The Virtual University of the Third Age (vU3A) began as an idea put forward by a U3A member and its development was supported by the Third Age Trust. Development took place over a number of years. Information about the UK U3A in general can be found at A definitive pilot test took place in the first half of 2008 and the proram went public on January 1st 2009. 

The aim of the project was to create not just another U3A Group, but one which differs from all existing U3A groups in that it meets only on the Internet. The vU3A is an online learning community of older people who adhere as far as is possible to the principles of participative learning which have been a characteristic of the U3A since its inception in 1982. Hence the vU3A does not create or deliver structured online courses but bases its activities on the traditional model.

The vU3A should be clearly distinguished from formal course provision. Members of the Virtual U3A are encouraged to form their own learning groups, choose their own topics and share much of the teaching/learning in a collaborative way. An important target group for this virtual development includes older people who are isolated geographically, or through illness or perhaps because of personal commitments (carers, for example).

During the first phase of the development, the methodology was tested with a small group of volunteers from different parts of the English-speaking world. It was important to discover whether a genuinely warm and friendly online community of people could be created who would want to share learning in this very collaborative way.

This pilot was considered a success by all who took part. It emerged that the kind of informal learning proposed is especially suited to the 'isolated' target group. Informal learning groups are often experienced as less pressurising for people who have many constraints on their time and can be a much less daunting commitment to take on.


How to join the vU3A:

All you need to do is fill up an online membership application and click on the "Submit application form" button at the foot of the page. After completing the application form, you will be sent to the online payment page. Once your payment has been accepted, you will receive welcome information for new members, together with detailed instructions and password for accessing their members' web-site.

Click here for their information website, offering a video introduction to the Virtual U3A and an online membership application form