How to learn new skills for free!


Start learning today and fill that page!


Hi there.

Nearly two years ago I wrote about some free courses which are available on the world-wide web.

I think it’s fair to say that an that an update is overdue, so this week I’ll be mentioning course providers who offer courses relevant to business people (SMEs) and individuals.

I am starting with a provider with a great range of course to suit all learners.

FutureLearn by  The Open University is a MOOC (massive open online course) and is privately owned by The Open University.  According to their website you:

‘Join over 1733635 people learning with FutureLearn. Enjoy free online courses from top universities and cultural institutions. Find the course for you.’

They also have another path to free learning called Open Learn.

Open Learn is: ‘The home of free learning from The Open University

The resources used by FutureLearn and Open Learn are no different from the main Open University courses, in that they all have well- designed course material. I have taken courses with both and find them to be informative and interesting. The only negative I can find is that there are so many courses you may have trouble deciding which ones you want to study!

FutureLearn courses have specified start dates and can run for two/three weeks through to eight weeks. You can interact with other learners via threads of comments. Open Learn, offers more flexibility as you start and finish when you want.  At the end of the course, FutureLearn gives you the option of purchasing a certificate, while Open Learn offers you a statement of participation.

I studied for my degree with The Open University (and while it’s not free), I loved the fact that my fellow students came from all walks of life, all ages and nationalities.  According to The Open University‘s Former Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean:

The Open University’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.’

They have always been proud of their great resources, which is evident in their factual programmes made with the BBC; such as Hospital, where The Open University‘s academics have been advisors on the co-produced programme.

Now onto a completely different organisation called Alison.

Alison describes themselves as ‘the original MOOC’ (massive open online course), and is:

‘a five-million-strong, global online learning community, filled with free, high-quality resources to help you develop essential, certified workplace skills.’

To be honest I have started a few courses with Alison but did not know that much about them. Wikipedia has some background information and says that ALISON stands for Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online. So, you can’t say that you have not learnt anything today.

From the information given on their website, and a promotional video, Alison started in Galway, Ireland and offers courses that are flexible and can be studied at your own pace wherever you are. They have over 750 courses on offer including diploma courses, free courses, languages, digital courses and courses for personal development. Students are assessed throughout the course and have the option of purchasing a certificate.

Lastly, a name that you associate more with recruitment than courses is Reed. While Reed, do not offer the courses themselves, they are a platform directing you to the sources of the courses. Rhyming was purely coincidental!

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am always encouraging reading and research. I love learning new things, so I’ll be checking out the new courses from FutureLearn.

I believe that whether you are a business owner or a regular individual, you should always be looking for ways to develop yourself and your business.

I hope that you enjoyed the blog, and it’s made you want to learn something new.

Take care,


p.s Speaking about learning new things, if you are new to blogging and want more information or you’d like to attend a future blogging workshop, contact me here at My email address or via the contact form on My Website.

Testing times ahead!


Hello there.

Here is something a bit different this week.

As many young people start to revise for their GCSEs, I thought I would put you through your paces and test your general and education-related knowledge.

First round! These are questions which relate to education stories from 2016 –

Take this Guardian Education quiz

Next round! This will really get your brain working! I got 50% correct. See if you can do a bit better!

Telegraph 11+ article and quiz

Third round! For all those good with numbers take these Maths quizzes from the Guardian,

Are you smarter than a 16 year old?

and another from the Telegraph.

Could you pass GCSE Maths?

Last round! A hard general knowledge quiz, which has made me realise that I need to go back to school!

Buzz Feed General Knowledge Quiz


I hope that you enjoyed these brainteasers. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful that I’m not sitting exams right now.

How did you get on?

Have you ever thought about helping a young person with their revision? If you don’t already and feel you have the time and temperament to help a student in secondary education, why not get in touch with Action Tutoring. They are always looking for volunteer tutors to support young people. It is a rewarding experience.

Well, thanks for reading.

Take care,





Is your content on fire?


Hello there and welcome to November!

So, it’s November the fifth, and tonight many will be heading off to organised firework displays to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night! Without going into the politics of why the UK commemorates a failed attempt to blow up the House of Parliament, the blog this week is about fire/fireworks of a different kind.

Should you wish to indulge yourself with some more information about what happened back in 1605, check out for an interesting read.

So, what are the fireworks of a different kind? Well, I am referring to having explosive website/blog content.  Sorry, I know you are rolling your eyes, but I thought the fire/fireworks theme  would work really well with social media.


We all know that content is the key to attracting an online audience and we all want visitors to engage with what we write.  We want them all to stop and take notice of the scintillating  flames called content.

Okay, so enough of the fire analogies, for now. So how do you ensure that the content of your website is so appealing that visitors will come back time and time again?

Well, it would take more than one blog to explain and there are excellent resources out there. As ever I will point you in the direction.

A major player in all things social media is Hubspot-  They are all about attracting and retaining clients with creative content. The website says that they have 500,000 subscribers, so they obviously know a thing or two about inbound marketing.

If you don’t know your inbound from your outbound marketing, then another popular social media source is Mashable UK with a handy infographic that explains it all.  See

A rising star closer to home which offers a fresh approach to social media, is the social media agency Happy Social  


With access to so much help, you will soon be breathing fire into your content!

Whatever you do this Bonfire night, be safe.

Take care,





Spring Forward, Fall Back!


Hi there.

You may be wondering what on earth is this ‘Spring Forward Fall back’ business? Well, if you have not remembered that the clocks go back this weekend, then the title says it all. In Spring the clocks go forward and in Autumn (or Fall if you are North American) the clocks go back. So, remember to put your clocks back!

