Six benefits of online learning for unpaid carers

Tony, founder of the Carers’ Academy at Carers Centre Tower Hamlets shares six benefits that online learning has brought to unpaid carers.

Often as carers, our own goals and interests are put aside while we care for another. This can include training for work or courses in an interest or skill like drawing, knitting or learning an instrument.

One unexpected benefit of the recent pandemic, has been the rise of online courses, accessible at any time of day to anyone with a computer.

Pre-pandemic, the Carers Centre in Tower Hamlets where I work had a light touch virtual learning programme. But since March 2020, all activities including learning solutions have moved solely online. At the time, there was no other option, as we tried to make sure carers had activities and learning opportunities available during lockdown.

Now that we are out of lockdown, we continue to be committed to online learning as an option for carers rather than going back to face to face learning as the only option.

While some carers cannot wait to come back to the Centre and take part in group classes, others have specifically requested that we continue with an online option.

Here are just some of the reasons why online learning can be a beneficial option for carers.

1. Learn at your own pace

Online learning allows us to set our own pace. Many online classes are pre-recorded, meaning that we can dip in and out as needed. For ‘live’ classes, timetables can be organised around caring and work responsibilities.

This makes it more likely that we can complete the whole course instead of missing classes because they clash with caring responsibilities. It also means there’s no need to give anything up. Studying online also teaches us vital time management skills, which can have benefits in other areas of our lives.

2. Plenty of choice

In a space as vast and wide as the internet, there are infinite skills and subjects to discover. Whether we’re looking to start a new hobby or gain a new qualification, the choice is almost endless.

Many universities or higher education programmes now offer online versions of their courses. From certificates to whole degrees taught online, from music composition to quantum physics. There’s even a qualification in caring – even though most carers could teach that course!

Studying online is an option for those of us carers who are hoping to earn an official certificate, diploma, or degree. In most cases we don’t even need to physically set foot on a university or college campus. And we can study when it suits us.

3. Find information and support

For new carers, or those of us whose caring situation changes, finding support and information videos related to the caring role or the condition of the person we care for can be really beneficial. It can help us to understand what the person we care for is dealing with. And ultimately make us feel less anxious and stressed in our caring role.

4. Teach or learn from anywhere

The flexibility online education provides enables us to study – or teach – from anywhere in the world. There’s no need to commute from one place to another, saving time and money which can be spent on other priorities.

Our virtual classroom is available anywhere there’s an internet connection, so we can study from home, or while we’re staying with the person we care for. If we are a carer with access issues that affect us getting to in-person classes, learning online can open up a world of possibilities.

5. Save money

Unlike in-person education and learning opportunities, online education tends to be more affordable. There’s also often a wide range of payment options that let us pay in instalments or per class, especially at Local Authority Adult Education facilities. This allows for better budget management – something of particular importance to us if we are on a fixed income.

There are sometimes special discounts or scholarships available to carers that are well worth investigating. We will often spend less taking an online course, but the results can be the same or even better than more expensive in-person options.

6. Design the learning experience we want

Flexibility can help us to set our own study pace and level of ability. New to learning a language or want to refresh your skills? There are classes available at all levels.

We will often have a one-on-one tutor. This allows for greater interaction and more feedback between us and our tutor.