Free courses from The Open University (OU) will feature on a new online learning platform the UK Government is launching today (Tuesday April 28) to help boost the nation’s skills while people are staying at home.
The Skills Toolkit has been launched today by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to give people access to free, top quality digital and numeracy courses to help people build skills, progress in work and boost job prospects.
Three courses on the OU’s popular OpenLearn platform will feature in The Skills Toolkit:
Everyday Maths designed to refresh your maths skills to help with everyday life or get on in your job; Learn to Code for Data Analysis where you learn how to write your own computer programs, one line of code at a time and Introduction to Cyber Security: Stay Safe Online to learn how to stay safe online, at home and at work.
In addition, five focused 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 and Digital Skills: Social Media (for Business).
Many of the above FutureLearn digital-related free courses have been created as part of the Institute of Coding which includes both OU and FutureLearn among its partners.
All courses are online and flexible, so people can work through them at their own pace.
In launching The Skills Toolkit, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said:
“I know how difficult the recent months have been and the huge changes the coronavirus has brought on the daily lives of us all.
“The high-quality and free to access courses on offer on our new online learning platform, The Skills Toolkit, will help those whose jobs have been affected by the outbreak, and people looking to boost their skills while they are staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.
“I want businesses to encourage their furloughed employees to use The Skills Toolkit to improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak.”
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“The impact of Covid-19 has shown how important digital skills are – both for work and other aspects of our lives. Technology is going to play a hugely important role in our economic recovery and this new platform will help ensure everyone is able to improve their digital skills and take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”
Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University welcomed the move. He 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.
“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, not just for today but in the future. The Government says it is just a “first step” towards assisting with the longer-term recovery to boost employability across the country, helping people to build up the skills employers need during time spent at home.
Learning initiatives across the nations
Similar initiatives to share OU free learning have also 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 hike in visitor numbers since the lockdown, regularly attracting four times as many daily visits to the site as it would normally expect.
Feedback among those who have already completed the OU’s Introduction to Cyber Security Course has been very positive, one learner saying: “A free course but loaded with rich stuff. It was great.”
Another, speaking about the Learn to Code for Data Analysis commented: “The number of available courses is impressive and this has given me a structured place to start studying towards what I hope to be a new career for me (after a brief time out of work raising kids). Thank you!”
OU student Mandy McDonagh is studying for a BSc in Criminology and Psychological studies, sharing the study experience with her daughter whilst 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. 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 of which I will be incredibly proud.
The OU to me has been a way of testing my resilience, challenging myself and demonstrating pure determination. Would I do it all again? Absolutely!”