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Stave off social-distancing boredom and learn 7 new skills for free

Being alone doesn't mean you have to be bored.

By now, you have heard of social distancing (unless you’re Jared Leto and spent the last two weeks silently meditating in the desert).

It’s unclear how long we will need to practice social distancing — it could be weeks or even a few months — but it is known that relative isolation may slow the rate of COVID-19 infections.

And that’s great.

But it’s also true that avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, not going to restaurants, and staying home from work or school can make the day-to-day very, very boring.

Luckily, it’s 2020 and 9 in 10 Americans have access to the internet (why everyone doesn't is a whole other problem).

That means if you have internet, you can learn something new while you are stuck inside. It’s easy to start — and it might help keep your COVID-19 related anxiety at bay.


skills you can learn, for free, while you're social distancing at home.

7. Learn how to paint

Take advantage of time indoors, and become the artist you didn’t know you could be.

YouTube is a great place to start. For sketching and watercolor lessons, check out the channel of Teoh Yi Chie, an artist and designer. If you fancy yourself an oil painter in the making, go to Kevin Hill’s channel, a millennial master of “happy little trees.”

Art by Kevin Hill.

6. Learn moral philosophy

The world may feel upside down — so it’s a good time to brush up on your philosophy. You can audit online courses, also known as MOOCs, for free. For example: You can take University of Edinburgh's course “Know Thyself,” or Princeton University's course "Buddhism and Modern Philosophy" now. On June 10, you can begin taking one of Harvard’s most popular courses — a seminar called “Justice.”

5. Learn Shakespeare

In high school, you likely read Shakespeare because you had to. Now you can read it for fun — and it's much better the second time around.

Jonathan Bate, a biographer of Shakespeare and professor at Arizona State University, recently made his courses on Shakespeare free as a resource for people “working remotely in a time of plague.”

4. Learn to code

You’ve probably joked about learning to code — but now is your chance. Learn the basics of Python, a programming language, with a free course by the University of Toronto. Pick up the fundamentals of HTML and learn how to make your own site. And if all this solo-time has got you dreaming up a new app, learn how to make one.

3. Learn to cook

If you don't know how to cook, now is the time to learn. There's a smorgasbord of options out there for you. If you want to create homemade pasta and be charmed at the same time, head to the Pasta Grannies YouTube channel. If you want to make food straight from the movies, head to Binging with Babish. And if you want to feel like you're learning to cook from friends, check out Bon Appétit's Test Kitchen.

2. Learn about the universe

Venture way, way beyond your home, and learn about space. You can start by taking a free course offered by the California Institute of Technology on the science of the Solar System. Then move on to astrobiology, and learn about the hunt for extraterrestrials with the University of Edinburgh. You can also check out Inverse's "Life in Space" section, for new space news, published every day.

1. Learn about diseases

Perhaps a bit too close, but it's good to know what we're working with here. Understand the difference between a pandemic, epidemic, and outbreak with a free course from Penn State titled "The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases." The University of Pittsburgh has a free course on "Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks," and you can take a class from the University of Copenhagen on global health.