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A beginner's guide to continuing education in quarterlife

By Joy Molan, with Jake Cunningham & Ipeknaz Erel


Get ready to teach yourself everything you want to know, minus the rubbish university halls.

A friend recently confessed to me, “I feel like I’ve stopped learning since I left uni”. It’s a common position many of us find ourselves in. We leave school or university, enter the world of work, and our education becomes more about learning specific applied skills and sometimes simply managing the strange, alien world of office politics. The intellectual nourishment and sense of discovery we once had gets deprioritised, especially if, at the end of a long day battling to get to grips with your entry-level job or trawling job sites, all you want to do is rot your brain watching ‘Five Guys a Week’ (other crap TV shows are available). 


So, how do we continue learning, even after we leave education?


Maybe you want to learn something different to your degree? Maybe you want to continue a childhood hobby you’ve neglected? Or maybe you’ve had enough of that guitar in the corner of your room silently judging you for never actually learning to play it? All of these are valid reasons to develop a new study routine, as we hunker down and prepare to spend many a long winter night inside our bubbles.


But, self-directed study can seem a bit of a mystery. Which courses are worthwhile? How much does it cost? Can I commit to finishing it? 


I’ve done some of the hard work for you and compiled a list of courses, recommended by quarterlifers, that they are finding fulfillment in. 

  1. Duolingo - the app for wannabe be linguists


A true classic. Thanks to the little Duolingo owl and its passive aggressive notifications, this app is currently responsible for more people learning Irish than there are native Irish speakers. It is easy to use, free and can be adjusted to your level. Whether you’ve got rusty A-level German or no previous experience, you can tailor it to suit you. 


If you want to join the Duolingo community, you’ll be in good company. It turns out that the app saw a 300 per cent growth in new UK users in the week after 23rd March 2020. For many quarterlifers, Duolingo has become a part of a new at-home routine and helped stave off our itch for travel during the months of strict lockdown. 


The app offers a mix of translation tasks and verbal tests. But, make sure you use your headphones if you’re around your housemates, or you might end up inciting feelings of irrational rage, like Will Hislop’s hilarious lockdown sketch.


Polish up your Polish, strengthen your Spanish or finesse your French, so that next time we’re allowed to freely travel, you can ask for a beer and sandwich with confidence.


2. Future Learn x UEA: An Introduction to Screenwriting, for wannabe movie writers


We’ve finally had time to enjoy all those movies and tv shows that have been saved on our Netflix ‘Lists’ for years. If you’ve found yourself wondering how your favourite films were crafted, then this is the course for you. This affordable, University of East Anglia accredited course is a virtual introduction to the art of screenwriting, led by industry professionals such as writer of ‘The Last King of Scotland’, Prof Giles Foden.


This online course, “explores the key concepts and fundamental principles involved in the process of screenwriting” and, “is a must for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their script writing to a professional level”. It features two weeks of study and is free for the first two weeks. But, don’t worry if you can’t get through all the modules in two weeks, you can upgrade for continued access for £40. Bargain.


Link: Future Learn 


3. SheCodes: for women who want an intro to web development

It’s a three week intro level course to front-end development and is good for people who want to dip their toes into coding. Fellow quarterlifer, Ipek, tells me, “I recommend it to people who have 0 or very little exposure to coding, as it’s a really good intro level course. It is very easy to squeeze it into the work week”. 

Every week you have short lectures, challenges that you can go through at your own pace, and at the end of each week there is a project with a deadline. It’s about a five to six hour commitment every week. At the end of the course you build your own page.


If you catch the coding bug, then there’s always the longer SheCodes Plus or Plus React courses for you to try.


4. ThinkSpace Education and Syntorial - two courses for lovers of music theory & sound design

Many virtual music courses leave students with more questions than answers. “It’s a world of rabbit holes that leave many intimidated and frustrated, but that’s not the way it has to be”, musician and fellow quarterlifer Jake Cunningham tells me.

With award-winning film, game and TV composer Guy Michelmore as your guide, ThinkSpace Education introduces music composition in practical, straightforward online video tutorials that will give you the techniques to make great music right away. All you need is a notebook, desktop audio workstation (DAW) and the readiness to learn.

"It’s good for anyone interested in learning basic music theory, those looking to write scores for media, film or games, and musicians wanting to enhance their songwriting skills", says Jake.

Next up, if you love the Netflix series Stranger Things and wondered how Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein composed the unique, 80s inspired score, you’ll love Syntorial. With almost 200 lessons, combining video tutorials and interactive challenges, you’ll become comfortable creating unique synth patches for your music productions. Jake explains, "it’s a whole new way to learn synthesis and can help bring your music and compositions to the next level".

So, no matter if you want to strengthen your STEM skills or cultivate a creative talent, there's never been a better time to commit to a remote learning course.

Image by unknown Pinterest artist.


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