National Osher Online

National Osher Online is a pilot project of the Osher National Resource Center (NRC). It kicked off in the fall of 2022, and UR's Osher Institute was one of the original pilot sites. We continue to offer these classes each semester.

These national classes feature some of the best, most experienced instructors across the Osher network. The hope is that the pilot will be eventually scaled nationwide and offered to the entire Osher network.

Osher Online courses will not replace any existing, local programming but instead offer a unique, online learning modality with a variety of courses to supplement existing offerings by individual institutes. This pilot program will provide members across the country with a means to connect with each other and learn together by participating in this new initiative, while maintaining membership at their local institute.

We are grateful to the Bernard Osher Foundation, Northwestern University, and the Osher NRC for their support and hard work in making this happen.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, but suddenly it seems to be everywhere. Whether we like AI, fear it or try to ignore it, our lives and livelihoods will be changed forever by intelligent chatbots, self-driving vehicles, surveillance drones, precision medicine, robotic art and more. In six jargon-free class sessions, this course aims to help regular people understand modern AI. No experience with computers or programming is required, nor expected.Course sessions will cover the past and future of AI, why older forms of AI failed to deliver, and where modern AI and self-guided robots are headed. The human elements of AI will be discussed throughout, including its impact on jobs and AI's potential to both help and harm us.

Thursdays; 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23, Synchronous Online
Writer and director Billy Wilder told his cinematic stories for over 50 years. A Jewish émigré from Germany, he brought his considerable talents, creativity, and insight into the human condition to fruition in a prolific career in Hollywood. His films run the gamut - from hard-edged noir thrillers, to intimate exploration of the human psyche, to the fraught nature of personal relationships, to the divine silliness of screwball comedy. His stories are told with verve and a keen sense of history, place, and American culture. He was a proponent of good fiction well told and an adversary of "fancy schmancy" camera work. We will meet Billy Wilder by exploring a variety of his films against the backdrop of the social and cultural movements which informed his body of work, seeking a perspective from a selection of Billy Wilder's corpus of films as they are risen from and relate to American culture and an appreciation of good cinematic storytelling told by a master. Additional information: Except for the documentary Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood, all films on the syllabus are available to stream from Amazon Prime Video. Some of the films may also be found on other streaming sites. Also, the DVDs may be available to borrow from your local libraries, including the documentary above-mentioned. Films should be viewed prior to the class meeting in which each film will be discussed, if possible. Even if you have seen a film before, please try to watch it again closer to the class session in which it will be discussed.

Tuesdays; 4/23, 4/30, 5/07, 5/14, 5/21, 5/28, Synchronous Online
While the polarization of politics in recent years has put fuel on the "fake news" fire, the concept of conflicting truths is not new. Dating back to the Renaissance and philosopher Francis Bacon understanding the psychological phenomenon later to be coined as "confirmation bias" our consumption of news continues to evolve. Therefore, so must our lens of reporting transparency. Step into the world of a broadcast journalist to understand what it takes to convey facts and spot shortcomings on TV. Understand first-hand the joys and challenges of standing and reporting in front of major sporting events like an NFL playoff game or MLB spring training to capture the scene for viewers. Understand social media in a new light as storytellers grow their own voices and those they have the responsibility to spotlight as powerful pieces attempt to not die in an echo chamber.

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Much research is currently being done on how humans and animals communicate and interact with one another. There are institutes at universities, books to read, as well as articles online about what your dog's facial expression means or what your cat's scratching behavior might indicate. Researchers such as Jane Goodall and Temple Grandin (to name just a few) live with and can tell us how animals experience the same emotions and what their thoughts might be. The perceived intelligence level of animals has repeatedly increased as the research continues, and we are able to learn more about animals and their life practices. Ethical farming practices, as well as everyday training for our domestic animals reflect that animals have many of the same basic needs and wants that we as humans have. The interesting practice is how that comes out in our everyday lives - all the way from what we eat to how we interact with our household pets. In this course, we will talk about and understand the latest research, what that means for human beings, and how this will continue to affect our co-existence in the future. This course will have a heavy student discussion component, coupled with lecture and media.

Wednesdays; 4/10, 4/17, 4/24, 5/1, 5/8 & 5/15, Synchronous Online
Since its inception, baseball has impacted race, politics, economics, and culture both in the United States and around the world. In this survey course we will analyze the evolution of the sport as well as the modern game with its emphasis on data and scouting.

Thursdays; 4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9 & 5/16, Synchronous Online
Within the broad field of peacebuilding scholarship, the scales are decidedly tipped to study phenomena around conflict resolution, transitional justice, and third-party interventions~ most of them at the hands of diplomats and politicians. While these areas represent legitimate efforts to negotiate treaties and monitor compliance between state actors, history has shown the Sisyphean nature of these approaches in terms of implementation and securing sustainable peace. What has drawn far less attention are the valiant and courageous efforts of peace builders on the ground who are working in unimaginable circumstances, and in many cases in partnership or cooperation with sworn enemies. This course will examine the elements of a construct known as "positive peace," which can and does exist even in areas where conflict continues (such as the Middle East) through the lens of peace activists working on the ground.The six-week program will include a mix of background reading, video, faculty presentations and small-group interaction.

Tuesdays; 4/2, 4/9, 4/16, 4/23, 4/30, 5/7, Synchronous Online
Welcome to 'Psychology Fundamentals: A 101 Overview', an introductory course designed to provide a broad, yet insightful glimpse into different areas of psychology. We will learn more about how psychology can help us understand humans' individual personalities, as well as group dynamics. We are going to look at the influence of geography on psychology, as well as what psychology can learn by becoming more cross-cultural. Whether this is your first step into the world of psychology, or you are looking to deepen your existing knowledge, the discussions around classic studies, as well as the presentation of novel research findings, promise something new and exciting for everyone.

