Learn new skills with these 5 online courses (and more) while waiting out the pandemic

Several online learning sites offer a wide variety of free and paid courses whose levels range from introductory to advanced.

Editorial Team
Learn new skills with these 5 online courses (and more) while waiting out the pandemic
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr Seuss

For the majority of us, 2020 whizzed past in a blur of mask-wearing, hand-washing, work from home, and binge-watching streaming services as large parts of the world (including ours) went in and out of lockdowns.

The continuing march of Covid infections across the world in 2021 – with the US particularly badly hit – and the worrying emergence of a few new variants make it clear that we are in for the long haul.

If, like us, you think there’s only so much binge watching you can do while waiting for the pandemic to pass and for life to get back to “normal” it may be a good idea to look at learning something new.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We don’t subscribe to the idea that humans need to be productive all the time. They don’t. In fact, nothing gets our creative juices flowing than whiling a few hours away at the altar of idleness. However, there are times when we just need a challenge that isn’t directly related to (1) our work, (2) our ability to stay 1.5 metres away from people at all times, or (3) our ability to watch five back-to-back episodes of the latest Netflix series.

Or perhaps there’s something you always wanted to learn – maybe it was a new programming language, more about galaxies, stars and planets, or even the basics of guitar playing.

Whatever it is, there is sure to be more than one online course on it.

Several online learning sites offer a wide variety of courses whose levels range from introductory to advanced. You can pick them depending on how invested you want to be in your learning. If you have the time and inclination for a structured academic course with lectures and assignments, for instance, Coursera and Open Learn are good resources. If you think a more casual approach will suit you, check out sites like Udemy or even YouTube.

Depending on the platform, the courses offered are both free and paid. Coursera has a mix of paid and free courses. But you can also “audit” some paid courses for free. This means that you can take the course without being assessed or being given a certificate of completion.

Open Learn has 1000+ courses that are completely free.

Given that continuous learning or upskilling is the best way to boost employability in a rapidly changing (and may we say precarious?) job market, below, we list five interesting courses from these online learning platforms that you could explore to learn new skills and build new skill sets. Do remember these are just five recommendations from thousands online. If you visit these sites, you may find something that interests you even more.

1. Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Many of us deploy our negotiation skills to varying levels of success every single day without even realizing it. It could be arguing with your kids about screen time, negotiating a great deal with a car salesperson or for your company.

Why then, you may wonder, do we recommend this course?

The fact is that many of us are simply not great at negotiating, and even those of us who think they have mastered it could do with a refresher course.

Formal courses such as this one will equip you with the vocabulary and tools of negotiation, confidently putting you in the driver’s seat when you next try to close a business deal or convince your child to go to bed on time.

“Through this course you'll learn and practice the strategies and skills that will help you become a successful negotiator in your personal life and business transactions,” says the course summary. “After completing this module, you'll be able to state the four key stages of negotiation and what you need to do to successfully complete this course.”

2. Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19

We don’t think the inclusion of this course in this list needs any justification but we’ll try.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we once knew it. Many of us are struggling to adapt to this new world sans hugs and human contact. Some of us don’t even realise we are struggling, explaining away bouts of unusual irritability and midnight anxiety as aberrations. But undoubtedly, fear and anxiety about our health and that of our loved ones is all pervasive, leading to stress. The fact that most of us work from home, which has erased the line between our personal and professional lives has also led to stress of a different kind. In fact, people report that they are working longer hours during the pandemic than they did earlier.

“Never in the history of humanity have so many people been feeling intense anxiety related to COVID-19 and the world it will leave in its wake,” says the course summary. “The intent of this course is to give you a deeper understanding of the anxiety reaction as it relates to various aspects of our current life, ranging from our consumption of news to the way we talk to our children about this. I will also give you clear strategies for managing and, in fact, turning off the anxiety response at least for short periods.”

3. Design Thinking

Design Thinking Course on Open Learn

Today, design thinking skills are essential to solve complex problems regardless of your job description or the industry you work in. This is possibly why a large number of users of skills management software MuchSkills have put it down as one of their core skills. We picked this course so that those MuchSkills users who are not acquainted with it can benefit from this process.

