Here are some answers to questions we are often asked:

What does OLLI stand for?
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is one of 124 prestigious lifelong learning institutes in the United States that are funded in part by the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco. Formerly Northwestern University's Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR, founded in 1987), OLLI was renamed in 2005 after a generous grant from the foundation.

What does peer learning mean?
OLLI at Northwestern is one of only a handful of peer-led, lifelong learning programs in the country, which includes programs at Harvard, Brandeis, and the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) at The New School in New York City. Peer learning means that groups convene in seminar-style discussion groups, without an instructor. Peer learning allows you to learn with and from each other. Subjects for study are conceived by members who are called coordinators.

What background do coordinators need to have?
The coordinators are not required to have expertise in the subjects they suggest. Anyone with a passion for a subject can become a great coordinator. A committee of members reviews proposals from the coordinators and those that meet their criteria are included in the catalog. Coordinators create a syllabus and select the text for the study group, and they facilitate study groups, but they do not teach.

What topics are offered?
Each semester, OLLI offers more than 100 diverse study groups that cover a wide range of topics including civic engagement, contemporary issues, creative arts, history and government, literature, science and technology, and social sciences. Most study groups range in size from 10 to 25 members.

Do you have prerequisites or exams?
No, there are no prerequisites, no exams, and no grades. There is no degree granted, just the joy of learning for pure pleasure — and the spirit of friendship and shared learning.

How many members does OLLI have and what is their average age?
We have over 1,100 members, between the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Our members range in age from about 50 to 90+ years old. The average member is in their 70s.

What if I just want to try OLLI out?
The Trial Membership is for you! This special membership is for first timers only and may be purchased only once. If purchased in the fall it gives you one study group in fall semester and one in winter session (with no benefits). If purchased in the spring it gives you one study group on the spring semester and one in the summer session (with no benefits). If you like OLLI, you can purchase a full- or half-year membership during the next enrollment period.

What is different about the summer and winter sessions?
These are shorter sessions with an eclectic roster of offerings. The winter and summer sessions are 4 weeks long and the fall and spring semesters are 14 weeks long. Winter 4-week sessions are all virtual. A summer session group might also offer atypical studies such as docent-led visits to museums or city sculptures or playing in a chamber music quartet.

How can I get a catalog that further explains the different levels of membership and the schedule of study groups?
The easiest way to browse our current study group offerings and special events is online through the OLLI Online Registration System - click here. You do not need to create an account or be a member to view our catalog online. You may also download a catalog pdf from the site. To read about our memberships types and levels — click here

May I visit an OLLI study group to see if OLLI is the right fit for me?
Yes. Email the OLLI office and we can find a study group for you to visit that is tailored to your interests. The office will make the arrangements.

Are scholarships available?
Yes, financial assistance is available and awards are strictly confidential. Please contact OLLI Director Kari Fagin at to learn more about our scholarships and to get an application form.

What about a Gift Membership? (Great for Father's or Mother's Day!)
You may purchase a gift directly from our Online Registration System — click here. Gifts may be purchased in any denomination. You may also email the OLLI office at to make arrangements.

What if I cannot attend one or more sessions? Does that alter my ability to register?
Most members of OLLI have reasons that come up during the year for having to miss sessions. In such cases as this, you should look closely at the study group descriptions and pick subjects that are more "by-the-week," such as short story groups, film groups, or The New Yorker, if you are going to be out a lot.

What about transportation to OLLI classes?
There is plentiful public transportation.  Click here to learn about public transportation options and the Northwestern University Evanston to Chicago/Chicago to Evanston shuttle system. If you are a full-year OLLI member with a Wildcard, you can ride the shuttles free!

And if I drive?

Chicago Parking Information

OLLI members can obtain a parking coupon from the OLLI office on the days that they have in-person study groups at Wieboldt Hall.

The coupon will reduce your parking fee to $9.00 at one of the following eligible parking facilities:

  • Huron Superior Parking A,  222 East Huron Street
  • Erie Ontario Parking C & D,  321 East Erie Street

The $9.00 reduced fee is valid Monday–Friday and allows time for members to park during their morning and/or afternoon study groups.

How to obtain a discount:

  1. Park in the eligible garage and obtain a parking ticket at entry.
  2. Obtain a QR code coupon from the OLLI office between 11:30am–1:30pm.
  3. Before exiting the garage, go to a garage pay station and insert your parking ticket.
  4. Scan the QR ticket at the scanner. The scanner will reduce the parking fee down to $9.00.
  5. Pay the fee with payment card or cash following the machine instructions.
  6. Collect the parking ticket back from the machine after your transaction is complete.
  7. Insert the parking ticket at the exit gate as you leave the garage with your vehicle.

Evanston Parking Information

If you drive to class in Evanston, the options are on-street parking, City of Evanston public parking garages, and reduced rate validated parking in the 500 Davis Center garage. For more information on parking in Evanston, including rates and time limits — click here.

More information on getting to both campuses can be found on the Contact Us page.

Whom do I contact if I have other questions?
Please contact the OLLI office at and someone can call you. 



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