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OLLI at Northwestern

Study Groups

Study groups and the peer learning experience at OLLI.

At the heart of Northwestern's OLLI is a shared learning experience called peer learning. Peer learning is a uniquely energetic experience. We call our classes study groups because members share knowledge with other members while learning from them at the same time. Small, engaging, interactive study groups, with an always-evolving curriculum offering a rich and diverse array of topics proposed by the members themselves, attract members who live in the spirit of learning and personal growth.

New members are always welcome!

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Call for Proposals

Even though there is a great deal of uncertainty about the coming weeks, we think it is important to continue our planning, and OLLI is now accepting proposals for summer 2020 study groups. The summer session will run for 4 weeks starting on Monday, July 6. Proposals must be submitted by Monday, April 6 in order to be considered. Coordinators will be asked to indicate whether their study group can run remotely, should the need arise. If you are not sure if your study group could work remotely or you have concerns or questions regarding running a remote study group, email Kirsty Montgomery at

Proposal Form (Word doc)

Proposal Form (PDF)



Proposing a Study Group

If you would like to propose an OLLI study group:

  • Look through past OLLI catalogs (below) to get a sense of what has been offered in prior years.
  • Discuss your proposed study group with your peers to gather feedback and to potentially recruit a co-coordinator.
  • Attend a Study Group Committee planning session on Chicago campus, or an OLLI Connect meeting on the Evanston campus, in the fall or the spring. Meeting dates are posted on the OLLI calendar.
  • Check your email for the Call for Proposals and proposal submission deadlines. Call for Proposal dates are posted on OLLI's calendar.
  • Read the proposal instruction, draft your proposal and submit it on the official proposal form. (Available only during Call for Proposals)
  • Contact the Study Group Committee directly with comments and questions:


Study Group Roles

Study Group Members

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute pursue the pleasures of study and the exchange of ideas through active participation in peer-led groups. General guidelines include:

Before each session
  • Read all assigned material and discussion questions carefully and purposefully.
  • Think about the ideas, arguments, theses or views presented in the selection.
  • Make notes and identify questions you might want to explore.
During each session
  • Speak freely. Successful peer learning depends on the contributions of all group members.
  • Some discussion leaders may have procedures such as raising of hands. Respect all procedures in effect.
  • Listen actively and with respect to the ideas and opinions of others.
  • Stick to the topic or issue under discussion.
  • Refrain from private discussion while someone "has the floor."
  • Abstain from monopolizing or dominating the discussion. If someone has already made your point, you do not need to repeat it.

Weekly Discussion Leaders

Weekly study group discussion leaders stimulate lively and orderly discussion based on the assigned material and the goals of the discussion. The discussion leader must know the assigned material very well in order to be prepared for the discussion session.

Being a weekly discussion leader is not required for new members, but it is strongly recommended for all others at least once a semester. Virtually all members report that they learned the most about their subject the week(s) they led the discussion. Discussion leaders should not take sides but rather draw out various points of view, not trying for total agreement but rather an expression of all sides of an issue. They must remember that different types of study groups may have different discussion elements.


We doubt you'll find more enthusiastic, vibrant individuals than our volunteer coordinators. Their journey through life has taken them to virtually every corner of the earth and their curiosity influences many in OLLI who have participated in the study groups they conceive and facilitate.

Our coordinators are members of OLLI like you, who enjoy the program and are willing to do more. They conceive study group topics, select the material to be used and provide the syllabus. When a text is used, the coordinators have researched its selection and are thoroughly familiar with its content. Although discussion leaders change from week to week, coordinators keep the course focused on the objectives stated in the catalog. Click here for more information.



Past Study Group Offerings

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