Thursdays; 4/4, 4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2 & 5/9, Synchronous Online
Navigating the online marketplace can indeed be challenging. Unfortunately, e-commerce tips the advantage away from the consumer towards very sophisticated marketers. Whether dealing with a small business on Main Street or a giant firm on Madison Avenue, it is difficult to know who to trust or how to discern a true bargain from a real rip-off. So, how do you sort fact from fiction and take control of your purchasing power? Most importantly, how do you protect yourself from being duped out of money or worse, having your identity or account information stolen by hackers? In this course, we will cover critical aspects of being both a transactional and a relational shopper. We will discuss factors that can affect information perceptions and good buying decisions. And we'll offer a variety of resources to enhance your ability to make safe, sharp, and savvy purchasing decisions with sellers you can trust. You will hear from expert speakers, learn about valuable resources, and engage in helpful discussion. Being a Capable Consumer will change how you respond to social media messages and how you approach online shopping experiences for products and services big and small. You'll gain confidence and clarity through six enlightening discussions.

Thursdays; 4/4, 4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2 & 5/9, Synchronous Online
American writer Patricia Highsmith first published The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955. The story is told from the point of view of Tom Ripley, a man who is young, clever, and has a knack for fraud. A case of mistaken identity earns him a ticket abroad to a scenic coastal village in Italy, a far cry from his hardscrabble life in New York City. He soon becomes obsessed with Dickie Greenleaf, heir to a shipbuilding fortune and embarks on a series of deceitful and sinister acts that beget more of the same. Highsmith's story builds its suspense as the reader traverses Tom's physical and psychological journey through an affluent world too obtuse to recognize the extent to which he is a threat. The Talented Mr. Ripley has been adapted from book to screen multiple times, with the most notable being the 1999 film directed by Anthony Minghella, starring Matt Damon and Jude Law. Such is the influence of the story that it has invited comparison to the 2023 film Saltburn, whose main character commits a similar subterfuge on a wealthy British family over the course of a summer in their country castle. As stories of frauds and scammers endure across popular media, Tom Ripley's is one that confronts the reader to examine how far they would go to gain access into a world whose entry requires reinventing oneself to the point of moral collapse. In this course, we will study the Highsmith novel as well as the 1999 film adaptation. We'll close out the course with a discussion of Saltburn, which is indebted to the novel.

Fridays,4/5, 4/12, 4/19, 4/26, 5/3 & 5/10, Synchronous Online
The Intersection of Maps & History is a six week course in cartographic history and visual analysis featuring the extensive (and largely digitized) cartographic collections of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education at the University of Southern Maine. Co-taught by the Osher Map Library's Executive Director, Faculty Scholar, and Reference and Teaching Librarian, this visually-rich online course will introduce participants to the history of cartography as a discipline and engage in deep visual analysis of maps and related ephemera. Over the course of our semester, we invite participants to take a deep dive with us into topics at the intersection of maps and history, such as: the History of Cartography project; Schoolgirl maps of the early-19th century; the History of Mapping in Color; City, Town, and County maps and genealogical research; Mapping and World War I; 20th Century Pictorial Maps, and more. Each session will feature an engaging illustrated topical lecture, and a lively Q and A session with the instructors. If you ever wanted to know more about how historic maps can serve as an illuminating window into historical eras, events, and topics, this is the class for you.

Fridays; 4/12, 4/19, 4/26, 5/3, 5/10 & 5/17, Synchronous Online
Explanation and discussion of more fascinating themes in philosophy-another philosophy buffet! Topics include spirituality, religion and human rights, philosophy of sports and fitness, the process of belief formation, civil discourse, and philosophy of humor. What is spirituality and can it be trusted? Is religion good or bad for human rights? Why do so many people love sports? How do people come to believe things? How can we have respectful conversations with people who disagree with us about things that matter? And finally, what is humor and how does it work? Themes in Philosophy 1 and 2 are not prerequisites. Join us!

Wednesdays; 4/3, 4/10, 4/17, 4/24, 5/1 & 5/8, Synchronous Online
Everyone has a story to tell and one way to tell it is through writing a memoir. Memoir is a subgenre of creative nonfiction that can be book or essay-length; it captures a slice of the writer's life, is written from the personal and reflective perspective of the writer, and uses the techniques of creative writing, such as voice, sensory detail, scene, dialogue, and more. This course will guide you in the discovery of the story you want to tell, help you develop your story-telling skills, and provide strategies, tips, and tools to get you started on your story. Through reading excerpts of published memoirs as examples of craft, completing a series of targeted writing exercises, and sharing your writing output with your fellow writers, you will locate your story and begin your memoir.

Saturdays; 4/20, 4/27, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, Synchronous Online
Chemistry abounds in the real world, but few reactions in chemistry feel quite as intimate as those taking place inside our bodies. In this class, we'll learn about the molecules we eat and why we need them, as well as learning why nutritional research sometimes seems so confusing and fraught, as though scientists can't make up their minds. We'll also explore the science behind popular diets, learn how food molecules fuel our activities, and tackle what some of the latest science is revealing about the importance of the microbiome.

Tuesdays; 4/2, 4/9, 4/16, 4/23, 4/30, & 5/7, Synchronous Online
Our class on America in the 60s will ask some simple but also complex questions like: why did people rebel when they did, who rebelled and who didn't, what came out of the rebellion, and did it cause the rise of conservative politics in the US? We will look at: Civil Rights, Vietnam, the rise of Feminism (round 2), the Green Movement (in which NU played a key part), and the exit of the traditional unionized working class from the Republican Party. We will begin with "When did the 60s start and when did they end?"

Mondays; April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 & May 6, Synchronous Online