Online classes are booming more than ever. Insights from CanopyLAB partner The Valkyrie Endeavor

By Yamanda Boukmakh, Head of Partnerships

 

The current pandemic has forced us to completely reinvent ourselves and redesign our daily professional and personal schedules. Online learning is booming right now, and I’ve chosen to interview one of CanopyLAB’s partners Sarah Lasso founder of the NGO the Valkyrie Endeavour, who has created a series of brilliant online courses on the LAB. Not only has she created courses, but she has also been super productive and accelerated the pace at which she releases new courses during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Sarah shares with us how she tapped into her productivity and motivation during this difficult time!

 

Coined by the New York Times, 2012 was officially the year of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) as top universities from around the world started providing courses completely free online. The current pandemic has also propelled an even bigger wave of digital learning as all educational institutions from around the world have been required to move to remote and virtual learning in a matter of days. Not only are institutions digitizing their own content, but other organizations are providing free resources in the form of MOOCs to support this radical change.

 

Online courses become key to maintaining connections and inspiration
Sarah Lasso is a cofounder in BlueBenu, a startup working to develop a process to recycle the unrecyclable plastics! We reverse engineer the plastics back to crude oil. She is also the founder of an NGO called The Valkyrie Endeavour, where the focus is on empowering women through entrepreneurial education with inspirational courses, mentorship/coaching and content. Talk about wearing many hats, Sarah is also doing her postdoc research!

 

The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with Sarah where we discuss the changes she has experienced since the government lockdowns took place and how taking part in and creating free online courses has become an integral part of her daily activities.

 

Yamanda: If you were to highlight three great things and three challenges about working from home, what would they be for you?

 

I really do miss the contact with my team, the interaction with partners, and in-person events. To be completely honest, online events and webinars can get a bit boring and long.

 

Sahra: COVID-19 has changed my work style completely… moving to working at home fulltime has impacted my work-life balance and mental health. One of the best things about working from home the time I save getting ready in the morning or commuting: Working in pajamas is always a plus. I also have more time to spend with my boyfriend since we both have to work from home. However, I still didn’t find the optimal work-life balance. Reflecting on my schedule, I end up working almost 24/7… I really do miss the contact with my team, the interaction with partners, and in-person events. To be completely honest, online events and webinars can get a bit boring and long.

 

Yamanda: Have you observed any changes in your personal learning patterns or consumption of content since the pandemic?

 

Sahra: Definitely, what I have seen during COVID-19 is that there are so many more online courses and free resources available to the public. I enrolled in a few courses myself and then noticed that my mind didn’t have the time to actually digest everything, so I slowed down. It is so important to ensure you have these mental health check-ins often. I also noticed that I’ve been reading more, and I´m back into writing on paper!

 

Yamanda: What has motivated you to create more courses during COVID-19?

 

I noticed that some people were a bit lost… there was a snowball of bad news, lockdown, working from home for their first time (or being fired…) and I wanted to help in some way. I thought that sharing knowledge could help since the searches for free online courses increased dramatically, which meant that people wanted to take this time to learn new things.

 

Sahra: I noticed that some people were a bit lost… there was a snowball of bad news, lockdown, working from home for their first time (or being fired…) and I wanted to help in some way. I thought that sharing knowledge could help since the searches for free online courses increased dramatically, which meant that people wanted to take this time to learn new things. I’m writing or working on creating the courses, looking for materials, I get in a mind flow that makes me happy and relaxed.


Yamanda: What piece of advice do you have for organizations that are considering creating free courses for youth?


Sahra: Today you can practically learn anything online and there is so much free content everywhere. You can enroll in Harvard courses or even see what NASA is doing in real-time. I think what is missing is inspirational courses so people see that they can learn and they can do it!


Content is amazing but people need to be motivated and inspired. My advice to all these course creators out there is to dedicate time to connecting with the learners and perhaps even creating how-to guides on how they can best engage with the content every step of the way. Remember, there are all kinds of learners out there, and more than ever. Put yourself in their shoes and don’t forget to cater to a diverse group- the tech-savvy millennial to the traditional boomer.


As Sarah points out, there is almost an overwhelming amount of free course, resources, and webinars available for free during the current pandemic. The key as a learner, consumer and user is to invest your time in quality content and connections rather than quantity, or as I like to call it, information overload. To all the course creators out there, take Sarah’s advice and provide guides, and collaborative virtual spaces where learners can interact with one another, and share ideas during this period of isolation. Finally, think about curation, when there is an abundance of content, connecting the right person with the right content becomes much more valuable.


Speaking of free online resources, we’ve listened to the educators out there and have created a free open learning platform for teachers by teachers! TeacherLAB provides 40 + short and efficient courses designed to empower teachers to master new digital tools, online pedagogy, and relationships with students and parents, with the support of a global network of teachers.