For the origins of this phrase see, The site explains that fall originated in England and referred to the fall of a leaf in Autumn.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you will know that I mention William Shakespeare a few times and if you are not a fan then maybe you had better look away now!

If like me you enjoy finding out where phrases originate from, then start with, in which you will find 135 phrases coined by William Shakespeare.

Here are a few to whet your appetite (sorry, couldn’t resist):

All’s well that ends well – A risky enterprise is justified as long as it ends well., state that John Heywood used it before Shakespeare.

High time – The time that something is due to be done. According to

High time’ derives from the allusion to the warmest time of day – when the sun is highest in the sky.’

By the way, ‘whet your appetite’ (not to be confused with an older phrase ‘whet your whistle’) has been around since the 17th Century and refers to stimulating your thoughts so that that you develop an interest in the subject matter.

I could go on and on, but I won’t as I previously covered this subject in my series You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this brief jolt through the past. The next time we meet, we will all have had an extra hour of sleep! Enjoy!

Take care







Watch these !


Hello there.

So what is the cat watching?  Well, if he wants to improve his grammar with a few simple tips…probably the videos that I have decided to include in the blog this week.

Whether you are writing an article, an essay, an email, content for a website, promotional material or a letter, at some stage you may need some help.

I am a great believer that we are all different and we learn in different ways as one size does not feel all!

I say this as sometimes I watch videos and other times I read books to help me retain information and extend my knowledge base.

I decided to include two very different grammar videos which I thought were effective and entertaining.



The second video illustrates how complicated English language is, and how academics cannot agree on everything themselves. My advice when something like this happens is usually to research and see what the general consensus is.

There will always be exceptions to some grammatical rules, as there are now so many ways that people express themselves, so in some ways, they are making up their own rules.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the videos, and are inspired to find some more on YouTube.

Take care,



You can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Part Two

Hello there!

In Part One I introduced a few sayings and just started to touch on the intriguing subject of where these sayings originated from.

In the case of the title ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, says:

“This idea of it being more difficult to teach things to an older dog has been around since at least the early 1500s. For example, in Fitzherbert’s Book of Husbandry, 1534.”

Another well- known phrase ‘going cold turkey’ is likely to have originated from America or Canada, see…/origin-phrase-cold-turkey.

The notion of ‘beating about the bush’ is an old saying that is quite common and Tim Lambert in The meanings of some old sayings explains:

When hunting birds some people would beat about the bush to drive them out into the open. Other people would than catch the birds. ‘I won’t beat about the bush’ came to mean ‘I will go straight to the point without any delay’.

If you just want a straightforward website without any frills, with an extensive range of phrases and their meanings see,

Certain expressions such as ‘bad hair day’ and ‘filthy rich’ are now part of everyday language used in the UK, yet they originated from the USA. For more information see:

The Chinese are also well known for their sayings (proverbs) and an interesting site which shows the similarities between English and Chinese words of wisdom can be found on This site is also useful if you want to impress your friends with a new language as it shows all the phrases in Mandarin. An example from the site is:

Two heads are better than one. 三个臭皮匠,胜过诸葛亮 sān ge chòupíjiàng, sheng guò Zhūgé Liàng (“Three unskilled cobblers are superior to one Zhuge Liang.”)

We can go even further with impressive knowledge from across the globe by quoting some African Proverbs like:

Love has to be shown by deeds not words. Swahili proverb.

The fool speaks, the wise man listens. Ethiopian proverb.

For more of these gems see,

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this taster from the smorgasbord that is English Language sayings. I could go on and on about this subject, but I think I have said ‘enough already.’   So I had better sign off now, before I wander down the path of clichés.

 Have a nice day!


You can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Part One

Hi there!

In this, the first of two blogs, I want to share some things that I love about language: figures of speech, phrases and idioms. These sayings are part of our culture, are fascinating and in some cases have surprising origins.

So to begin, let me start with a definition.

‘A figure of speech is just that – figurative language. It might be words with a literal meaning, a certain arrangements of words, or a phrase with a meaning that is something entirely other than that of the words themselves’ – according to the community information sharing website-

So now that you know what a figure of speech is, you can:

‘Find common phrases with their meanings and origins – What these popular sayings and idioms mean, and their history…’ See, provides detailed definitions of idioms:

  1. A speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in keep tabs on.
  2. The specific grammatical, syntactic, and structural character of a given language.
  3. Regional speech or dialect.
  4. A specialized vocabulary used by a group of people; jargon: legal idiom.
  5. A style of artistic expression characteristic of a particular individual, school, period, or medium: the idiom of the French impressionists; the punk rock idiom.

There are so many great phrases to choose from and there are a number of websites that do a good job of informing us. I will only be using are a ‘mere drop in the ocean.’ Sorry, could not resist that one!

Here are a couple of examples that have their origins in The Bible, as defined by

A fly in the ointment- A small but irritating flaw that spoils the whole. This is taken from Ecclesiastes 10:1 (King James Version):

“Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour so doth a little folly him that in reputation for wisdom and honour.”

In a twinkling of an eye – In an instant. This can be found in:

Robert Manning of Brunne, in Handlyng Synne, 1303: “Yn twynkelyng of an ye

And Corinthians 15:52 (King James Version):

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”

In have only given you a brief taster, but I hope that you can join me again, when I continue with this thought-provoking subject, and who knows, maybe a few old dogs will learn a few new things from this blog, even if they are not tricks!

Take Care,