A new audience for digital skills

Our Senior Research and Evaluation Manager, Jane Mackey, discusses how Covid-19 has impacted the way learners use our free digital skills courses website, Learn My Way.

The Covid-19 crisis has laid bare how important digital access and digital skills are to achieving an inclusive society.

At Good Things Foundation we have always been committed to helping people improve their lives through digital. However, one of the things that the Covid-19 crisis has reinforced for us, is just how wide the digital need is within society.

We provide two online learning platforms: Learn My Way and Make it Click. These platforms were designed to support adult learners from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Before Covid-19 the typical learning experience for those accessing these sites was to complete the digital skills courses online, but in a community setting, with face-to-face learning support from our community partners.

With the onset of lockdown, the typical learning experience has shifted from one guided by our community partners, to an independent, remote learning experience. As the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 have begun to hit, a new audience has also started to use our learning tools.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been a large increase in women accessing Learn My Way. In February women made up 55% of all learners; in May they made up 70%.

Employed people have also recently overtaken unemployed people as the largest cohort of learners visiting Learn My Way, with full-time and part-time workers making up 51% of learners in May.

Before Covid-19, people were most likely to say that the main reason they were visiting Learn My Way was to learn digital skills to help them find work. In May, people were most likely to say they visited to learn digital skills for their current job (with women significantly more likely to say this than men).

The impact of Covid-19 does not account for all Learn My Way activity, but it is definitely a key factor: 50% of those who said they wanted to learn new digital skills for their current job said this was related to Covid-19.*

Self-led learning is a clear preference among those who have accessed Learn My Way in response to Covid-19, with 76% stating they would like to learn digital skills via online courses at the moment, and 44% saying they would like to learn digital skills via online videos.*

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the labour market at the moment, and we know that women are being hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic. Research by the Institute for Fiscal studies found that women are more likely than men to have left paid work since February, and are also more likely to have seen a reduction in their hours. In this context, it makes sense that women are interested in building the repertoire of skills they can bring to the workplace.

We also know that women are continuing to shoulder a bigger burden of housework than men during lockdown, and that mothers are also more likely than fathers to be juggling their paid work alongside childcare. Given this additional household burden, it also makes sense that women would be attracted to flexible learning tools that allow them to learn in their own time.

We will continue to update the courses we are offering through Learn My Way and Make it Click, responding to the new digital challenges raised by Covid-19, and reacting to where there is greatest need.

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