Learning new skills

Due to COVID-19 and temporary shelter in place orders, many are finding themselves at home with extra idle time on their hands. Some people are taking this opportunity to learn new skills.

English professor, Amie Flanagan, said she is working on learning how to create videos for social media.

“I have both a journalistic background and a film background,” Flanagan said. “I have temporarily abandoned my journalism background to embrace the film background on different platforms.”

Flanagan said she chose this skill to help her connect with students.

“In my classes, it is important to me to have a connection with the students, let them have something to learn while having something to look at,” she said. “Plus, it gave me something to do that I could be creative, silly, real with them without talking down to them or showing fear in this new reality.”

English professor, Charles Grimm, said he has been using this extra free time to work on his culinary skills.

“I have been pushing myself to cook far more, including not only preparing and cooking but also planning and shopping,” Grimm said. “My wife’s immune system is not very strong, so I’m the only one who has been out. I’ve learned how to make yogurt in my Instant Pot and multiple Korean dishes.”

Grimm said he’s also learning HTML and has been redesigning the humanities website.

Flanagan said she feels learning a new skill may be helpful to students struggling with the stress of the current shutdown.

“I am not a person to get stressed out easily,” Flanagan said. “I’m the kind of person who, if something crazy happens, I’m like, ‘Cool. Let’s do it. Rock on.’ However, for those who do get anxiety or stressed out, it would probably help them, if nothing else, to fill the boredom or take their mind off of what’s going on.”

“Life is nothing more than trying stuff out anyway,” Flanagan said. “So the more you experiment with things the more you know what your likes and dislikes are.”

There are a wide range of programs available online for students looking to learn a new skill.

For those looking to pick up a new language, Duolingo, which advertises itself as “The world’s best way to learn a language,” offers free services via both a website and a mobile app. The service currently offers 35 languages, from Spanish and French to Swahili and Navajo. Duolingo even offers two courses for fictional languages: Klingon (from “Star Trek”) and High Valyrian (from “Game of Thrones”).

Students looking to use their summer at home to get ahead for the fall semester may be interested in edX. This nonprofit organization provides university-level courses, taught by instructors from recognizable schools such as Harvard and MIT, free of charge. The offerings vary from basic courses like “Principles of Biochemistry” and “Masterpieces of World Literature” to more niche subjects like “Sustainable Building Design” and “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture.”

Though not free, Udemy offers a wide range of affordable, self-paced courses in a wide range of skills. Students can learn work-related skills like resume writing, new hobbies like drawing or even a martial art like Krav Maga. Many of Udemy’s courses are available for under $50.