On March 25, when the lockdown began, Canterbury WEA cancelled all their remaining Term 1 courses and took an early recess so their small team (2 FTE) could prepare an online programme for Term 2, which started in early May and continued into June.

All the online courses are free.

Lottie Vinson, the Coordinator at Canterbury WEA, says that they made a decision to offer the Term 2 classes for free, (while continuing to pay their tutors), both as a public service and in recognition of the fact that online delivery would be a new challenge for both tutors and learners.

The Term 2 programme had 14 courses. It was a much smaller programme than usual but still reflected the categories that are usually on offer. So there was a lifestyle course (Fermented Foods at Home); courses for those who love handicrafts (two levels for crocheting and a knitting course where participants knit woolen items for the Christchurch Neo-Natal Unit while listening to interesting podcasts); an art course and an art history course; Singing for Pleasure at Home; a course on current affairs (Understanding the Treaty in Post Lockdown Aotearoa); Japanese language and Haiku; as well as Environmental Science courses (Blue Green Algae is more Important than you Think, Introducing Sustainable Development Goals, Covid-19 and its Impact on Global Waste, and Soaking up Co2 – our Global Warming Escape Mechanism? Or Not?).

Most courses were delivered via Zoom, instructional videos or regular email. Support was provided to help participants, many of whom are in the older age-brackets, to get online.

The courses which had a lecture format were videoed and, as usual, made available as podcasts on PlainsFM.

While these online courses had proved very popular, Lottie says that no decision has been made at this stage about delivery in Term 3, although the online experience may lead to some special online courses being made available to their 250 or so members.

The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was a pioneer in adult and community education in Aotearoa. The organisation was founded in the UK in 1903 and established in New Zealand in 1914. The NZ Federation of WEA was formed in 1920.

WEA lost their government funding in 1991. There are now six WEA in New Zealand. Each has a commitment to the advancement, encouragement and provision of continuing and community education that promotes a just and equitable society, in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.