By Juliano Oliveira
Brisbane Seniors Online has been overly dynamic since February 2000, when the not-for-profit volunteer organisation was set up.
Its thousands of students, aged over 50, share the same objective: the simple aspiration to use digital tools for personal purposes.
“Learners apply to join online or by a written paper application. The Greater Brisbane area is made up of eight hubs [like electorates] managed by a volunteer hub coordinator,” tells Dick Bennett, BSOL’s Publicity Officer.
“The application asks the learner what devices they have, what operating system they use and what they want to learn.”
Learners should be retired or not working or could be in a not-for-profit community group as a volunteer.
Based on the student’s applications, BSOL’s tutors – all unpaid volunteers, will initiate 12 of one hour home sessions, one on one basis, on the learners’ device and at a pace that suits them.
“The tuition works out to be about $5.50 per hour for 12 hours. Once they complete their formal training, they have access to ongoing support for the balance of their membership year. So, if they have a problem or a new device or operating system, the mentor can be contacted and offer them further assistance,” explains Mr Bennett.
“The joining fee for a new learner is $20 (one-off) plus $45 for the year. We also have several monthly special interest groups that under normal circumstances, operate face to face but now either by Zoom or suspended due to restrictions. These are an Apple SIG, Linux SIG, Digital Photography and Mentor Support SIG.”
COVID-19 pandemic has struck hard the organisation in terms of membership, financially essential for its intentions. The current number revolves around 600, low in comparison to over 2000 members throughout the “boom years”.
Anyone willing to offer assistance as a mentor or in a voluntary administrative role in the Woolloongabba Training Centre are welcome.
Mentors are expected to have a degree of confidence to teach a device or multiple devices and be able to relate to seniors and over 50’s.
“There is a mentor support group currently run by zoom, but under normal circumstances face to face at the Woolloongabba Training facility. Mentors can use this to help upskill and bring any problems to the attention of the other mentors, some of who are incredibly experienced in IT from their previous employment,” says Mr Bennett.
Brisbane Seniors Online was created from the goodwill of seniors who saw the need to introduce notions of computer and internet to the elders. All mentors and administrative staff are unpaid volunteers.