We may not be free to roam, but we are FreetoLearn

Published: 04 May 2020

David Knott says that during the enforced lockdown why not use the time to learn?

At this time, the right thing to do (for those of us who do not need to travel as essential workers) is to stay at home. If we are fortunate enough to be healthy, housed and in work, a temporary loss of freedom is a small price to pay to keep others and ourselves safe.

And we live in an age where technology helps us be productive from home; we can access systems, share information and meet with people on the other side of the world. However, even with all of this technology, we can’t all be productive all of the time. Sometimes things go faster when we can meet in person, and go slower when we are working remotely. Lockdown comes with down time.

We can use time to connect or reflect, but we can also use this time to learn.

Our HSBC Technology Academy aims to create a continuous learning environment for all people in HSBC Technology. Even before the lockdown, the HSBC Technology Academy made it possible for people to learn remotely, in the way that works best for them, and at their own pace. It pulls together courses and literature from leading learning companies, combines them with video and audio presentations from our own internal experts, and makes them available through people’s personal devices.

This is not enough on its own, though; there are a few more problems to be overcome to help people learn.

There’s too much stuff. The field of technology is diverse, complex and ever growing. Even expert technologists with many years of experience realise that the set of things they don’t know is much larger than the set of things they know. What should they learn next? And when they answer this question, it simply reveals another question - how should they learn next? Should they do this course or that course? Should they read a book or listen to a lecture? Watch a video or do an exercise?

To solve this problem, the HSBC Technology Academy, has launched a programme called FreetoLearn. People who sign up to this programme get three things.

First, they get some guidance through the maze of stuff. They get suggested topics, with taster sessions of about thirty minutes each - and links to much longer, deeper courses for those people who want to learn more.

Second, they get to learn with others rather than on their own. The courses are delivered through our social learning platform, through which people can find and connect with others learning the same thing - and ask for help.

Third, they get reminded that it’s time to learn. Every week they get three new topics sent to them, and get the opportunity to learn with others.

This is an experiment. As well as helping people to learn, we will learn more about the practice and value of learning in unusual circumstances.

The hypothesis is that people want to learn, and will value help to find things to learn, to learn with others, and to be reminded. Early signs are that it seems to be working and people are signing up for it - so let’s see how it goes.

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