My Approach: LIFE Courses

Over the years I've presented a number of academic and professional courses. What get taught and learned is critical to the success of such courses. And the reward to attendees is not primarily in the experience of the course, but the knowledge and understanding gained from the course. The primary value of such courses lies in what comes next. Not so with LIFE Institute courses.

LIFE members take courses for a variety of reasons. They attend because they are interested in the promised material. They attend because it's a way to get out and meet other LIFE members. They attend because the classroom experience is enjoyable and rewarding. Occasionally they attend because they feel they need to use the promised material elsewhere in their lives, but that applies to only a very few LIFE courses.

Mostly, it comes down to a need for LIFE courses to be: Educational, Entertaining and Engaging. I call them the "Big 3" for LIFE courses. The mix will be different for different material and for different course leaders. But success with a LIFE course depends on the presence of all three. LIFE members expect the course leader to prepare and present a framework for the course. What's the plan for the sessions? What can class participants expect? What will be expected of them?

I find that presentation slide are an effective way to share that framework. My preference is to keep the slides as simple as possible. They're a public outline. It's during discussion and review of images, sounds and video presentations that content is communicated. A reasonable rule of thumb is to keep the number of words on a slide to below 100. There's nothing more off-putting than to have a course leader read her/his material for the slides.

In my case, I've found that YouTube provides invaluable material for LIFE courses. Music can be sampled, often in great video recordings. If course participants are interested they can return to watch and listen to the entire performance. Video presentations also allow for the presentation of alternative views of the material being discussed. The range of material on YouTube is truly amazing. Most LIFE courses would be well advised to selectively present material drawn from YouTube.

For me, the hard part was to recognize that how much material got covered was much less important than how it was covered. A lively and engaging discussion is better content than even the most meticulously prepared material. It's the experience that make all the difference. And that was never the primary concern with professional or academic courses.