While lockdown can feel frustrating and isolating, there have been many positive stories about people using their time to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby. Many of us have also developed a deeper appreciation for technology because it’s allowed us to keep busy, connect with loved ones and gain access to essentials like food and medicine. And with our technology use set to increase as we settle into a new normal post-lockdown – it feels like a great time to consider learning some new digital skills from home.
Whether it’s coding, video production or getting to grips with social media – digital skills can be used to boost your CV, start a business, or simply have some fun. With that in mind, we’ve come up with eight very different digital skills you can learn from home, along with suggestions on how to get started.
1. General office skills
These days most companies expect employees to be familiar with standard office tools like Word, Excel and PowerPoint – but if you’ve never had to use them before, it can be hard knowing where to start. Thankfully, there are simply hundreds of free online courses promising to take you from a novice to an expert in a few hours – but which are the most worthwhile?
How to get started
If you want to improve your general IT skills to increase your chances of finding a job or advance your career, it might be a good idea to get a Microsoft Office certification. This means you’ll be able to demonstrate your expertise in Excel, Outlook, Word, and other Microsoft Office applications on your CV or LinkedIn profile. It’s a great way to let your employer – or potential employer – know that you’re tech savvy. And because today’s world is an increasingly digital one, you’ll probably find many reasons to use your new skills in your personal life, too – whether it’s writing a novel or building a budget.
If it’s just Microsoft Word you’re looking to improve in, LinkedIn offers 30 days free access to their classes, and there are several first-rate Word courses that will soon have you writing, editing and designing documents like a pro. If you want to learn how to use Microsoft Excel, a popular data analysis solution, you could have a look at this free 3.5 hour online course with the Corporate Finance Institute. Or, if you want to really get into how it works, there’s a great 12 hour course that’s also free; with 26 different modules where you’ll learn all the tips, tricks, functions and formulas you need to become an Excel expert.
For PowerPoint, there’s a great free course available on Udemy. Mastering Microsoft PowerPoint Made Easy Training Tutorial is a 6-hour course that will help you get familiar with the PowerPoint environment, learn how to create basic presentations and apply animation. The course will allow you to see each function performed as though an instructor is sitting right there with you.
2. Photo editing
Today, being able to take beautiful photos is only one part of creating great images. Editing, enhancing and manipulating digital images is an essential part of photography, and can turn an average photo into an astounding one. It’s something that once you’ve mastered, you’ll probably use far more than you might expect; who hasn’t wanted to remove red eyes from an otherwise lovely family photo?
On a professional level, photo editing allows you to enrich a presentation and improve website images (as well as add another ability to your CV’s skill section…), but photo editing is also just a fun way to express yourself and enjoy some quiet time.
How to get started
Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are some of the most popular photo editing software used by professionals and amateurs alike – and while they can be complex tools, that’s only because they have so many great features. You can trial Adobe Photoshop for a week for free to see whether it’s right for you. If you like it, you might want to take one of their courses for beginners or experienced users, which can teach you how to lighten a photo, add a logo, or completely overhaul an image. Adobe Photoshop tutorials are created by Adobe and are all free.
It’s also worth checking out free learning resources online, too. Sites like YouTube and PSD Stack have lots of free tutorials from beginner to advanced to help you get to grips with learning how to use Photoshop.
If you’re serious about improving your photo editing skills, or thinking about pursuing a career in photography, you might benefit from a more in-depth course. The Adobe Lightroom CC Photo Editing: Your Lightroom Masterclass is one of the best-rated photo editing courses, and it teaches you all the essentials. From fixing basic issues like exposure and white balance to using sharpening and noise reduction, the course aims to take you from total novice to expert in 16.5 hours of video tutorials.
If you just want to have some fun editing your photos online, without having to commit to full membership at any point, then you could also try out Pixlr X. It’s established itself as some of the best free video editing software out there and will allow you to edit an image’s colour and saturation, get rid of unwanted features with a touch up tool, and adjust the white balance. Pixlr X has a number of free tutorials on their YouTube channel that can help you get the most out of this free software.
