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Digital skills courses reach more than half a million learners

Digital skills courses reach more than half a million learners

Online courses developed by the Digital Education Service at the University of Leeds and focusing on employment skills have seen a 2000% increase in uptake since February 2020.

Six of the courses were adopted by the Department for Education in April for its online platform The Skills Toolkit, designed to help people learn new digital skills from home.

In partnership with the Institute of Coding and FutureLearn, the course collection - ‘Digital Skills for the Workplace’ - features 15 courses on topics such as creating a professional online presence, basic computer programming, and communication skills.

Devised by University of Leeds academics and industry experts, the courses offer a flexible method of upskilling at a time when there is uncertainty for many around jobs.

“Working in partnership, it is wonderful to see this suite of courses reach across large and diverse numbers of people to help develop digital and workplace skills during a particularly challenging period of time.”

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor

The courses have proved attractive to a wide variety of participants, including:

  • women (47% of surveyed learners are women),
  • people outside of the traditional university age cohort (more than half of surveyed learners are over the age of 25)
  • people who are looking for work or are at different points in their career (19% of surveyed learners are unemployed or looking for work and 48% are working full-time, part-time or are self-employed.)

Reception of the digital skills courses has been very positive, with most courses averaging 4.7 out of 5 stars and learners commenting on their usefulness in terms of careers and prospects.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds said: “The University of Leeds has a long-standing and determined focus on digital education, and we work hard to understand and meet the needs of different groups of learners.

“Working in partnership, it is wonderful to see this suite of courses reach across large and diverse numbers of people to help develop digital and workplace skills during a particularly challenging period of time.”

I'm pleased such a diverse group of learners is reaping the benefits of these fantastic courses and I urge anyone looking to improve their digital know-how to sign up.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture

Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage said: "I'm pleased such a diverse group of learners is reaping the benefits of these fantastic courses and I urge anyone looking to improve their digital know-how to sign up.

"Our digital economy can help power the UK's economic recovery from coronavirus and we are determined to make sure everyone can develop the digital skills they need to succeed in the workplace."

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan said: “It is wonderful to see so many people from a wide range of backgrounds are engaging with online learning to boost their knowledge. Online courses, such as those on The Skills Toolkit, are an excellent way to gain the vital digital and numeracy skills most valued by employers.

“With 82% of all job openings requiring at least basic digital skills it is more important than ever that people are able to build their confidence and learn the skills they need to succeed.

“I’d encourage anyone looking to learn some new skills or boost their knowledge, from graduates to those already in the workplace, to go online and take advantage of the wide range of free, high-quality courses available.”

This is a testament to the teams involved in designing and creating the courses who have used our research in this area to ensure they represent and portray the target audience, and offer engaging, interactive, learning opportunities inclusive to all.

Professor Neil Morris, Dean of Digital Education, University of Leeds

Professor Neil Morris, Dean of Digital Education, University of Leeds said: “It is fantastic to see these online courses proving so valuable to individuals who will be able to use the knowledge and skills gained to start, or progress, their careers.

“It is particularly pleasing to see these courses reaching, and appealing to, people who have not traditionally engaged with Massive Open Online Courses. This is a testament to the teams involved in designing and creating the courses who have used our research in this area to ensure they represent and portray the target audience, and offer engaging, interactive, learning opportunities inclusive to all.”

The Digital Education Service provides learners with opportunities to engage, collaborate and learn in creative ways at a pace that suits them. This can be as part of campus-based programmes, online courses for international learners, or bespoke courses for external partners.

For further information, please contact the University of Leeds Press Office, via pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk.

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