Six great ways to learn.

Learning new things will always be a passion of mine. Recently, I’ve tried my hand at spoon carving and floristry, amongst other things. I like nothing better than a full day of immersion in a new activity. But that’s not always an option and so I’ve been investigating other ways to learn that I can fit into every day life. Here’s a few that I like:

Skillshare. This American website hosts online courses in a wide variety of subjects such as hand-lettering, digital illustration, film-making and photography. Students upload their work for critique from their peers and the teacher. I’ve not taken a course yet, but the feedback between students seems to be positive and constructive. The prices look good too, and as there are courses lasting from 90 minutes, it’s a way of easily fitting some study into your life. 

Podcasts. I was introduced to podcasts by my lovely boyfriend and now I love to listen to them when I’m travelling or in the evening. The BBC produce lots, as well as other favourites including TED and the T3 tech podcast. Podcasts are great for absorbing knowledge; some studies show that people retain more when listening than reading, so language podcasts like Coffee Break French are good. A quick look through my podcasts shows natural science lectures from The Royal Society, the BBC Documentary of the week and the Film Review with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.  I’m always on the lookout for new ones so if you’ve got any favourites, do let me know!

Open University. An old favourite, the Open University is a good place to look for introductory courses in many things. If you’re wanting to combine getting more formal education with work it’s still a great place to start. I’ve taken a variety of courses with the OU, including French, Creative Writing and an Introduction to Leonardo da Vinci; the ultimate multipotentialite!  Sadly, it’s not the affordable option it use to be if you live in England, but still worth a look.

Apps. Ok, a phone app is unlikely to give you any great depth of knowledge. But for a fun way to pass the time and increase your vocabulary, there are some great language apps, such as Mindsnacks and Duolingo (which also has a website). There are also some lovely apps for using to identify birds, trees, etc, which are handy to have when you’re out and about—increasing your knowledge incrementally when you spot something you can’t identify is a good way of making it stick.

Digital radio. Immersion is the best way to learn a language, so alongside French podcasts and games on Apps, I listen to Fip radio when I’m home alone. Just having the language spoken in the background while I’m doing other things helps me develop an ear for pronunciation.

FutureLearn. A website owned by the Open University offering FREE online courses from leading UK and international universities. A quick search through the FutureLearn site has already given me a giant list of courses I’d be interested in, from entrepreneurship to history, via science, tech, politics, photography and language. Amazing…The site is still in beta, and each course is a pilot, so they’re really keen that students give feedback on their experiences to enable them to develop. Helpfully, each course shows upfront the hours you will need to commit to learning each week and for how long.


Have you tried any of these learning methods? How did you get on? 

Do you have any more to recommend? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below…


12 Responses to Six great ways to learn.

  1. dave says:

    Skillshare looks great. Think I might try a course first and see how it goes!

    As for podcasts, I like This Week In Tech (TWIT), the friday night comedy from R4, Infinite Monkey Cage (back this week I think!) and of course, the ITV Tour de France one. OK, so not learning-related, but still – bikes!
    dave recently posted…off the beaten trackMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’ve got the Tour podcast all lined up 😉

      I’ll have a look at the others you’ve recommended, ta. I think Skillshare looks really interesting. Definitely fancy signing up for a tech type course…

  2. Meg says:

    I am toying with trying some of the Skillshare courses.

    I have mixed experiences about FutureLearn. I have done 3 courses to date (and signed up for a couple more). The content is quite superficial if you are really interested in a subject – it’s a bit like doing a tiny section of an OU short course. Not bad considering it’s free but it only really offers a starting point and unfortunately not all courses provided further reading lists. There is some peer-review of practical exercises which is a good idea.

    I have used Michel Thomas CDs for language study (Portuguese), and as a linguist I can confirm it is not a bad way to learn the basics of a language.

    I would not overlook local adult community colleges. My local has a decent syllabus with courses that run for a term/half term, typically last 1.5-2.5 h/week and are reasonably priced.

    I am also a big fan of looking things up on YouTube. Taster courses are often handy to show what’s possible and explain where to source key tools, but YouTube demonstrations are useful for showing how to take skills forward.
    Meg recently posted…Going plastic free… with some tasty incentivesMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      This is a really helpful comment, thank you so much. I have one of the Michel Thomas CDs for French but I’ll admit it’s gathering dust. You’re right, local colleges are a great resource too. I did my anatomy and physiology and massage qualifications at community college – before I had my kids, so some years ago now! I think if I did a FutureLearn class, I’d deliberately choose something I know absolutely nothing about!

      I tried to use YouTube to learn to crochet (I’m left-handed, so struggle) but it didn’t work out. Suspect that’s more to do with me than YouTube though!

      • Meg says:

        How funny, I was looking at the anatomy/massage study route today and wondering whether I could commit to it… Did you enjoy it? Slightly worried about exams for my worn-out memory. (I seem struggle to remember what I went into a room for when I get there!)

        Check out YouTube for spoon and bowl carving, and knife sharpening 😉
        Meg recently posted…Going plastic free… with some tasty incentivesMy Profile

        • Elizabeth says:

          I absolutely loved it. It was a while ago though. And weirdly, it helped that I’ve got a degree in equine science and had been a student vet nurse – lots of things like muscle tissue structure were easier for me because they’re the same, although I know that sounds weird! I’d love to go back to massage at some point in the future, though goodness knows when. I have a friend who is a Lomi Lomi massage practitioner and I really love that form.

          I will have a look for spoon carving tutorials on YouTube! Excellent idea…

  3. Sharon Dale says:

    I recently found which is a US site. There are lots of free courses and lots more paid ones. A real variety. They all have an intro video and you can see how many people have signed up to it and reviews.

  4. Anna says:

    Brilliant! I am already a fan of podcasts and YouTube tutorials, but I’m going to check out some of these links. I’m off learning how to make a lampshade this weekend!
    Anna recently posted…Mindfulness and Me.My Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Lampshade making sounds like fun! Let me know if you do a blog post about it, i’d enjoy reading it 🙂

  5. Kate says:

    Amazing post, thanks 🙂
    I’m such a flake; I love the idea of learning things but can’t be trusted when left to my own devices. I recently did a cake decorating course in the evenings and having the time set aside to focus on something was super rewarding.
    Guess I will check out whether there’s a local community college offering courses for cheapskates… hmm, there is a Women’s Institute meeting every month nearby. Maybe I will give that a crack?
    Thanks for the inspiration. Love your blog!
    Kate recently posted…The Great BeyondMy Profile

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hello! I think that having the structured time for learning is a good idea if you need it – I completely understand what it’s like to not be trusted – I plan to do lots more than I actually get done, and spend far too much time just on Pinterest or something… WI is a good idea! We have a great one in Leeds called Buns & Roses, they always seem to do fun stuff. 🙂

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