In simple terms, the practice of coding involves writing in a language that a computer understands. You’re using a programming language to get a computer to follow a set of instructions, and the potential benefits of being able to code are huge. The ability could lead to you developing a mobile phone app, starting a new company, or even landing a role as a software engineer or IT specialist. It’s true that coding can seem like a skill that requires a background in IT and/or a computer sciences degree to master, but this isn’t the case. Anyone can learn to code at any time, and many master the basics by teaching themselves at home.
For more insight into what the learning experience is actually like, have a listen to this BBC interview about a whole family who are learning to code during lockdown.
How to get started
Alternatively, head over to The Odin Project (named after the Norse god whose trademark was a thirst for new knowledge). This open source project promises to turn coding amateurs into coding experts. While it has enough free courses for someone to eventually pursue a career in software engineering (there are 1000s of hours of classes!), there are also plenty of classes for beginners – so it’s ideal if you’re keen on learning to code but not sure how far you want to take it. Or if you just want to jazz up your own website, you can learn to do that here too!
Copywriting may not instantly spring to mind when you think of digital skills, but every great site requires decent copy – and in the world of digital marketing, “content will always be king”. There are plenty of reasons to improve your copywriting skills, and you certainly don’t have to be an established writer to take a class or course. Whether you want to spruce up your CV, write compelling copy for your website, or simply add another string to your bow, copywriting is a useful skill to have.
How to get started
The internet is jam packed full of helpful resources for budding copywriters – and luckily, many are free. If you’re a beginner, LinkedIn offer a great free course exploring the different ways that you can use copy to promote a product or service. LinkedIn Training instructor, Ian Lurie, will teach you how to write in a way that tells your story, sells your product or service, and promotes your brand. Combining online lectures, exercises, quizzes and assignments, the course will guide you through the process of writing and editing a draft, how to best use typography, and how print and online copy compare.
If you’re committed to improving your copywriting skills, and perhaps even thinking of pursuing it professionally, there are several top-rated copywriting courses available on Udemy. If you hope to put your skills towards boosting your own business, check out The Complete Copywriting Course, which promises to let you in on secrets from the world’s best copywriters and teach you the sales psychology you need to grow a business. Or, if you have more of a general desire to learn copywriting, the Copywriting Secrets course might be for you.
Let’s say you’ve built a website. You’ve written the copy. What does the site need next? Good design, of course! The importance of design can’t be minimised – and 94% of first impressions of a website are design-related. The ability to design digitally can also be just as helpful in your personal life as it can professionally. For example you can just as easily use these skills to design invitations for a loved one’s anniversary or a party you’re planning, as you can to design a work-related website.
How to get started
If you’re just starting out, then have a look at The American Institute of Graphic Arts’ list of 16 free design eBooks. Covering topics as diverse as logo design, finding inspiration and knowing which font to use, there’s a book here for everyone – whatever type of design you want to learn about. And because all the books are free and in eBook format, you won’t have to clear any extra space for them at home – so there’s nothing stopping you downloading and reading all 16 if you want to!
If you’d prefer a course or workshop, head over to DesignDesign.Space. Due to lockdown, this top design academy can no longer hold in-person workshops, so they’re offering free digital workshops over the next few months. Skillshare also offers a great range of free design courses – particularly recommended are the Graphic Design Basics and Demystifying Graphic Design: How Posters Work.
6. Video production
Whether you’ve always dreamed of making your own films, want to use video to promote your business, or just want to be able to shoot family videos that look professional – video production can be a fun, yet useful skill to have. There’s a lot involved in the video production process. You’ll need to figure out which editing programme you want to use, which camera is the best fit and whether to use lighting and audio equipment.
How to get started
Creative Cow is a great free resource to check out when you’re getting started. Here you can find a list of video tutorials that will help you learn the basics of video production software from Adobe, Apple and Sony. There’s also a great podcast series which will teach you certain tricks of the trade. A big perk of Creative Cow is its forum community, where you can connect with other budding filmmakers and video editors to ask questions, give advice, and swap tips and stories.
For more in-depth tutorials, Skillshare’s Video Production: The Complete Course is perfect for beginners. By signing up to their free trial, you can watch it at no cost. It takes you through the ideation process, gives a thorough introduction to equipment, shows you what makes a good video, and teaches you how to compose and expose your shots. Udemy also has a great selection of video production courses, whether you want to use your new skills for video marketing, or creatively, to make beautiful and inspiring films.
