Studying with video online lesson at home

The fun of remote learning

With so much added time on our hands due to self-isolation, many of us are wondering how to fill the long hours. We’ve put together a few suggestions on how to fill the time by learning new skills!

Now is a great time to take advantage of the huge number of courses you can do online from the comfort of your own home. Even if you have work and caring responsibilities, taking an online course is a way of giving you something else in your life, a chance to use this lockdown period to enrich your life with knowledge, learning and skills. Or to just have fun!

Mass Open Online Courses

There is a wide variety of what’s called MOOC – Mass Open Online Courses. Most universities also offer a form of distance learning and some will give credits leading to a degree if you want to take your learning even further. The Open University pioneered distance learning when it was set up in 1969. As well as degrees it offers many short courses—for fun as well as professional development.

FutureLearn is one of the main providers of MOOCs with a very wide variety of courses offered for free. Subjects offered by FutureLearn include business and management, healthcare and medicine, history, IT and Computer Science, languages, law, literature, nature and the environment, psychology and mental health and science, engineering and maths. There’s something for everyone!

Carer Moira took a course in Irish history because it wasn’t taught when she was at school and she wanted to fill in the gaps. “I’d always loved history but for some reason, we never did anything about Ireland so when I saw there was a course in it I jumped at it. I’ve taken several more history courses since. I love doing MOOCs as they are something that’s just for me.”

Check out FutureLearn’s website or simply google MOOC with the subject area you want to study. Or do a search “continuing education” if you’re after something a bit more formal and want to get a qualification or credits towards one. If you want something that isn’t academic but just fun google online learning of whatever interests you.

For more tips on things to do to keep yourself busy in these times, read disability consultant Helen Dolphin’s 10 things to do in self-isolation.

Learn a new skill

Or why not try learning a new language? Duolingo is a free app offering bite-sized lessons that turn learning into a game so you lose a life if you get things wrong and gain points when you complete a lesson. It teaches you to read, write, listen and speak.

You can also learn to play a musical instrument using online lessons, especially during the lockdown when private tutors aren’t able to offer face-to-face lessons.

There are also hundreds of free TED (Technology Entertainment Design) talks you can listen to which offer short talks about innovative ideas. Here is a list of the 25 most popular talks, which cover subjects like “your body language may shape who you are”, “how to spot a liar” and “the surprising science of happiness”.

Or how about an online cookery course? Why not try a course by the woman who taught the UK to cook, Delia Smith? You could also try joining an online reading group so you get more pleasure from your books. Goodreads has discussions about books. You could also see if your local library has a virtual reading group.

Connect with other students

MOOC courses offer a way to make friends if you want to. The courses offer students a chance to interact with each other, comment on the courses, share learning and enjoy all the benefits of learning with others.

“As well as the content of the courses themselves I love the contact with other students,” says carer Judy. “I can’t get to evening classes or anything like that so this is the next best thing. If the lockdown has you tearing your hair out wondering what to do with yourself and you’re fed up of just watching TV every evening, I recommend these.”


You can also interact with other keen learners using social media — there are scores of students across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Goodreads. The FutureLearn courses encourage discussion among students so there are threads dedicated to each course where students can chat with each other, ask questions, and raise issues.

Making the most of lockdown 

The lockdown is a great time to learn a new skill, acquire knowledge and connect with other students. It can be fun as well as rewarding. There’s so much out there that perhaps it’s best to think about what interests you first, maybe make a short list, and then search online for it. Happy learning!

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