Now’s the time to upskill through online learningUpskilling an employee – or yourself – is the best investment you can make right now in your future, your career and your business, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.Article by Samantha Page - 08 July 2020 - Read Time: 4 min
corporate resource hub all articles nows the time to upskill through online learning

The word ‘upskill’ might seem like contemporary corporate jargon, but the word first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1983 when jobs started to become more technical and varied.

The recent migration from a bricks-and-mortar office to a virtual space due to coronavirus pandemic has created a more urgent need to upskill and reskill staff in order to stay relevant, adapt business strategies, and keep employees and their families safe.

‘It is a lifeline that turns an overwhelmed and unprepared employee into one with the knowledge and skills to take on new tasks confidently and capably,’ says Carol Morrison, a researcher at the Institute of Corporate Productivity, who has conducted in-depth research into the importance of an upskilled workforce, especially during an economic downturn.

Consider how you learn

To make the most of any online course, it’s important to be aware of the factors that will determine the outcome of your learning.

Learning style
How do you learn and retain information?

Are you able to commit to weekly online classes?

Training delivery
Do you prefer learning in a group, one-on-one, or with (or without) an instructor?

Digital capability
Do you have the tech skills and equipment (hardware and software) to be able to complete the assignments or tasks?

Acquiring any new competency or nugget of knowledge boosts confidence and demonstrates your ability to learn and grow, which are all signs of high EQ.

Learn for free

Learning something new or updating existing skills during the pandemic has been a lifeline for many people struggling with loneliness and isolation. Mental-wellbeing experts recommend keeping busy and being productive, and many looked to eLearning to fill that gap.

Yale University’s 10-week course on The Science of Wellbeing is free and has become the university’s most popular course in its entire history. Being able to retain and recall huge volumes of information is an enviable business skill, so you could also look at these ways to improve your memory.

Here are three other platforms you might want to consider:

1. Udemy
Millions of learners from around the world are already reaping the benefits of this online platform, learning everything from blockchain basics to public speaking and agile project management. Course prices have been slashed from R4 000 to around R200 and, occasionally, courses are free. You can learn at your own pace and there are a variety of topics from which to choose. Learn more.

2. Coursera
This platform provides current topics to study like race and cultural diversity and psychological first aid, as well as more traditional business-related skills like the art of negotiation and machine learning, created by universities like Yale, Stanford, Oxford and many others. More than 1 400 online courses are completely free. Learn more

3. Digital skills for Africa
Whether you want to grow an existing business or start something new, there are about 140 courses from which to choose. The landing page helps you decide on the course, the amount of time you can devote to it, and the kind of accreditation you will receive on completion. Modules include digital marketing, business security and conflict transformation. Learn more.

Investing in your career

According to, even before lockdown South African businesses had made upskilling a priority. In fact, nearly a third of all CEOs in the country believe that upskilling programmes strengthened corporate culture and employee engagement. For those willing to make a financial investment, here are some leading platforms to investigate.

1. MasterStart (University of Stellenbosch Business School)
This short course in leadership development teaches the strategic and operational skills needed to build a strong and successful organisation.

2. Gordon Institute of Business Science (University of Pretoria)
Future-ready business leaders need to lead with agility and innovation, and this business management and development course provides executives with a contemporary tool-kit.

3. GetSmarter (University of Cape Town)
One of the best local sources of online short courses, GetSmarter covers a range of cutting-edge topics from highly regarded institutions such as MIT, Yale and Cambridge. Work towards your career goals with qualifications in data analytics, disruptive tech, management and leadership, even AI in healthcare.

And now for something a little different…

Acquiring any new competency or nugget of knowledge boosts confidence and demonstrates your ability to learn and grow, which are all signs of high EQ (emotional intelligence). You might want to learn to:

Make a negroni
While connoisseurs have questioned the execution and ingredients of this popular Italian cocktail, it’s the delivery of actor Stanley Tucci that’s the real entertainment.

Keep updated on what’s topical in South Africa
Listen to Life podcasts for local news and views with this curated list of talks, interviews and discussions. Also find out what Mindspace writers are listening to.

Watch a sport documentary
Last Dance (2020) is a docuseries on Netflix, which gives a definitive account of Michael Jordan’s career and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Sports fundis in particular will enjoy this one.

Create an uplifting playlist
Music has been known to heal broken hearts and lift spirits, so why not curate your own music on Spotify to boost your mood?

Samantha Page
Group editor: Health, John Brown South Africa

Related articles