Grace Cox
November 26, 2013 2:00 pm

I love learning new things, that moment of opportunity before you start where anything is possible.  This new thing could be my calling, I could take to it like a duck to water, like peanut butter to jelly, like Roger Federer to a tennis racquet.  Of course I, like a lot of people, wasn’t this enthusiastic and gung-ho about learning when I was actually in school, back then it was all rolled eyes and scowls and “Oh my gosh, who even cares about oxbow lakes?”  However, now that my future doesn’t rest on how well I learn something, learning things is actually pretty darn fun.

And now, thanks to the Internet, you can learn so many things from the comfort of your own sofa/bed/inflatable chair.  We used to be limited by geography and courses that were going on nearby, or we at least had to source a book or CD that taught us something but now the internet can teach you almost anything.

Like knitting.  Lots of people learn to knit at their mother’s or grandmother’s (or, let’s not be sexist, father’s) knee but I learnt how to knit one, purl one from an online course I bought at Craftsy, though there are also plenty of free tutorials knocking about on the web that teach total beginners like me how to cobble together a scarf.

But how good is learning things through the internet?  Is the fact that we can watch and read the instructions over and over a big help when it comes to practicing?  Or is it more useful to have somebody in the room teaching us so we can poke them on the back and say “Ey?  What am I supposed to be doing here exactly?”  I had a go at some activities to see what works best

Learning a Language
Want me to mumble broken sentences to you with lots of hand gestures and say English words with an accent?  I’m afraid I can only do that in French and German.  Until now.  Now, thanks to my “Discover Spanish” podcast, I am incompetent in a whole other language.  “Johnny Spanish”, my podcast tutor, tells me that the way to learn a language is a little bit every day but I can’t help but think that Johnny is being optimistic, typical Johnny.  Yes, learning random words can help out in a tourist situation but I’m not sure that Johnny has made an incredibly thorough and well explained podcast on the particular verb that I always struggle to conjugate.  I’d say learning languages can be done online, but human interaction helps an awful lot.

Pilates
Any exercise you can do whilst wearing pyjama bottoms in your living room is an exercise I can get behind and so I began the 30 minute beginner’s workout video feeling fairly optimistic.  It was going excellently when the lady was just teaching me how to breathe (I don’t want to brag or anything but I’m already a bit of a pro at breathing) but once she told me we were going to do 100 up and down arm things, I gave up and lay on the floor.  I found another beginner’s video on YouTube though and managed to get through most of the eight minutes, but without a human there to chivvy me along, it was pretty hard to keep up my motivation.  However, I do think these videos are the perfect method to guide you when you have a spare 10 minutes and want to do a short burst of exercise.

Baking and Cooking
One thing that the internet loves, along with cats and lists of things, is food.  This is great if you’re looking for inspiration.  Yes, cookery books and TV shows also do the job but if you know that you want to make a meal involving pumpkin and leek, the internet will practically fall over itself trying to teach you how to make something.  It’s also brilliant for ninnies like me who suddenly remember a favourite shop-bought food from their childhood and then realise the internet can teach you how to make it.  The recipe I found for sultana cookies is so easy that even a saucepan-phobe like me can make it.

Etiquette
Worry about your handshake giving you sleepless nights?  Nah, me neither, but that doesn’t mean the internet can’t teach you how to do it properly.  I’ve learnt how to correctly shake a hand (not too many pumps), that the best way to learn how to walk is to balance a small book on your head and that the correct way to leave a room is to not turn your back as you walk out of the door.  The wonders of the internet, ey?

Have you taken any online courses?  Learnt any new skills from the internet?

Featured image via ShutterStock

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