How to

How to learn new skills in self-isolation for free

Need something to stay sane with? If you’re spending time inside and tiring of movies or games, you might want to consider a new skill.

Staying in isolation at home can lead you to numerous things, such as watching films, playing games, or catching up on that book you swore you were going to read.

But if you’re stuck inside and want to engage that brain


Entertainment is one way to bide your time, and if you have a guitar, a bass, or a ukulele you’ve wanted to learn, now might be the time to make it happen.

Fender’s Play service is typically a monthly cost, but throughout this whole thing, Fender is providing 100,000 new accounts with three months free, compared to the usual 30 day trial.

You’ll find lessons for each of the three instruments, with instruction ranging from the fundamentals to specific songs.

Alternatively, if you’re more into learning music on the production side of things, Kadenze is offering courses on sound design and producing skills, many of which are free provided you don’t expect a certificate at the end (that costs extra).


Sitting at home in isolation might give you the time to learn a language, and there are resources for that.

Duolingo offers language lessons across numerous languages, including French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, English, and Danish, among others, and when this whole coronavirus crisis is over, you can try to put those newfound language skills into action.

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If you have time and a camera you’ve been meaning to learn how to use, the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) association is opening up access to its online classes over the next couple of weeks.

Normally something that requires a $170USD yearly fee for people outside of the US, the PPA’s classes include the fundamentals, plus some that will help on specific photographic areas, such as lighting, fine art, and portraiture, plus the business of photography.

You’ll still need to sign up for an account to begin, but at least for the next two weeks, those classes are free to take.

Technology & Coding

Keen to power up those tech skills while you might have a bit of downtime? You’ll find quite a few courses online that you can take without having to throw money in.

First off, there’s an assortment of free courses over at Coursera, a platform that delivers university courses online. Some of the options you may want to consider over the course of this self-isolation period include Stanford’s course on machine learning by Andrew Ng, an introduction to game programming using C# and Unity from the University of Colorado, and a look at some of the foundations of Data Science from Johns Hopkins University.

Similarly, there’s edX, which offers a variety of courses, including quite a few in technology. On that platform, Harvard offers an introduction to computer science, while MIT has an intro to computational thinking and data science for folks keen for some advanced learning.

Finally, there’s Khan Academy, which runs its courses across numerous categories, but includes more than a handful for both computing.


A little bit different, Yale University is offering an online course that is less about career skills, and more focused on life skills. Specifically one: being happy.

These days, maintaining happiness may not be easy for everyone, but this course handled by a psychology professor at Yale, Laurie Santos, has been made available from Coursera.

Leigh :) Stark

One of Australia's well regarded technology journalists working out of Sydney, Leigh Stark has been writing about technology for over 15 years, covering phones, computers, cameras, headphones, speakers, and more. Stylising his middle initial with an emoticon, he aims to present tech in a way that makes it easy for everyone. While he founded Pickr in 2016, Stark's work can be seen in other publications including The Australian Financial Review, Popular Science, and many more. His award-winning podcast "The Wrap" is syndicated on Southern Cross Austereo's LiSTNR network weekly, while he can be heard on radio via ABC Brisbane and ABC Canberra, and seen on TV's Nine. Check out Leigh Stark's most recent media appearances.

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