The Kamloops Adult Learners Society (KALS) is heading into it’s 16th season of providing a full slate of courses and programming to its some 200 members.
Ginny Ratsoy is co-chair of the publicity committee, as well as a coordinator and teacher of KALS courses. She has been involved with the organization almost since its inception.
“I began as a volunteer instructor for KALS in 2007, at the behest of my then-colleague at TRU, Anne Gagnon, who was KALS’ first teacher back in 2005,” said Ratsoy.
“The breadth of courses we are offering is impressive: students can improve their physical literacy, learn how to write a personal essay, delve into local history, join discussions about local, provincial, national and world issues, and explore culture in the everyday landscape, for example. We also have a suite of courses on the environment – everything from fall bird migration and energy transitions to spirituality and climate change, science in a changing world, and climate action in Kamloops,” said Ratsoy. “There really is something for everyone, and we are proud of the relevance of our programmes.”
KALS is aimed at retired adults of any age and the annual fee for membership is a modest $15. Courses range anywhere from free to having a small fee to help cover costs. Financial waivers are available to those in need.
The organization is proceeding cautiously this fall as it resumes in-person classes following the stricter COVID protocols required last year.
“When I joined the board in 2020, I was impressed by their ability to pivot. Margaret Graham, the chair of the programming committee, spearheaded our change from face-to-face to online teaching and learning. I don’t think there was a great impact on the content of courses; the pandemic has had more of an impact on delivery,” said Ratsoy.
“The spring, 2021 semester, for example, was pretty well all delivered by Zoom. Again, KALS – the board, coordinators, and students – seemed to adjust well. We even offered one-on-one Zoom instruction and a course on how to instruct using Zoom. We are disproving stereotypes – about seniors and their ability to adapt, particularly regarding technology – all the time,” continued Ratsoy.
As the organization embarks on their latest offerings, a full slate of 28 courses, a mixture of in-class and “field courses,” they are collectively crossing their fingers that all courses will proceed as intended.
“When class attendees arrive at the North Shore Community Centre (NSCC) they have been advised to go directly to the classroom and complete the required contact tracing form before being seated. We always keep class sizes small, and the Centre provides hand sanitizer in every classroom. Of course, we will continue to adjust rules to comply with COVID protocols if the Provincial Health Officer makes any changes,” said Ratsoy.
The organization’s built-in flexibility ensures that should conditions change they can return to the online approach to course delivery. It may also factor in KALS ability to expand its accessibility.
“We have not ruled out offering some online courses in the future - even in “safe” times – as we are committed to accessibility. One unanticipated benefit of the switch to Zoom was enrollment from other places in the Interior and even Ontario, so future online courses could broaden KALS’ reach,” said Ratsoy.
Regardless of how KALS delivers this fall’s courses, the main thing is that it continues to provide an affordable opportunity to enjoy both intellectual and social stimulation, learn for the sake of learning without the academic rigour or pressure or long-term commitment of traditional university level courses. No prerequisites, testing or grading is required to attend.
Prospective students are encouraged to sign up early to avoid disappointment. Make sure the courses you’re interested in don’t fill up without you or worse yet, get cancelled for perceived lack of interest. Visit kals.ca or call 250.376.1525
Readers looking for more information on KALS and Third Age Learning generally can follow up with these peer reviewed articles by Professor Ratsoy below:
The first, “The Roles of Canadian Universities in Heterogeneous Third-Age Learning: A Call for Transformation,” was published in 2016 in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Here is the link: View of The Roles of Canadian Universities in Heterogeneous Third-Age Learning: A Call for Transformation | Canadian Journal of Higher Education (sfu.ca)
The second is a chapter about KALS in a book about Kamloops written by TRU faculty and edited by Terry Kading of TRU. Here is a link to a free pdf of the book: https://press.ucalgary.ca/books/9781552389447/