Citing Zoom fatigue, Fox Chapel Area Adult Education sees sharp decline in enrollment; eyeing better turnout for spring semester

Tawnya Panizzi, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·3 min read

Apr. 8—Zoom fatigue and mild spring weather have combined to thwart a hearty enrollment for the upcoming Fox Chapel Area Adult Education (FCAAE) semester, leaders said.

The program, which enjoyed robust fall and winter semesters, is experiencing a significant dropoff with enrollment down about 75% this academic year, Executive Director Sue Goodwin said.

She is urging people to give the online brochure a second look.

"Our instructors have done an amazing job changing their teaching to adapt to Zoom," Goodwin said. "Our students have been really pleased with our Zoom classes. One student told me that Thursday nights were the best night of the week, knowing there was an FCAAE class to look forward to."

Founded in 1963, FCAAE is an outreach program of the Fox Chapel Area School District that provides enrichment classes to adults at a low tuition. One-night and multiweek classes are offered.

The program receives facility support from the district but is kept financially afloat only through student tuition.

Spring classes include art, cooking and spirits, Malbec wine, cardio yoga, photography and special history courses that include "Lost Treasures of Pittsburgh" and "Theatres of Downtown."

Classes start at $10.

Last year, the covid-19 pandemic forced a first-ever entirely remote fall semester at FCAAE which was successful in the face of learning from home.

A second round of virtual classes was hosted this winter and again proved to be a hit.

Goodwin said she is honored to work with a community that values learning and creating social connections even during a time when it's best for people to be physically apart.

Professional wedding and portrait photographer Randi Voss has taught courses through FCAAE for eight years.

"Supporting FCAAE is critical so that the program can continue for years as we move forward to more in-person learning experiences," Voss said.

The instructor enjoys the one-on-one, even if it's through a screen, of teaching the artistic and technical aspects of photography. Last fall, there were nine students in Voss' class. Winter enrollment dropped to just three people.

"Everyone has spent a lot of time online working, learning and visiting with family," Voss said. "Choosing to add another online experience may not be appealing but being able to have your questions answered by an engaging instructor is so much more fun and helpful than turning to pre-recorded material."

Goodwin said a part of the covid fallout was having to cut costs and pivot quickly to continue education services to the community in a safe way.

A major expense reduction was the elimination of the printing and mailing of the traditional red and white FCAAE brochure.

"We now rely on our email list which is only 20% of the traditional 24,000 households and businesses that receive class information," Goodwin said. "We are hoping people who enjoyed reading our mailed brochure will sign up for our email notifications so we can ensure that everyone continues to learn about our offerings."

For more, visit fcaae.org.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, tpanizzi@triblive.com or via Twitter .