Design thinking is a creative approach to problem-solving that entails understanding the needs of the user, understanding the context and culture of all stakeholders, questioning the problem and all assumptions associated with it, suggesting potential solutions, and testing these solutions. It is an iterative process that seeks to reframe the problem by putting the user at the centre. The five main stages of design thinking are: empathise – define – ideate – prototype – test. Several innovators use design thinking to create products and solutions that bring immense value to the lives of their customers.

According to the Open Learn website, this course will help you to:

“Have an awareness of how design thinking can be applied in a wide range of contexts, from the personal to the global, investigate and think creatively about design problems and opportunities, initiate an attitude of playfulness to aid design thinking, develop visual literacy and articulacy to explain design decisions, use computing tools and online environments to aid design thinking.”

4. 2020 Complete Python Bootcamp: From Zero to Hero in Python

2020 Complete Python Bootcamp: From Zero to Hero in Python

The programming language Python has been around since the late 1980s and is one of the fastest growing programming languages in the world today.

It is popular not only among software engineers but among people such as mathematicians, accountants or scientists working in the fields of data analysis and visualization, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is easy for beginners to learn, it is open source and it has a simple yet powerful syntax; it requires less effort and code to perform the same operations as compared to languages such as C++ and Java. It can also be used across computing platforms such as Windows, Mac and Linux.

Google, YouTube, Facebook, IBM, NASA, Dropbox, Yahoo, Mozilla, Quora, Instagram, Uber and Reddit are just a few companies that use Python. In a tough job market, therefore, Python is a valuable skill set to have. Incidentally, Python is one of the most popular programming languages listed on MuchSkills.

This course on Udemy has been taken by over 1,209,595 students as on January 26, 2021. Go on, join the gang.

5. Fundamentals of Social Media

Fundamentals of Social Media

Love it or hate it, there’s no ignoring social media. Among other things, it helps companies and individuals build their brands and reputations, puts a spotlight onto their work and also helps them connect with their target audience.

To get a sense of its importance, think about one of the first things many of us do when we hear someone is joining our team or the company. We Google that person’s name. Nine times out of 10 we find their social media accounts – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The content on these profiles are often responsible for the first impression we have of that person.

Let’s turn that around. Your social media accounts are possibly one of the first things potential recruiters, future bosses and colleagues will find if they Google your name. Remember, this is even before they meet you for the first time. This means that your social media profile is one of the most important things you can use to make a good impression with them.

But the truth is, many of us don’t think social media is important enough or don’t know how exactly to use it to gain the maximum benefit from it.

This Muck Rack Academy course on the fundamentals of social media will help you “build, craft and enhance your brand”. It is taught by Sree Sreenivasan, social media expert, journalism professor and former Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University, the Met Museum and New York City. At under two hours, this is the best two hours you can invest in yourself.

While the Much Rack Academy course largely focuses on individuals, this primer by Moz – The Beginner's Guide to Social Media! – addresses social media for companies. Though this is more of a reading resource than an interactive course, it’s a pretty comprehensive guide on how companies can utilize social media to build loyal relationships with their customers. Given that social media is critical to the success of many companies, learning about social media is a valuable skill to have.


We hope you find something interesting here that you’d want to follow up on. We’d like to reiterate that these are just recommendations. There is a whole new world of courses out there. Feel free to browse through these sites (and others not mentioned here such as Skillshare, Codeacademy and Edx) to pick a course that really interests you. Here’s a slice of the variety available: There’s game theory and content marketing on Coursera, digital marketing fundamentals, effective communications skills for business and acupressure for beginners at Udemy and career mentoring and coaching at Open Learn.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to take a deep dive into learning, but still want to learn new things just to keep your brain cells alive, YouTube has some fun adult learning channels you can watch such as How Stuff Works, Crash Course and one run by journalist Johnny Harris.

So go ahead, what’s holding you back?