Secret #35 University of The Third Age

University of the Third Age

U3A Online is the world-first virtual U3A operating exclusively online.

The University of the Third Age is an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life. It is commonly referred to as U3A.

University of The Third Age Online provides short courses for older people who enjoy learning but prefer the freedom to study where and when they choose.

Their courses are open to all older people, or younger disabled people, anywhere in the world. They are especially suited to older members of the community who are isolated either geographically, or through physical or social circumstances.

U3A Online provides other services too. We support University of The Third Age from anywhere in exchanging ideas, resources and information through our website, and we encourage older people to harness the internet’s seemingly unlimited educational potential. Our courses are available to U3As and other related organisations for face-to-face teaching via a site licence agreement.  Retirement villages and Aged Care facilities are also able to access the courses under site licence after taking out an organisation membership.

University of The Third Age Online is operated by a Management Committee elected by the Members at the Annual General Meeting each year.

We develop online courses using the skills of our volunteer subject writers and editors. Our courses are accessible throughout the year and can be studied either independently at a time to suit you or with the guidance of a volunteer course leader when the leader is available.

Our website continues to expand as we add to our information resource for older people and U3A communities.

The U3A Online project is the initiative of a group of U3A enthusiasts. It was originally funded for one year by the Australian Government as a project for the United Nations International Year of Older Persons in 1999. Funding was continued for two further years until the fully volunteer based model became established.

Initially Adult Learning Australia partnered the project but full responsibility for its operations has now passed to U3A Online Inc. which is incorporated in NSW as a non-profit association.

Griffith University in Brisbane provided significant support for many years via the hosting of the site and providing other support through its Community development resources. U3A Online will forever be thankful for the major role Griffith played in keeping the U3A Online dream alive until the organisation was able to stand on its own.

In 2008 a consortium of four partners including U3A Online won the Australian Government $15 million Broadband for Seniors contract. Details, including the $10.5 million extension until 2015 are available through the Broadband for Seniors tab on this website. 


They offer a wide variety of course subjects which can be studied at any level of interest.  They aim to provide something for everyone, so their courses may vary in length and depth.

The courses are informal, there are no exams or assignments and no certificates issued.  Each course is offered as Independent Study. A number of courses also have a Course Leader, at dates listed on the ‘with leader’ Courses list.

Courses with a Leader:

The chronological list of all up and coming Courses with a Leader is added to as each course becomes available.  A course does not appear on the list when it is currently running. Click the course name for a summary of the course.

The course content of our courses is provided by our course writers and does not necessarily reflect

the view of the U3A Online Committee and/or Members.

Membership Information

Membership of U3A Online is available to both Individuals and Organisations with the following conditions applying:

Individual Membership

If you wish to undertake a course with U3A Online, as an Individual person, you need to first become a member of U3A Online.

This costs $30AUS per year from the date you join and once a member you are able to enroll in as many courses as you wish, as Independent study, without further cost, throughout your membership period. If you want to do a course with a Course Leader (when they are available) then you need to pay an additional $5AUS for that course.

You can also participate in the social forums in the Members’ Lounge and other member based online activities.

Membership of U3A Online gives you an automatic subscription to GEMs which is their newsletter. You are able to unsubscribe from this any time after you receive the first issue.

Click here to Join as individual.

Organisation Membership

If your U3A/Organisation wishes to use the U3A Online course notes as the basis for face to face classes then the U3A/Organisation needs to join as an Organisation Member ($15AUS/yr).

This then entitles them to purchase site licences ($20AUS/course) for any courses they want to run within their U3A/Organisation. This will allow the U3A/Organisation to enrol in the course/s they have the licence for and download the course notes. These can then be printed and as many copies made as are needed for the face to face class. More than one class can be run with the same notes throughout the membership period.

As an alternative to the notes being printed for everyone the U3A/Organisation can allow its members to have access to the course via the U3A/Organisation log in information but this will only apply to the courses that the U3A/Organisation has a site licence to.

This effectively means that for the small cost of $20AUS the course can be shared among as many of your U3A/Organisation Members as you wish, as a course within the U3A/Organisation.

Membership of U3A Online gives you an automatic subscription to GEMs. You are able to unsubscribe from this any time after you receive the first issue.

U3A also has branches in all states

There are heaps of regional and local chapters where you can join other students however the online courses are seperate.


If you wish to join or contact your local U3A (where you meet with other people) please use the information on the link below

Please DO NOT sign up on this site for any U3A other than U3A Online Inc. where all courses/activities are done online.

Find a U3A near you:

Sample of Live Course Summary

Writing for Pleasure

Unit 1 – Planning A Story

Introduction, notes about writing, the short story, working up a plot, point of view, planning a story. Activity: A story plan.

Unit 2 – Planning, Characters, Dialogue

Planning, characters, dialogue. Activity: Write the same short incident: in third person, without dialogue, then again in third person but include dialogue.

Unit 3 – Beginnings, Endings And Flashbacks

Beginnings, flashbacks, endings, descriptions, making words work. Activity: Write a story 700-1,000 words using the questions to assess your work. Topics are suggested.

Unit 4 – Evaluation

Evaluating your work, notes, diaries and letters, using your imagination. Times and settings. Activity: Write an incident in about 500 words, fiction or autobiography but make it larger than life.

Unit 5 – Premise

Premise, improving what I write (various topics and examples). Activity: Write an opening paragraph on three topics. Write to grab your reader’s interest.

Unit 6 – Styles Of Writing

Styles of writing, example of draft and story. Activity: A story 500-1,000 words. Pick a familiar topic (like a hobby) and write a well planned piece.

Unit 7 – Another Look At Research

Research, starting points, questions about writing with examples, Australian writing (this is not how to be an ‘Occa’.) Activity: Write about where you live. Try to include dialogue and, maybe, humour.

Unit 8 – Expanding Our Writing Skills

Ideas, themes, body language, conclusion. Activity: Could you write another story and put it on the Discussion Board. You choose a topic.

What You Need

All that’s needed to study online is access to a computer, tablet or other device with an Internet connection – and some basic computing skills.

Payment Methods

All payments are in Australian dollars.

Payment by Credit card is the only viable means of payment for people without an Australian bank account.


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