his favorite websites to show his students is YouTube.
“You can find videos on any topic and learn how to do just about anything,” McFerrin said.
And for people concerned they may not catch on as quickly in the courses, the volunteers at SeniorNet suggest enrolling with a family member or friend.
“We’ve had several students enroll with their siblings or spouses and that really helps them,” said Beverly Jackson, instructor. “They can help each other and they’ll also have a friend. Though many of our students become friends.”
And it’s not just the students who benefit from SeniorNet.
“We get a lot out of the courses,” Kawlewski said. “It keeps us thinking and busy and as long as we’re helping people, we’re making a difference.”
Registration for the Spring session will be on March 22 at the Senior Center and classes will start on April 8