Course ideas

Here is just a sample of courses, selected at random from U3A Newsletters/Programmes.

Armchair Theatre: explore plays through play reading, discussion.

Armchair Travel: now we all know about the Aussie "grey army"! There are sure to be lots of interesting/informative stories among your membership.

Australian Constitution: you may not have access to a Constitutional Lawyer on hand, but a group can work its way through the Federal Constitution, copies of which, along with Fact Sheets, are usually available from your local Federal member. Guaranteed to stir up some interesting discussion!

Book Discussion Groups: find someone interested in literature, persuade them to be a Course Leader and discuss novels/poetry/plays. Have members of the group research the author's life and the background to his/her work.

Botany: if you can find a tame Botanist this is a fascinating one. It also presents opportunities for studies in the field. Remember, not all learning takes place in a classroom!

Computer/Internet Skills Sessions: will the local school give you access to their computer room after school hours? Do you have Computer whizzes among your members who are willing to become tutors? Keep it simple and let people learn at their own pace. Keep groups small. Perhaps some kind person would offer to take small groups in their own home.

Creative Writing: this is one of the most popular U3A courses. There are a lot of budding Third-Age authors out there! Some U3A writers have had their work published after attending a Creative Writing Class. Many others just enjoy "scribbling" and sharing their work with others. Think of all those stories/memories you should record as part of the family history!

Comparative Religion: learn about religions other than your own. This can operate well as a group activity, with members of the group taking turns to research and present sessions.

Current Affairs: with a good leader, these sessions work well.

Genealogy: explore your family history.

Geology/Geography: explore your own area and those further a field.

Languages: limited only by tutors available.

Law: do you have a retired lawyer among your members willing to conduct a course on basic law as it concerns Third-Age-ers?

Mathematics: always puzzled by algebra, always wondered what a logarithm is? Is there a retired math teacher out there who'd love to explain?

Music Appreciation: the composers, their lives and times. Share enjoyment of your recordings and CD's.

Philosophy: for those who want to ask "why"? If you can't find a tutor, can be conducted as a group activity, with group members, either individually or in pairs, leading discussion in turn.

Psychology: now this is always popular if you are lucky enough to have access to a psychologist willing to conduct a course for you.

Public Speaking: as well as the basic skills involved in speaking "on your feet" members can learn how to conduct a meeting and to debates (why not issue a challenge to the local Rotary Club?)

Science: the possibilities are many; space travel, astronomy, medical research, biology, physics – just a few of them.

The courses your U3A offers will be limited only by the interests of your members and the resources (mainly tutors/group leaders) at your disposal. Ask your members for suggestions, especially if they can also locate a tutor/group leader for them!

The main criterion of courses is to meet the needs of your members. Some courses will become ongoing due to popular demand or because the subject, by its very nature, requires them to be (e.g. language study). Others will be shorter and a few may be one-off presentations. Try to maintain a balance. You will find that your curriculum will change and grow with your membership.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching may be done by an individual or a team. Styles of teaching will vary from traditional lecture to sessions of high member participation. This will usually depend on the nature of the subject being studied. The background of your tutors/group leaders may vary greatly. Some will come from academic backgrounds – university lecturers or schoolteachers – while many will be members with an interest or skill developed over many years and a willingness to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others – i.e. in the true spirit of U3A.

There are no entry requirements for U3A membership, no formal "qualifications" are granted and career promotion and profit-making are not motivating factors. Members learn and teach for the sheer joy of it. Encourage your members to become tutors and group-leaders. A lifetime spent studying, making, writing, talking, creating, listening, researching, reading and just living adds up to a vast reservoir of knowledge, talents and skills, all waiting to be shared with others who wish to learn.

What about social activities? Remember – U3A is a learning organisation, not a social club. Having stressed this, we recognise that U3A learning takes place in a relaxed, friendly, supportive social environment. Many U3As operate activities such as Bush Walking Groups, Choirs, Theatre Parties, Tennis days, Travel Clubs, Dining-out Groups, Coffee and Chat mornings etc. While these are not courses as such they do provide opportunities for social contact with fellow members and assist with the development and maintenance of a sense of U3A-community. However, make sure that these activities are limited in number and are seen as only secondary to the main purposes of your U3A – learning and teaching.

The use of copied materials for teaching requires an array of copyright licences, depending on the original source of the material used.  The Network has arranged blanket licences.  See further information on the Copyright page.

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