Some of us feel busier than ever. Others have time on their hands. These courses may just help both camps, providing diversion and learning both for the bored, and for those needing to stimulate young minds.

As lockdown trudges on, there has never been a moment at which we’ve been more grateful for the sheer volume of useful and entertaining things available to us online. The individual experience of staying behind closed doors very much depends, of course, on a number of variables. The first, naturally, is one’s health. On the proviso that that remains in tact, then there’s whether you have children to entertain/ teach; a job to continue to do; money to exist on; and a home (and ideally garden) with enough space for everyone it accommodates. Some people feel desperately bored and lonely; others feel overwhelmed by having to juggle work with home schooling and having no alone time – and of course, there’s every scenario in between.

Online courses may help both sides of the bored/besieged divide. In the former camp and looking for things to do? Why not try some of these online classes, a few of which are just for fun, others of which may even lead you down a whole new life path post lockdown? In the latter camp and seeking for some respite? Why not get the kids hooked up with a class so that you can have a moment to yourself, ideally with a nice cup of tea.

We’ve rounded up some of best to take your pick from, though of course many more exist and remain a mere Google search away.

EtonX Free Courses For School

Not so much one for the individual, this, but if you have a child of secondary age who is itching to learn, why not petition their school to sign up for Eton’s free online learning platform? The school that has churned out more Prime Ministers than any other is famed for its exceptional teaching – as well as its hefty school fees. During lockdown, other schools that are inclined to do so can sign up for its online self-study offering, EtonX.

An Eton spokesperson said: ‘At a time when schools across the UK are closed and adapting to digital learning, it is more important than ever that all in education work in partnership for the benefit of young people. EtonX self-study courses are specifically designed to be delivered 100 per cent online and include a full range of engaging learning materials, with a personal action plan and end of course assessment for each learner. The courses are being made available to all UK state secondary schools, free of charge, for use where individual schools feel that EtonX can complement the great work that their staff are already doing, in challenging circumstances.’

Learn With The Open University

The Open University has long provided a route to education from home. There is almost no end to its offerings, whether you want to study English literature, maths at degree level or get to grips with business or law. There are also a ton of courses at all levels that the Open University runs free-of-charge. Among an astonishing array of options, you can take introductory lessons in child psychology, digital literacy, youth work or understanding dyslexia. For the full gamut of possibilities, do check out its online listings. We have time on our hands and they’re free: no excuses not to explore bright new horizons now.

Improve Your Professional IT skills

How often do we find ourselves longing to take a course to improve our professional skill set and never quite finding the time and/or budget? Well, IT professionals take note. Oracle Cloud courses provide 50 hours of training and are available to developers, technical professionals, architects, students and professors. The best bit? They’re free until 15 May, and cover Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Oracle Autonomous Database. Raghu Viswanathan, the VP of education products and delivery at Oracle University says, ‘As our customers adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape, Oracle is stepping up its efforts to help build critical technical cloud skills they need to ramp up innovation.’

Improve Your Life Via Philosophy with The School of Life

The School of Life’s educational courses are usually run as evening affairs. In these days of maintaining social distance, they shall go ahead online (do check each individual course as to the revised schedules). Thanks to its esteemed tutors, you can learn how to be sociable (at a distance, one imagines for now); how culture can change your life; how to develop self-knowledge, and even what the meaning of life is (yup, all the big questions). Thought you didn’t have time for philosophy? Well you do now.

Learn To Be Indolent With The Idler

Alright, we may be being deliberately misleading here. The Idler Academy’s courses happen to, in fact, be highly illuminating and delivered by people who really know their cultural shallots. However, The Idler began as a publication with the tagline ‘literature for loafers’ as a protest against the unthinking daily grind. When Tom Hodgkinson (do check out his guest edit this week) later founded The Idler Academy, the idea was not to teach people how to loll about (many of us can manage this quite well on our own), but to offer an eclectic array of fascinating topics for instruction and discussion, encouraging minds to freely wander to topics beyond the constrictions of the modern cult of being busy. The concept has never been more apt. Hop onto its website to discover what you might learn when you allow your mind the space to drift: courses range from introductions to anarchy to medieval literature to calligraphy to business for bohemians. Go, be idle.

Learn To Dance With Sadlers Wells Digital Stage

May the gods of lockdown bless Sadlers Wells. It has responded admirably to these restricted times with a full range of activities. As well as being able to watch some of its performances online (do have a read of our online theatre feature for details) it is also offering dance classes to try in your sitting room. Attempt the wonderful Family Dance Workshop to keep little ones (aged two to six) moving, or tune in for The Company of Elders’ classes, which is aimed at the over-60s. We vow to dance like no one is watching – mostly because they literally are not.

Perfect Your Drawing Skills

‘Now Everyone Can Draw’ is the promise on Drawspace’s landing page. Whether you’re a novice who’d like to learn the basics (in which case, try the Drawing from Line To Life: Beginner class), a parent looking for tools to help their newly home-schooled kids (there are lesson plans you can download free of charge), or you’re already pretty advanced but want to structure and augment your skills, Drawspace’s courses are tutored by ‘world-renowned artists and educators.’ You can also learn about art history here too, if that’s your bag.

Learn Guitar with Udemy

Still got your old guitar knocking around from student days when you fancied yourself the next Bob Dylan (but couldn’t quite tear yourself away from the bar long enough to master more than the basic chords?). Well, now’s its moment. Udemy has unveiled a host of courses, all now online at massively reduced prices. Complete Guitar System from Beginner to Advanced is down from £149.99 to £20.99. You can also learn song-writing, piano and theory. Emerge from lockdown the regular singer/song writer you always dreamed of being.

Learn To Knit

Whether you’re already au fait with your knitting needles or a total novice, why not join the free Instagram Live sessions that We Are Knitters is running on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am? As well as creating something potentially lovely to keep, think of all that stress-busting relaxation you’ll get alongside.

By Nancy Alsop
April 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.