Skip main navigation

The top courses for January – What to learn in 2021

Start the new year by setting some achievable learning goals and taking one of our top courses for January. We look at what to learn in 2021 and how to make your habits stick.

woman taking courses in jan 2020

After what has been a very difficult year for many, the start of 2021 brings some optimism. Although we can’t tell exactly how the year ahead will pan out, there is, hopefully, a lot to look forward to. If you’ve decided that this is the year you learn something new, we’ve got your back. We take a look at some of the top courses for January and beyond. 

As well as looking at what to learn in 2021, we also explore some of the ways you can create new learning habits. We consider why you might want to boost your skills in the year ahead and how you can make the most of your online learning. 

How to create new habits 

New Year’s resolutions are strange things. Despite having roots that span back around 4,000 years, they’re still something that is part of popular culture. A Statista survey suggests that around 27% of people in the UK made resolutions last year, a similar number to the US. The problem is, we’re not very good at keeping them. 

One fairly famous statistic suggests that around 80% of people have dropped their resolution by the second week of February. Interestingly, January 19th seems to be the day most people give up. But why is this? 

The general consensus is that there are a few reasons. Usually, these involve things like a lack of clear goals, a desire for instant results, no clear structure, and no way of tracking progress. Thankfully, there are some better alternatives. 

If you’re reading this post about the top courses for January, you’re probably thinking about learning something new for 2021. Rather than create a vague blanket ‘resolution’, there are some better ways to create learning habits that can stick with you. We’ve outlined some useful tips below. 

Set clear goals

As well as an overall and specific aim, you should create smaller sub-goals that will help you on your way. So, rather than, ‘learn Norwegian’, your goal could be to ‘have a basic conversation in Norwegian by June.’ Then work towards this by ‘learning the 100 most-common vocabulary words by March’. 

Have a structure in place

When forming a new habit, it’s important to have a structure you can work within. Think about how you can make time in your day to learn and make it part of your routine. 

Know your motivations

Try and keep in mind why you started your learning journey in the first place. If your goal is to have a conversation in Norwegian, you might have a trip planned or know someone you want to interact with. This motivation can keep you on track with your goals. 

Give it time

It takes a while for new habits to form. Along the way, you’ll likely have days where you’re too busy or not in the mood. That’s totally normal and doesn’t signal failure. Give yourself time to succeed and take small steps towards your goal. 

The top courses for January 

So, what are the best things to learn for 2021? In reality, that’s a highly personal question that depends on the individual. Are you hoping to boost your CV with new skills? Do you want to learn about emerging technologies or current trends? Are you learning for personal or professional development

Depending on the answers to these questions, you could end up with a very different set of the best things to learn. However, to help you get some inspiration for your 2021 learning, we’ve picked out some of the top courses for January across a range of criteria. 

Work on the top skills for your CV 

Let’s start by taking a look at some CV skills that you might want to work on. If you’re looking for a new job for the new year, there are all kinds of hard and soft skills that you can work on. These are some of the best things to learn online, as they can provide you with immediate results for your CV. 

We’ve already covered what employers look for in a separate post, so you can check that out for some inspiration on the top skills to learn. 

When it comes to the top courses for January, we’ve picked out some of the most desirable soft skills that you might want to get started with. These can help to boost your CV and make you stand out from the crowd:  


Being able to effectively get your ideas across, relay information, and understand what is being said are crucial abilities for the workplace. No matter what role or industry you’re in, having good communication skills is essential. With recent trends in remote learning and online working, it’s a skill that many people want to spend time working on. 

 Top courses for January: 


Showing leadership skills is about more than being a manager or taking responsibility for people. It’s about showing empathy towards others and bringing out the best in them, as well as a host of other soft skills. Many organisations need people who can demonstrate leadership, making it a valuable skill to learn. 

Top courses for January: 


Working collaboratively with others is an essential workplace skill. It’s also one that many of us take for granted, without thinking too much about what it entails. However, it’s always useful to work on things like conflict management, active listening, and emotional intelligence. These are all areas that help to make you and your team as effective as possible. 

