Lockdown Support Zone: Communicating without email

This is the area where we hope to share ideas about use of technology to create interaction without sending a constant stream of emails. Anyone with expertise in this area is welcome to make contact via

Select this link to read a useful guide by Third Age Trust for establishing some of these services for your group:

The website team can help you by creating areas dedicated to your group, including setting up a discussion forum, so if you would like to know what is practical, email the website team on  

For help with establishing groups using social media, email Helen Stevens

Use of the U3A website for Group Forums

This is where group members can start a conversation on any topic and allow others to join in.  It has the advantage of encouraging an ongoing dialogue just between the members of your group.  The Book Review, Environment and Northern Towns Groups now use this facility.

There is also a forum for the whole of U3A.  To view content or add your own topic, select or click on this link: Members only Discussion Forum.

If you would like guidance on posting your own content, select here for a step by step guide.

Telephone conferencing

Use this link to set up and try Why Pay

Participants to a conference call are provided with a 03 telephone number which attracts a national rate call charge.  Many landline and mobile phone operators include such calls in their “bundled” phone call costs. Next step is to use your telephone key pad to enter a security code and then a four digit PIN.  And that’s it.  The basic service is free to join and has proved more than adequate to hold a conference call involving some 7 people discussing a variety of developments on the website.  A few learning points:

  • It helps to publish an agenda in advance with target times for various topics.  In this way, some participants can dial in and leave when their part of the agenda is due to be covered.
  •  Avoid trying to talk all at once.  A firm chair person might be needed on occasion.
  • Works best when everyone knows each other, otherwise it requires a system to identify who is speaking.
Using Skype to call others

Many computers and mobile phones have a Skype facility already installed.  It is provided by Microsoft.  If you do not have it, it can be downloaded from Google or Apple Store.  The iPad and Apple equivalent is Face Time but that is limited to Apple devises.  Skype can still operate on iPads and iPhones.

For an introduction to using Skype, try this YouTube video:

Skype video conferencing

The website team has had one video conference using Skype which has the benefit of audio and visual image.  At one stage we managed to show the computer screen to demonstrate a page from our website.

So there is no reason why a member could not show a PowerPoint presentation and describe the slides as if they were in a room, but with the audience tuning in from their home laptops and tablets.  If anyone wants to try this, please email the website team on and someone can talk you through the process. Worth a try because it’s free to set up and use.


This is an alternative to Skype, and it works in a similar way. (Many people now prefer it to Skype!) The basic version is free, and there’s lots of information about the different features here:



Facebook groups are a good way for members to stay in touch and hold group discussions. Here’s some information on how to set up a group (including a link to details of the different privacy levels. If you want to keep your communications to members of your U3A group only, you need to make your group ‘Private’:

If your group members already have Facebook Messenger, you should be able to hold chats – text, voice or video – using this facility:


If you have a smartphone, you can install WhatsApp (from the Play Store on an Android phone, or the Apple App Store on an iPhone). You can then add other people’s contact numbers (they also need to have WhatsApp).

WhatsApp works via your internet connection (either WiFi or your phone’s data allowance), so messages do not count as ‘texting’ (SMS). WhatsApp is easy to install and use, it allows you to connect with individuals and groups, and enables you to communicate via text, voice or video. You can also send photos and other documents. It has the advantage of being instant (unlike some email communication!):

Videos: and

Help and support

For support in using these ideas, please email the website team on

If you want support using social media (Facebook / WhatsApp) your contact is Helen Stevens

U3A has a new private Facebook group called U3A: Keeping in touch? Members from all over the UK are sharing ideas (or even just saying 'I'm in Basingstoke and I'm in the Family History group'). Here's the link: (Facebook account needed and you will need to apply to join)

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