Online courses aim to improve skills for furloughed workers

Apr 28, 2020

FREE courses from The Open University feature on a new online learning platform launched by the government to help boost the UK’s skills among furloughed workers and others staying at home during the lockdown.

The Skills Toolkit has been launched by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to give people access to free, top quality digital, coding and numeracy courses.

Everyday Maths designed to refresh maths skills; Learn to Code for Data Analysis where you learn how to write computer programs, one line of code at a time and Introduction to Cyber Security: Stay Safe Online teaches how to stay safe online, at home and at work.

Five courses from the OU’s part-owned FutureLearn platform will also feature on the Skills Toolkit. These are: 

  • Create a Professional Online Presence;
  • Thriving in the Digital Workplace;
  • How to Create Great Online Content;
  • Presenting Your Work with Impact;
  • Digital Skills: Social Media (for Business). 

OU vice-chancellor Professor Tim Blackman said: “We are very pleased to be working with the government on this initiative ensuring high quality learning opportunities are open to all.

“Online learning with The Open University allows anyone, whatever their educational background, to gain new skills and improve their knowledge in a subject, ready for when they return to work. 

Professor Tim Blackman, vice-chancellor of The Open University

“Our world-leading expertise and capability in online teaching shapes our free, short courses on our OpenLearn platform. Learners can start at any time and study at their own convenience, balancing learning with other responsibilities, especially in these unprecedented times.”

The courses have been selected on the advice of experts and leading employers to make sure they meet the needs of business for today and in the future.

Similar initiatives to share OU free learning have begun in collaboration with the Welsh government, Scottish government and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

The OU’s OpenLearn site has already seen a massive rise in visitor numbers since the lockdown, regularly attracting four times as many daily visits to the site as it would normally expect.

OU student Mandy McDonagh is studying for a BSc in Criminology and Psychological studies, sharing the study experience with her daughter while balancing some huge challenges in her personal life. She did several free OpenLearn courses before embarking on more formal OU study.

“To anyone thinking of OU study, I’d say it’s the best thing they could decide to do and there are such advantages to be gained,” Mandy said. “I’d recommend starting off with a taster course on OpenLearn – you can choose from a wide range depending on your interests.”

“My eldest daughter was so inspired by seeing me studying that she decided to study herself. She’s so proud of me and we can share the experience; it’s an extra link between mother and daughter.

“To be honest, despite the difficulty of concentrating on these studies they have helped immensely for my sense of routine, purpose and self-belief that out of this time of uncertainty I can still achieve something which I will be incredibly proud of. 

“The OU to me has been a way of testing my resilience, challenging myself & demonstrating pure determination. Would I do it all again? Absolutely.”

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