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Guest blog: Why we should all be throwing ourselves back into learning

Technology has driven considerable changes to sectors across the world, which impacts the way we do things on a daily basis. Spotify, Netflix and - in the physical world - Amazon Prime Now are all examples of these; they fuel an on-demand culture that is becoming a prominent part of Western lifestyles and our way of thinking. The education sector is no exception - the idea of learning whilst at school and university, then stopping for the rest of one’s life, is a thing of the past.

Technology is also changing the job landscape; thanks to technology, jobs that will exist in 10 years’ time that don’t currently exist today. Employers need staff who can fill current gaps in their workforce, and adapt to changes technology is already bringing... but how can employees ensure they develop the skills to carry out the jobs of the future?

 

The lifelong learning trend

While education was once associated with 18-24 year old students, it’s no longer a finite process: learning doesn’t stop at school or university, it can be taken much further than that - you can continue (and are expected) to acquire new skills beyond university and into the working world. And whilst a university education provides an excellent grounding for setting out into the working world, a degree is becoming more commonplace and it’s getting harder for employers to differentiate between candidates. Some research we conducted with Parthenon EY and the Open University in [date], for example, showed that a third of employers find it more difficult to differentiate between applicants now versus three years ago.  So whether it’s giving yourself a competitive edge in today’s marketplace, equipping yourself with the relevant skills to embark on a new career path or looking to validate your current skill set for progression in a developing field, education is often the tool to unlocking new opportunities.

 

Online learning: standing out from the crowd

Online courses are an effective way of acquiring and demonstrating new skills, helping individuals stand out from an ever-thickening crowd. FutureLearn exists for this very reason: to help everyone fulfil their potential in a changing world, by transforming access to education. Created to enable lifelong learning, courses on FutureLearn have a range of applications including general interest, an introduction to university studies, higher education and continuing professional development in vital sectors.

Whether it’s understanding how to use data to ensure your marketing is effective with Darden School of Business, studying the theories and concepts of mergers and acquisitions with the New York Institute of Finance, or developing skills to become an HR professional with the CIPD, learning online gives you the opportunity to tap into relevant and up to date insights from experts at leading organisations and universities. And as well as platforms like FutureLearn that have a broad offering, there are heaps of specialist organisations you can turn to - we like Codecademy for their introductions to coding, particularly SQL, and Duolingo for their gamified approach to languages.

But as well as updating your ‘hard’ skills - those that are specific and can be defined and measured, such as computer programming, proficiency in a foreign language and a degree certificate - you should recognise that soft skills are just as important to employers today. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report highlights that training for soft skills is the number one priority for talent development teams. Leadership, collaboration and communication are all examples of skills learned beyond the university and school years, and all areas where you can supplement or accelerate your on-the-job experience with online courses.

 

It’s all about flexibility and learning from others 

With the fast pace of life, finding time to sit down and learn can be a challenge. But learning is no longer just about sitting with a textbook at a desk or in a library. In fact, 45% of people who visit FutureLearn do so on a tablet or mobile device. The platform has been designed to work seamlessly across smartphones and tablets, as well as desktop computers or laptops, so that learners can enjoy the same high quality user experience, regardless of their screen size, location or time zone. Some people choose to tap into their learning for 10 minutes at a time on their bus journey home; others like to progress through their course for a couple of hours as they wind down for the evening. Regardless of your preference, the important thing is you have the flexibility to learn at a time that’s convenient for you.

Learning can also seem pretty daunting - in the past, people associated online learning as being an isolated experience, and not necessarily a pleasant one! But our approach at FutureLearn is unique, as we offer a social learning experience, meaning you can see others’ comments on the learning materials, make your own comments in reply, and discuss the concepts introduced by the educators. For those looking to get ahead at work by learning from the insights of others in their field, this can enhance your understanding of a topic by enabling you to discuss personal and professional experiences, as well as debating concepts and ideas. For example, on the Open University’s course ‘Growing as a Manager’, you might have the opportunity to learn from techniques that other managers have found to be successful, or learn from their personal experiences with those they’ve line managed in the past. And sharing your own experiences can also help you reflect on how your own day-to-day experience is relevant and helping you develop.

With changing demands in the workplace and an increasingly competitive job market, people are looking for new ways to stand out from the crowd. Learning online really is a feasible option, whatever your motivation - whether you’re a busy professional looking to progress within a business, someone looking for a career change,  or you simply love learning for learning’s sake. With the flexibility FutureLearn offers and the opportunities it enables - why not give it a go?

Visit FutureLearn, the social learning platform, to find out more.

Kathryn Skelton, Director of Strategy at FutureLearn

FutureLearn uses design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible courses that improve working lives. It partners with over a quarter of the world’s top universities, as well as organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and the New York Institute of Finance. FutureLearn was formed in December 2012 by The Open University and is now the largest MOOC provider in Europe with over 7.5 million people signed up from over 230 territories around the world.

www.futurelearn.com