The New Normal – Online Escapes – Free Learning

I have found myself in that rather large group of people who are not currently working due to movement restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, I have significantly more time on my hands than I am used to, and if you’re anything like me you find not having anything to do almost equally as distressing as having too much to do, so you hunt down activities and free or low cost opportunities to learn.

Of course, this issue is nothing compared to what key workers, care and healthcare staff are dealing with on a daily basis and when chatting to my friends in those professions I feel lucky, privileged and frankly guilty for not being able to do more.


Whether I like it or not, I somehow seem to sign myself up to all sorts of newsletters and points card systems but that seems to finally have been paying off. Superdrug send out some form of ‘treat’ every Thursday and a few weeks ago that treat was a month’s free premium access to Shaw Academy, an online learning platform. I quickly jumped at the chance to sign up to a few different courses – Social Media Marketing, Blog and Content Marketing and Wedding Photography. I know, that last one is a little bit of a curveball but we are hoping (with all fingers crossed) to have a family wedding if not in the next few months then in a year’s time, and I thought it would be nice if I were able to take some snazzy looking shots of the couple. Plus, as I am learning quickly, the techniques you pick up in wedding photography can be applied to so many other situations where you want to capture mood and atmosphere.

I’ve found the Shaw courses to be ideal for this situation, and are providing me with an hour of direct learning per lesson, plus the option for additional learning, suggested homework and assignments each week. If you only had a limited amount of spare time then you could probably fit in one course per week, and the big benefit to a Shaw course is that you can reschedule a lesson should you not be able to make it for any reason. The course lessons are all pre-recorded but you area given contact details for the Shaw team and the individual teachers, and the online chatbot, Morpheus, is available to answer any fairly basic questions you may have. Another big benefit is you can also chat to other people who are following the same course as you.


Another online learning platform that I have loved for a few years is EdX. Similarly to Shaw, if you want to achieve a formal certification you do need to pay, but if you’re just keen to brush up on a few skills or learn about something that has interested you for a while then EdX gives you access to course materials from a whole host of university modules. I’ve taken everything from a course on the first night of The Rite of Spring to Music for Wellness and The Psychology of Criminal Justice. Some of the courses are offered by hugely prestigious universities like Harvard or MIT. Have you ever wanted to really indulge your inner Rory Gilmore then I wholly recommend exploring what is available for free on EdX.

The Open University offers both paid for formal diplomas and degrees, but you can also find some great free courses on the website. They range from a two hour taster style course to a full 14 or 15 hour commitment that you can take up whenever you have the time. I am conscious that if you have children or other dependents, and if you are working strict hours still that committing to a specific time each week is difficult and can add an unnecessary layer of stress to further learning, so the freedom to choose when you are able to learn on an ad-hoc basis can be useful and reassuring!

If you’re after something more along the lines of a key skill, then search your local job centre or government website such as The Skills Toolkit from the UK Government and many have literacy and numeracy courses available for free. These can be super beneficial for your CV, particularly if you feel you may be lacking in some of the more widely recognised formal qualifications in the UK like GCSEs or O Levels.

Finally, and possibly the easiest way to learn, is don’t forget that the internet is a complete hive of information. Yes, some of it is wildly inaccurate but if you make sure you approach all information with a degree of curiosity and questioning you should be okay. Make sure you check sources, find differing opinions, and form your own conclusions on topics. There are plenty of blogs available, and in fact I will take this opportunity to plug my own new blog project which explores the link between Music and Emotion and is hopefully very accessible for anyone!

Happy learning and as always, stay safe x



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