Lockdown is the time to learn new skills

A plethora of online courses taught by world famous industry professionals are at your fingertips; don’t waste this opportunity.

The capitalist economy is set up deliberately to minimise your spare time. From our first saucer-eyed venture into higher education and the job market, our freedom is co-opted by the endless drudgery of the 9-5.

In her book Decolonising Time: Work, Leisure and Freedom, Marie Shippen argues that our lives are so often taken up by work and carrying out living necessities (shopping, cleaning etc) that even when we do accumulate some ‘free time’, it’s rarely ‘leisure time’ in any stimulating sense. More often our evenings and weekends are spent in a decompression slump where we simply consume more products (streaming TV, Deliveroo because we’re too tired to cook) before jumping back into the daily grind. This is true of students as well as professionals, and it’s the workforce Gen Z have been taught to expect.

But for the grace of Lockdown, many of us would have continued on in this vein in ignorance of an alternative. However, the pandemic has forced capitalist structures that consume our money and our time to give us back control over our daily schedule. It’s a disruption that’s bound to have far-reaching consequences, as people realise what it is to not be constantly tired from arduous, repetitive, and often unstimulating work or study, to and from which they must commute, and to have energy and time left over.

Londoners commute an average 74 minutes every day

Many are grasping the opportunity to learn something new and upskill themselves. When you have the motivation to go looking for it, it doesn’t take long to realise how mind-bogglingly large the range of opportunities for online learning are.

Some web academies that have experienced a massive surge in demand during quarantine are the How To Academy, Masterclass, and Udemy. They’re not all free, and given recent exploitation scandals for-profit online universities like the University of Phoenix have been mixed up in, it’s easy to suspect that these platforms are nothing but insubstantial money-making ventures. But the quality of the teaching on these sites is undeniable, and the prices are reasonable.

New things are always scary, but this seems to be the future of quick upskilling and self-directed research.


MasterClass Online Classes

If you’ve not already heard people raving about Masterclass til they’re out of breath, then frankly you haven’t been listening hard enough.

Masterclass is a subscription-based education service that’s host to thousands, and I mean thousands, of courses on quite literally everything you could think of taught by the most successful people in the world in those fields. For under £15 a month GDP, you can learn composition from Hans Zimmer, acting from Natalie Portman, tennis from Serena Williams, filmmaking from Martin Scorsese, writing from Judie Blume, and astrophysics from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Their front page’s optics are similar to Netflix, with famous faces smiling up at you as the page carousels through various video options. But you’re not here to switch off, oh no – these professionals are going to help you lift the curtains of previously opaque industries and stride behind the scenes to learn the tricks of the trade. People who have gained the kind of success most of us only dream of are ready and willing to share their secrets, why the hell wouldn’t we listen?!

How to Academy 

12 Rules for Life: London: How To Academy - YouTube

The How To Academy is an organisation that hosts discussions amongst industry leaders on a range of topics, and facilitates a huge number of courses. Though membership options are available, generally the classes are shoppable and retail for around £20-50 GDP, but they also have a heck of a lot of free content, including stacks of topical and constantly updating podcasts.

Though the How To Academy usually hosts talks live at their London office, since quarantine they’ve moved a number of their classes and events online. Some things that caught my eye on the How To website which are available to those of us at home were a podcast on how white people can challenge unconscious racism, a masterclass on ‘How to Adapt and Innovate Using the Insights of Neuroscience’, and an option to book tickets for a free talk from Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.


Udemy Claims a Valuation of $2 Billion and Announces 5,000 ...

A newcomer to this industry, and possibly the platform with the most eclectic offerings, is Udemy. The online learning platform has a whopping 150,000 online courses to choose from, most of which retail from $10 to $20 USD.

The really nifty thing about Udemy, and what makes it so diverse, is its open-source policy towards finding educational talent. Whilst competing online education sites like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera work exclusively with university professors and heavily screen their instructors, Udemy is far more community-led. To teach on Udemy you don’t have to be affiliated. Popular courses receive higher ratings, sending them to the top of the queue, meaning that quality can be easily hunted out. This also means that the most hardworking and dedicated teachers can earn as much as $1 million USD a year, whilst passing on knowledge they likely would’ve found difficult to commercialise otherwise, like copywriting.

Udemy recently released some stats on subjects with the highest enrolment surges by country since the lockdown period began.


The people represented in Udemy’s graphic have, I believe, got the right idea when it comes to time spent during quarantine. We’ll probably never get an opportunity this perfect to learn new skills again – we weren’t supposed to have this opportunity in the first place.

All of us have areas of interest that aren’t immediately saleable or weren’t marketed as vocational when we were young, meaning that we were never given space to peruse them. But now, technology is rapidly changing the landscape of employment, with some experts predicting that automated systems will ‘replace’ humans in around 50% of our current jobs by 2050. What previous generations understood as ‘useful’ skills are not applicable to the landscape Gen Z now faces, and the opportunities to turn our passions into commodities have never been richer.

As society develops and automates, not only will the careers available to us change, but the concept of free time as we’ve experienced it during lockdown might become more familiar. As I investigated here, quarantine has called into question the necessity of the daily commute after spotlighting the ease of remote work. The concept of ‘real’ downtime might facilitate learning for learning’s sake as a permanent sector of the human condition, not just something a pandemic forced us into.

The internet is connecting us to expertise we never previously would have had access to, and it’s important that we take advantage of this. Take this time to invest in yourself: after all, it’s a gift capitalism never wanted you to have.

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