Lockdown a teachable moment for everyone

Even in a pandemic, there's ample time to learn a new skill, says Niall Kitson
(Image: Stockfresh)

3 September 2020

So, what did YOU do during the Great War, Daddy? was a successful recruitment poster for the British during World War I. The confrontational slogan married to the image of a smiling child hounding her shamefaced father for tales from the front was a not-so-subtle rebuke to any Englishman who would turn down the call of duty. I think there’s room for a similar campaign as Covid-19 moves from being being a virus afflicting the old to the young. So, what did you do during the Covid-19 Pandemic?

There are a couple of decent answers: ‘I worked from home, so I could afford to raise you’ would be my pick of the bunch, though I’d also accept ‘upped my Fortnite game’, ‘went viral on TikTok’, or ‘watched all of Reeling in the Years‘. What did I do? I did some courses.

A commitment to lifelong learning is a selling point for companies looking to retain talent and between established massive online open course providers like Alison, Udemy and Coursera, and upstarts like Skillshare there is ample space for professionals looking for either a recognised qualification or to brush up on one or two things without having to trawl through YouTube for quality content.




Locally, the Solas-funded eCollege has courses in office productivity software, project management, data science, and design delivered online for free.

For my part I ploughed through a certificate in the latest version of Photoshop from IACT and finished a professional diploma in user experience from the UX Design Institute. Both courses delivered a different spin on remote learning – one by design, the other by accident.

Usually conducted in the classroom, my IACT experience was taught remotely with a live tutor. Students would normally work on computers in-class but my course used virtual desktops. It was an unusual experience dealing with the slight lag from my laptop to the virtual desktop and the outsized mouse pointer that obscured my view of the tool bars. Moreso, the classroom style reminded me that my days in the lecture hall were not only long ago but much shorter. I’m happy to say my concentration held and the content gave me a good grounding in the latest generation of photo editing software.

The more demanding of my two pandemic self-improvement efforts was the professional diploma in UX Design from the UX Design Institute. I had actually started this course last December but had fallen a little behind in my studies.

In contrast to the IACT’s tack, the course was delivered 100% online with short on-demand videos coupled with monthly assignments.

Coming from a low(ish) base of UX knowledge I was pleasantly surprised how well my skills as a journalist plugged in to the audience research portion of the course. The simple matter of getting people to narrate their experience in using a website to uncover problems in user flow played to my strengths and possibly lulled me into a false sense of security.

The design-oriented second half came with was a whole other set of challenges. Mapping user journeys and getting to grips with the wireframing and prototyping software Figma gave me a much broader appreciation of the design process and the culture gaps between usability, design and development professions. I now consider myself conversant in all three disciplines. So that’s a win.

Looking towards the end of the year I’m not sure I have the energy to go again, but I might dip in to SkillShare for something a little less formal. The idea of a one-hour short course for a rainy afternoon has appeal but the catalogue of material does lend it a Netflix-ish feel.

By the time I find something worth doing, said afternoon may have been and gone. Such is the paradox of choice: too many options, not enough productivity. A valuable lesson from the UXDI.

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