7. Digital marketing
Over the past decade, businesses have digitized the way they work, and a result of that means that jobseekers today will seriously benefit from having some digital skills on their CV. Digital marketing, and everything it encompasses (search engine marketing, email marketing, social media marketing etc.) is one of the most useful skills to have. Everyone can benefit from a better understanding of digital marketing; whether you use it to promote that book you’re working on, help your business gain visibility, or give your job applications a serious boost.
How to get started
If you’re interested in learning digital marketing to help your business or career, then why not get certified in the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing, with Google’s free course? There are 26 modules in the course, all created by Google trainers – and all chock full of helpful exercises and practical examples. Getting certified can improve your CV and significantly help your chances of finding a job, as it proves you have a good understanding of the main concepts of digital marketing.
If there are specific areas of digital marketing you want to explore, have a look at this list of 17 free courses compiled by marketing data site, Ahrefs. There are courses in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), email marketing, social marketing and advertising – to name a few. With the courses created and taught by digital marketing giants like HubSpot, Buffer and Moz, you’ll be learning from the best – and because they’re all free, there’s no limit to how many you can try.
8. Social media
Whether you use it or not, there’s no denying how much social media has permeated our society. It’s impossible to minimise the impact and influence of social media: globally, there are 2.7 billion active social media users, and it’s fast become the main source of information and communication between content creators and consumers.
Being able to use social media and understanding how it works is a skill that can be learnt like any other. It can benefit us professionally – and of course, in our personal lives too. If you want to learn how to set up Zoom video calls with loved ones, or create an Instagram account to stay updated with your friends’ lives, then there’s never been a better time to learn. Or if you just want some quick tips on how to video call your friends and family, check out our handy guide.
How to get started
If you’re new to social media, the free Social Media Quickstarter course from Constant Contact is a good way to kick off learning. Covering the main social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, the course offers a thorough guide to building a presence on each platform and how to best utilize them. The free Accenture Digital Skills: Social Media course on Futurelearn is also excellent if you want to learn how to use social media for business. It’s totally free – as are these 12 social media marketing courses.
Additional resources that you may find helpful...
- Microsoft has launched a global skills initiative to help 25 million people around the world who have been impacted by the pandemic, to gain skills for in-demand roles in an increasingly digital economy. You’ll have free access to learning paths and content, to help you develop the skills these positions require. You can find out more about how to get involved here.
- Make It Click has a number of free tools, resources and templates that you can use to help you learn new digital skills or develop new ones. You can find out how to do everything from how to create a social media content calendar, through to how to protect your computer from nasty viruses. Make It Click is provided by the Good Things Foundation who aim to promote digital skills for everyone across the UK.
- Learn My Way is also provided by the Good Things Foundation. It offers free bite-sized resources, so that you can either spend a few minutes or a few hours developing your skills. It’s great for those that are looking to learn digital skills at an introductory level. You can find out everything from how to get to grips with your computer, and/or smart device, through to how to use public services online.
- Learn for Everyday Life is a program set up by Lloyds Banking Academy, to help you learn digital skills that are useful in everyday life. Lessons are inspired by topics such as how to do online and mobile banking, how to present yourself online, and how to use online forms.
- Create a professional online presence with Future Learn’s free course. It will encourage you to consider whether your social media presence reflects who you are as a person, and to think about how you can build your online presence to boost your employability.
- Learn how to create great online content. This free course from Future Learn will show you how to develop the best practice for communicating effectively online, by taking into account tone, style and format.
A final thought…
Developing digital skills takes dedication and enthusiasm, but the benefits can be huge – whether that’s making a career change, finding an exciting new job, or simply staying connected with loved ones.
If you want to use lockdown to develop your skills but haven’t found anything above that takes your fancy, then why not head over to the learning section of our website. There’s over 50,000 courses covering a wide range of topics – from quick taster courses, through to heavyweight learning opportunities.
Alternatively, you could check out our recent learning articles on 12 new skills you can learn from home or 9 creative skills that you can learn online. They are jam packed with ideas for learning – so why not have a read and see if inspiration strikes?
Are you learning a new digital skill during lockdown? We’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.