Time-poor Brits swap the classroom for the home in digital age

Almost half (43 per cent) of UK adults have turned to digital technology to develop new skills at home, with privacy and flexibility driving the online uptake.

The fourth annual Halifax Insurance Digital Home Report found that a range of skills traditionally passed down between generations are now learned either online or through apps.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) have learned or improved their cooking skills in this way, almost as many (61 per cent) have developed DIY and home maintenance skills, and a third (30 per cent) headed online for sewing tips.

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Dr Kairen Cullen, educational psychologist, said, “The advent of new technology has brought with it many ways to accommodate different learning styles and offers individuals the flexibility and choice to learn at their own pace in settings that fit easily into personal situations. 

“One drawback for this type of learning, rather than more traditional teacher-led classroom settings, is that opportunities for socially interactive learning may be reduced. 

“However, social media and ever-evolving online teaching methods offset this to some degree, as does the fact that people now have access to a huge array of resources that can help expand their knowledge, thinking and practical skills.”

In addition, activities which previously would have involved face-to-face instruction are also now being developed online, with exercising (54 per cent), learning a musical instrument (26 per cent) and learning a foreign language (40 per cent) proving popular.

Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager at Halifax Insurance, said: “It’s clear that digital devices are becoming increasingly valuable, not only in monetary terms, but in helping people develop personal skills that were previously inaccessible.

“Rather than taking the availability of these resources for granted, it is imperative that people recognise the opportunities at their fingertips through their digital investments, and make sure that their devices are properly insured both inside the home and while on the go.” 

A widespread desire for flexibility and privacy is behind the move to digital learning. Nearly all who learn online do so in the privacy of their home (96 per cent), and over half (54 per cent) of respondents reveal that having the opportunity to learn on their own is the primary reason they use digital resources rather than traditional methods.

UK adults also value the flexibility offered by online learning; almost two thirds (60 per cent) of online learners say they prefer learning in this way so they can do it at their own pace, and a quarter (27 per cent) like being able to track their progress themselves.

They are also able to learn at times that suit them; people spend an average of 8.4 hours a month developing a skill online, most often at evenings (59 per cent) and weekends (37 per cent).

The research suggests that a potential skills gap is being addressed by the increased availability of online learning. Almost half (42 per cent) of people said they would not have had time to learn the skill if they did not have access to digital platforms, a third (31 per cent) said they only wanted to learn in private.

Whille one in seven said they would have been too embarrassed to hone their skills in public (15 per cent).

Some of the most essential life-skills would be among those affected by the absence of online tools; a quarter of people (23 per cent) said they would not have learned or improved their cooking skills, or do basic DIY (23 per cent).

Additionally, almost a quarter (22 per cent) said that without access to online platforms or apps they would not have been able to learn a foreign language, whilst one in six (16 per cent) wouldn’t keep fit.

Despite this reliance on technology to access essential online tools, the research shows digital devices are still left unprotected. Although the average Brit owns digital items worth an estimated £1,826, only half (54 per cent) say these are covered by home contents insurance, and a quarter (23 per cent) do not know whether their devices are insured or not.

Furthermore, almost a fifth (18 per cent) say their devices and gadgets are not covered at all.

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