Broaden your horizons through online learning

If you’re at home with more time on your hands, why not take the opportunity to learn something new?

There are thousands of online courses across a wide range of topics – and many of them are free. You could:

  • Start a new hobby such as painting or guitar playing
  • Brush up on your practical skills through ‘how to’ video tutorials
  • Learn a foreign language or digital application
  • Follow a course that leads to a formal qualification
  • Study subjects that interest you such as psychology or modern history.

To help you on your educational journey, we’ve picked out some of the more popular online resources.

FutureLearn was launched in 2012 by The Open University and since then it has grown to become one of the most popular teaching forums with more than 9 million users. The platform offers short online courses and fully accredited degrees.

Alongside the long list of academic subjects, FutureLearn offers university-backed tutorials that teach practical skills. Free courses include ‘How to write your first song’, ‘Start writing fiction’ and ‘The power of podcasting’.

Udemy has 100,000 free and paid courses. Prices can vary but keep an eye out for special offers. There’s everything from photography, languages and graphic design through to life coaching, public speaking and Reiki healing. Courses are taught by industry experts and many include a certificate on completion. Each course is rated by past students, which is really useful as their feedback will help you decide whether a particular course matches what you’re looking for.

Coursera is another well-known site that partners with universities from around the world. Options range from free courses through to more structured university degrees. All are designed to broaden your knowledge and boost your career prospects.

Duolingo is a language site offering bite-size lessons, which it says feels more like a game than a text book – so your kids could get involved too. There’s almost every language you can think of and all courses are free if you don’t mind the adverts. Or you can pay a subscription for a premium service, to lose the ads and get offline access to the courses.


iTunesU features educational audio and video files from universities, museums and other public organisations. There’s a mixture of free and paid content. iTunesU is a convenient online education tool because it integrates with an Apple device. For Microsoft PC users, you’ll need to download iTunes from the Apple site. You can then access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store.

For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics – from sport and film to real-life stories and current affairs. In particular, BBC World Service podcasts offer a large amount of up-to-the-minute international factual content.

Take advantage of what’s on offer to expand your knowledge, boost your CV and improve your mental wellbeing.

Bolton College cookery tutorials

Closer to home, Bolton College is running free cookery tutorials on their college hub Facebook pages. Choose a Facebook group closest to you from the list below, give the page a ‘like’ and you’ll get regular updates each time a new tutorial has been posted.

Something for the kids

This is the BBC’s online study resource for school-aged kids. It helps with school curriculum learning, homework and exam revision. You can also access a lot of this on the red button on your TV.

National Geographic Kids

A more casual learning environment, National Geographic Kids offers a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos to keep them entertained.

Draw with Rob

Award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Rob Biddulph, shares his artistic skills every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am when he hosts a draw-along video. You can find his free films on YouTube #DrawWithRob. Our favourite is the Sausage Dog!

Please check the terms and conditions of the sites before signing up. Although we’re recommending these websites, this is just to signpost you to sites we think may be useful. We’re not affiliated with or responsible for these sites and it’s up to individuals to decide whether a provider or course is suitable for them.

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