Lockdown learning: How to improve career prospects in isolation

Participation in online courses has risen since lockdown began

You’ve binge-watched Tiger King, had drinks with your friends and family via Zoom, decluttered your house – but you’ve still got more time on your hands than you’re used to. If this sounds familiar, you’re not on your own, and it seems more and more people are opting for online courses to fill up their lockdown time.

Llibert Argerich, Vice President of Marketing at Udemy, a site that offers over 100,000 online courses says they’ve definitely noticed a spike in course registrations. 

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“We have seen double-digit growth in learning as people are spending the majority of their time at home and working remotely,” he says. “Some of the most popular topics they're learning include time management and personal development.

“Additionally, we are also seeing large numbers of people relying on online learning to stay in shape, with courses like Pilates; pursue a new or long-standing passion in music, with courses like Ukulele; or unwind with courses like Meditation or Drawing.” 

Filling in the knowledge gaps

Speaking on Yahoo’s White Wine Question Time podcast, producer Terri Dwyer said the lockdown has made her consider her future and what she’s going to do with it.

Terri Dwyer has said she wants to do a computing course while in lockdown

“I'm definitely going to try and do an Open University course in computing,” she told podcast host Kate Thornton.

“With the producing work that I'm in now, I'm finding that kind of skill set is something that I need more and more, and I don't like relying on other people.”

Terri said during her latest movie production, Break, she often relied on her producing partner Dean Fisher to help out with the technical side.

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“I've always been the type of person that self teaches, whether it be acting or presenting, and then I look to people to fill in the gaps,” she said. “I feel with my computer skills now I need to fill in the gaps and I think this might be the time to do it.” 

Helping people back into work

Kathryn Tyler is the co-founder of Digital Mums, which specialises in courses to help get mums job-ready so they can create flexible careers that fit around family life. They’re currently offering 250 places (worth £499) on their Digital Bootcamp for those mums in at-risk retail service roles – sectors that have been particularly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

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Kathryn says their mission has always been to help reduce maternal unemployment, something they’re even more worried about during this ongoing crisis.

Digital Mums is hoping to help mums back into the workplace if they've lost their job during the pandemic

“Evidence shows that the challenges we face in the labour market [...] are disproportionately affecting women and mothers,” she says.

“We want to offer an online course that boosts their career confidence and builds in-demand skills to give them the best chance of succeeding at work.”

She continues: “We are predicting an increase in learning as a result of the pandemic overall, but this will need to wait until mothers have become more accustomed to their new routines and way of life.” 

Tips for first time self-learners

Having helped many people self-learn over the past seven years, Kathryn knows more than most that learning at home isn’t always as simple as it seems. Her first piece of advice? Choose the right course.

“Pick a subject you’re passionate about and select an online course that has a clear structure and accountability as it can be hard to stay motivated with self-directed learning,” she advises.

READ MORE: Why do people seem to feel groggy and tired during lockdown?

“Try to choose a course that offers engaging formats, such as interactive lessons and practical challenges, rather than just passive text or video lessons as evidence shows we learn best by doing both.”

One of the biggest issues, she says about completing any online course, is organising your time at home – as family, life and work will often get in the way.

Distance-learning requires some discipline and understanding how it fits in with your lifestyle

“Our tips here include asking for and organising support from your partner (if you have one) and planning your time as efficiently as possible,” she says. Here are some other tips from Kathryn that will help you make the most of your online course:

  • Sit down each week to look ahead at what’s coming up in the course and what’s happening in your life and book slots in your diary.

  • Look out for times when you can fit learning in, such as listening to an audio lesson while cooking or devoting an hour when the kids are in bed.

  • Accept you will have to make sacrifices so may have to miss out on some Netflix box sets and take the pressure off at home and let a few things slide – it’s not the end of the world if the kids have beans on toast for tea one night because you’re getting some homework done.

The best online learning courses to tap into

The one with a course on everything
Udemy bills itself as the ‘world’s largest selection of courses’ with over 100,000 online video courses. As well as slashing prices on paid courses, Udemy now also has a selection of free courses to help keep you occupied during these tough times. From learning how to code to discovering the essentials to help you work from home, there really is a course on anything and everything you want to learn. Other similar sites that offer wide-ranging – and now often free – courses include:

  • Coursera, which offers learning from top US universities

  • Open Learn, the free version of Open University

  • Future Learn, offering hundreds of online courses from top UK universities and specialists organisations

  • Edx, founded by Harvard and MIT, this has literally thousands of courses available

The one if you want to learn a new language
If you’ve ever fancied learning a new language, now is the time. Duo Lingo is a really easy-to-use language website and app, which makes learning a foreign language seem so much easier. It also has a reward scheme where you unlock further parts of the course, and get badges, to help encourage you on your way. You’ll be speaking Spanish faster than you can say mas rapido.

A course on meditation can help ease your anxiety during these troubled times

The one that will help you find inner calm
These uncertain times are a recipe for huge anxiety, which is where Ten Per Cent comes in. Billed as a daily meditation coach in your pocket, since the crisis hit you can also join in a live meditation stream every day to help ensure you have a little bit of sanity in your life.

The one where you learn directly from your inbox
Most courses that are offered online are a mixture of video and worksheets, but Highbrow is slightly different in that it delivers quick 5-minute daily lessons direct to you via email. With courses on a wide range of topics from improving your relationship to the basics of book-keeping, each course is designed to be digested first thing, over your morning cuppa, so it doesn’t impact on the rest of your day.

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The one to keep your business going
If you’re self-employed or have a business, these times are going to be tough. No Bull Business School offers no-nonsense courses to help build your business and brand. From how to start a business to learning how to use Instagram to build your brand, the courses are lingo-free and easy to follow, plus some courses come with access to a Facebook group so you can share learnings and questions.

The one if you fancy something creative
Created by a former Apple and Google employee, Brit + Co enables women to get inspired and be educated on how to be more creative. Their reasonable priced classes cover everything from cake decorating to calligraphy. They’re easy to follow and don’t take forever, meaning you’ll be hand illustrating your birthday cards way before lockdown ends.

Thankfully there are some courses available for the kids that will make home schooling that little bit easier

The ones to help you home school
If you’re one of the many parents suddenly home schooling, there are a vast array of resources available on the web to help you. From 20 April, BBC Bitesize will publish daily online lessons for all ages, alongside interactive quizzes online. 

READ MORE: Closing schools has a ‘marginal impact’, scientists discover

For younger kids, Carol Vorderman is offering her Maths Factor website free for the time being. There’s a slight delay in signing up, but it’s guaranteed to make maths more fun for the kids – and a whole let stressful for you.

Classroom Secrets, which is also normally a pay to use website, is offering certain services for free – the online tests are much more fun for the kids than your standard worksheets and also saves a few trees in the process.

Terri Dwyer talks more about surviving COVID-19, what she wants from life after the pandemic and her move into producing on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.