From Masterclass to Duolingo: the digital learning apps to keep you busy in the lockdown

Amelia Heathman

FutureLearn launched in 2012 as an Open University-backed start-up offering free short courses in subjects including languages and business. The platform counts more than 10 million members globally, although it has seen a big surge from places including Italy, Spain and Iran, which have been badly hit by coronavirus.

Speaking of coronavirus, a course from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine covering Covid-19 launched earlier this week and has 81,000 students already. Why are people keen to learn during this time?

“It’s a natural retreat for people to arm themselves with greater education,” says FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson.

Looking for an escape? The OU’s Start Writing Fiction course has seen an uplift in sign-ups too. That’s one way to get creative in a crisis. (free,

Here are some of the other digital learning apps to try so you can learn in the lockdown.

Enrol in a celebrity masterclass

Cook like Gordon Ramsay with a Masterclass membership (Masterclass)

If you’ve ever wanted to cook like Gordon Ramsay, above, or learn acting from Natalie Portman, then MasterClass is the app for you. It includes video tutorials from the greats on their speciality, such as screenwriting classes from The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin.

The top lesson viewed in March is former FBI chief hostage negotiator Chris Voss’s on tactical empathy.

The platform is also launching live sessions, where members can interact with instructors and outside experts.

£14.17 a month,

Perfect another language

Learning a language is one of those classic New Year resolutions that you never get round to but the coronavirus lockdown offers an ideal opportunity.

Duolingo gamifies the process — collect streaks for the days you consecutively use the app.

When the UK scrambled indoors last week, UK-based users increased 170 per cent. Spanish is one of the most popular languages to learn on the platform, while more than 100,000 people are currently learning High Valyrian, the fictional language from Game Of Thrones.

Free, with in-app purchases,

Anyone can play guitar

Learn the guitar, bass and the ukelele on Fender's Play app (Fender )

One way to distract yourself from the end of society as we know it is music. Unfortunately, physical music lessons are out — they go against social distancing rules — but if it’s the guitar you’re looking to learn, then Fender Play can help. The teaching app is the ultimate way to learn guitar, bass or ukulele thanks to its instructor-guided videos.

As part of the lockdown, it is offering new customers a free three-month subscription.

“Playing an instrument has been proven to have mental and physical benefits, including boosting creativity,” explains Fender Digital’s general manager Ethan Kaplan. “Given the world we find ourselves in right now, we want to help how we know best — so we can play through this together.”

The service is free for three months, then £9.99 a month,

Be a homeschool hit

When schools closed last week, parents across the country became teachers almost overnight. Kaligo, the Department for Education-approved handwriting app, is available to help minimise learning loss over the next few weeks.

It’s a great support for parents too. Children and infants use a stylus and tablet to trace letters through colourful screens. Their work is then stored so that parents can monitor their progress.

“We wanted to see how we could support pupils, parents and teachers throughout this time and help to keep the children learning at home,” explains director Faisal Hamid.


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