Stuck at home? Here are 10 free online courses to keep you busy

Time to spare? There are plenty of online courses to keep you occupied

Time to spare? There are plenty of online courses to keep you occupied - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Open University has hundreds of free online courses to keep your mind active and engaged

If you've got some extra time on your hands, how about learning something new?

If you've got some extra time on your hands, how about learning something new? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many of us are now in ‘social distancing’ mode, and are likely to be spending a lot more time at home over the coming weeks. Nobody likes being stuck inside, but there are things we can do to keep our spirits high and our minds active. The Open University offers over 900 free, online courses, giving you a chance to brush up on your rusty GCSE French, expand your knowledge of world history or even take a deep dive into a completely new subject. Here’s just 10 free courses for you to try – and all are rated ‘introductory’, so they should be accessible for all eager learners.

Art and Life in Ancient Egypt

Designed in collaboration with The British Museum, this 30-hour course takes a look at what paintings can tell us about the social structures and belief systems of Ancient Egypt. Looking specifically at eleven paintings from the tomb-chapel of King Amenhotep III, the course combines art analysis with a dose of history to keep learners interested and engaged. Here’s a link.

One course looks at art and life in Ancient Egypt

One course looks at art and life in Ancient Egypt - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Discovering Music: The Blues

One for the music lovers among us. This 6-hour course is a perfect introduction to Blues music, covering the nature of typical Blues lyrics, as well as the historical context of the genre. Students will also learn the Blues scale and gain an understanding of the 12-bar blues structure – and no musical knowledge is necessary prior to signing up to the course! Here’s a link.

One course explores the origins and essentials of Blues music

One course explores the origins and essentials of Blues music - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The First World War: Trauma and Memory

The First World War cast a long shadow over the 20th century and beyond, and this free course explores the physical and mental trauma of war, its treatments and its representation in art and literature. Aimed at anyone with an interest in the First World War, the course looks at what is meant by the term “shell shock”, and analyses the traumatic experiences of both soldiers and civilians in wartime. Here’s a link.

Start Writing Fiction: Characters and Story

Are you a budding author? Always dreamed of putting pen to paper and writing your own book? Well then, you’re in luck. This 24-hour course is designed to get you started with writing fiction. Established writers will share practical, hands-on tips, focusing on the essential skill of creating convincing characters. Grab a pen and paper and get started! Here’s a link.

Visions of protest: Graffiti

Graffiti – vandalism, or an art form in its own right? This course looks at the arguments for and against the idea of grafitti as an art form, and asks learners to reflect on the concept of ‘art’. It also looks at graffiti as a form of communication, and in particular, as a way of expressing protest or delivering social commentary. An interesting 8 hours of study for art lovers. Here’s a link.

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Beginner’s Chinese

There are approximately 1.3 billion Chinese speakers in the world, and Mandarin is one of the world’s fastest growing languages. This introductory Mandarin course is a great place to start for anyone looking to learn Chinese. It gives an introduction into how words are formed, and the scripts and sounds of written and spoken Mandarin. Here’s a link.

Life in the Palaeozoic

Brush up on your knowledge of natural history with this 12-hour course. The programme looks at the explosion of evolution that occurred during the Palaeozoic era, taking learners through the different types of creatures that existed at that time and familiarising them with some common fossils. By the end of the course, learners will have an understanding of how life evolved to live on land. Here’s a link.

Forensic Psychology

Ever wanted to learn more about how our minds work? After 24 hours of study, you might just have a better understanding. This introductory course explores human cognition and the mistakes that our brains can make – especially as it relates to the psychology of eyewitness testimony and what this means for the justice system. Here’s a link.

Exploring economics: The Secret Life of T-shirts

Fast fashion is one of the most burning issues of our time. An extraordinary percentage of our clothing ends up in landfill, making the clothing industry one of the most environmentally damaging and least sustainable sectors of all. This course looks at different stages of the t-shirt production chain, and how that relates to the clothing hanging in your wardrobe at home. Here’s a link.

Smart Cities

Just what is a smart city? Simply put, a smart city is a living space that puts new technologies front and centre. With technology continuing to transform the way that we live today, there is no better time to learn more about how our cities are set to change in the coming years, and how the ever-growing Internet-of-Things will begin to reshape our towns and cities. This 24-hour course is a great place to start thinking about the cities of the future. Here’s a link.

You can find the full list of free Open University courses here.