The learning opportunities provided through the Society for all members fall into four main areas. The details of each are outlined below.

(a) Talks

Talks are ad hoc events and are quite informal in nature. They are often on subjects of personal interest to members and involve some informed input, but are also characterised by involving discussion. Members are actively encouraged to join in, engage and contribute. This sometimes involves members being part of the presentation by reading material or by being sent material prior to the session to read, to think about and to comment on at the talks. In this way the important social aspects of learning are strengthened and the benefits of ‘challenge’ to our knowledge and beliefs can be garnered and enjoyed.

(b) Lectures

Lectures are a more formal affair although only to the extent that the input is given uninterrupted by the lecturer for around forty-five minutes so that members are able to listen to and benefit from their expertise. At the end of the lecture, there is always a question and answer session so members are able to more fully explore what they have seen and heard. Lecturers are encouraged to identify further reading or learning opportunities that members can take up if they wish to explore the subject more fully. Members themselves are also asked to identify subjects on which they would like an expert to be engaged by SUES, often from a local university.

(c) Courses

Courses are not just one-off events but take place over a number of weeks, typically from six to ten weeks in length. They seek to provide a more in-depth knowledge of the subject under study and a greater understanding about it. Members are encouraged to attend all sessions which make up the whole course, but in the future online facilities and recording will be available to enable members not able to attend all sessions to not miss out. Unlike lectures, courses are more interactive, and sessions are longer at around two hours with a break for refreshments and socialising in-between. There are opportunities to interact with the course provider throughout and to be fully engaged with the subject.

(d) Trips and Visits

Where possible, the learning opportunities for members are enhanced by organised trips and visits. For example, a recent course on Stately Homes was also associated with a visit to Scarisbrick Hall, albeit delayed due to the pandemic. Other trips are learning opportunities in themselves. For example, it is hoped that a recent lecture on Lichens will be followed by an organised walk to become more acquainted with and better understand these life-forms in the Southport locality.