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Workers are learning online for free during lockdown in Wales

OpenLearn student Lorna studying at home








Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, more and more people across Wales are turning to the OU’s OpenLearn site to enrol on free courses. In March 2020, the site received 64,000 visits from Wales. In April, this rose to 120,000.

In the same month, the OU in Wales partnered with the Welsh Government and Careers Wales to provide new e-learning for workers furloughed as a result of coronavirus. The Working Wales website includes links to online resources – including OU courses – where people can improve their skills and knowledge from home. 

The OU in Wales has also launched the OpenLearn Wales section which contains courses produced in Wales and are of a Welsh interest. Many of these are available in Welsh

We spoke to some people who have been learning new things on OpenLearn during the lockdown.

‘Now that I’m doing this, it’s become a priority in my life which I want to keep going.’

Lorna, 29, from Cardiff, works for a charity which supports families and returns to her job in June after a time on Furlough leave. She has been following The science of nutrition and healthy eating, a badged course which takes 24 hours of study. While this has been largely for her personal interest, she has also enrolled on Modern Slavery, which she feels is relevant to her day-to-day work. 

The flexibility of the OpenLearn courses has suited Lorna. 

‘The courses are good because they’re spread out across week 1, week 2 and so on, so you can schedule your time,’ she told us. ‘Maybe it will slip, but then if you want to pick it up in two or three weeks, you can still carry on. Some days I’m able to learn and on other days I can’t. There isn’t a time limit – you can learn as you want to go.’

‘Now that I’m doing this it’s become a priority in my life which I want to keep going even when I go back to work. It’s all about making that time for yourself. I think it’s really important to keep your mind busy.’

'There’s so much choice on there.'

Amy James (pictured at the top of the page), 28, is also from Cardiff. She works as an audiologist and is currently on furlough leave. Before using OpenLearn, she had never done any distance learning. She has enrolled on OpenLearn’s Managing my investments course, which focusses on things like personal savings accounts, bonds and shares. 

The OpenLearn team produces its courses in conjunction with OU’s academic faculties. This helps make sure that the information is up-to-date and relevant, but also engaging and easy to use. Some courses can take an hour to complete, where others are spread over a number of weeks. 

‘On the left-hand side you’ve got the structure of what’s coming next,’ says Amy. ‘Because it’s broken into weeks as well it’s not overwhelming. I can do one part and think “Right, I’ve only got another one to do before the end of this section.” That gives me the motivation to think “I’m going to finish this.” If there’s a lot left, I can leave it and come back to do more tomorrow.’


‘There’s so much choice on there,’ she continues. ‘I’ve been thinking about one of the management courses next, but for now I’m focussing on improving my personal finance knowledge. Everyone will find something that they’re interested in. I’ve only been doing this for two weeks now, and I’ve already got one of my friends doing a course on there.’

‘Everything’s a bit up in the air at the moment, so it would be good for people to realise that any exercise can help.’

31-year old Nia Lloyd is from Ceredigion. She has reduced her hours to 80% and is using the spare time to learn new things on OpenLearn. She has followed some of the resources on the New free courses and hobbies to try while in isolation section, and has recently started a course on the link between Exercise and Mental Health

‘I used to do a lot of exercise, including cycling back and forth to work and I’m not doing that at the moment,’ she says. ‘So I was trying to see what else I can do. At the start of lockdown, I was doing yoga every morning, and I was feeling guilty if I didn’t. But after doing this course, I realised that you don’t need to feel bad. Any exercise – even if it’s going for a walk at lunchtime, is good, so I’ve been a bit nicer to myself!’

Nia is employed by an environmental charity – many of her colleagues work outdoors and have been affected by the lockdown. She has shared some of the OpenLearn content with them and has been surprised by the take-up. 

‘Some of my co-workers have looked at things that I wouldn’t have expected,’ explains Nia. ‘Like advice on writing for business. They were looking at this from the angle of writing funding bids in the future, so it was a great way for them to use their time.’

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