Top courses for January: 

Discover emerging industries 

Whether you’re looking for a career change in the new year or want to start learning about some interesting new topics, there are some exciting subjects out there. Many of these in-demand areas will have opportunities in the future, and they’re the kind of skills that employers are looking for. 

We’ve picked out some of the essential future skills and the online courses that go with them. These could be the perfect way for you to kick-off your learning in 2021. 

Cloud computing 

As you’ve no doubt seen, many companies are moving their computing services online. Whether it’s storage, software, or databases, these internet-based cloud services offer a whole host of benefits to businesses and customers. It’s a relatively new industry offering all kinds of opportunities. So, 2021 could be the perfect time to start developing your cloud computing knowledge. 

Top courses for January: 

Artificial intelligence 

It’s an exciting time for artificial intelligence (AI). The broad and varied field has all kinds of applications for businesses and our day-to-day lives. By using computer science programming, we can imitate human thought and action. This gives us the opportunity to develop smarter technology that can adapt to us and the environment. Clearly, this is a sought-after skill by employers in many different industries.  

Top courses for January: 

Digital marketing 

As technology changes the way we interact with the world, the opportunities for digital marketing continue to grow. Whether it’s through social media campaigns, personalised advertising, or digital media, there are plenty of exciting trends in the industry. Getting involved in digital marketing can open up a host of different career paths and opportunities for professional growth. 

Top courses for January: 

Learn about current trends

It’s always useful to keep on top of current events and trends. Whether for your personal or professional knowledge, doing so can help to provide context to the world and gives you something to talk about. You’ll also usually find that many of the topics are pretty interesting. 

When it comes to the best courses to take in January, those covering some of the topics below could provide useful: 

Data analytics 

Data is changing the world at a rapid pace. Across just about every industry, professionals are using insights and information to make informed decisions. Whether in business, healthcare, or entertainment, the power of data is showing its worth. Understanding some of the basics of data analytics can help you understand how it’s used in the world around us. Similarly, if you’re looking for a career that uses data, learning about the subject in more detail can add to your skill set. 

Top courses for January:

The environment

Climate change and the environment are two of the most critical challenges we’re currently facing. We’re already seeing the devastating effects of our impact on the global climate, with glaciers shrinking, oceans acidifying, and food supply vulnerabilities. It’s essential that we all take responsibility for the world around us, and understanding the current issues can help massively. 

Top courses for January:

Blended learning

One of the hot topics of 2020 has been the need for online and blended learning. The coronavirus pandemic has forced educators and students to use technology to supplement classroom education. Blended learning, in particular, gives students the chance to learn anytime, anywhere. Whether for yourself, your students, or your children, it can be useful to understand how blended learning works. 

Top courses for January: 

Focus on personal development 

There’s never a bad time to take charge of your personal development. If 2020 was a tough year for you, the start of 2021 could be the ideal opportunity for you to practise some self-care. Similarly, you might want to work on some skills that can have benefits in your day-to-day life. 

If you’re considering the best courses to study this January, you might want to start with something in one of these areas:

Mindfulness and wellbeing 

There is a lot of evidence that shows how positive practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude can be. They can help to relieve stress and anxiety and bring a host of other benefits to your physical and mental wellbeing. Taking some time to learn about these practices can help give you a boost for the new year. 

Top courses for January: 


Being decisive can help you in both your professional and personal life, including when you’re setting your goals for 2021. Yet it’s a skill that many of us find difficult to master. Often, the process is about weighing-up risk, choosing the right problem to solve, and having confidence in your choices. It’s also a skill that’s tied into a variety of other areas.

Top courses for January: 

Looking for even more courses to help improve your decision making skills? Explore our range of online decision making courses and earn certificates as you learn from top universities.

Critical thinking 

Thinking critically can help with a variety of areas of life. As well as encouraging creativity and curiosity, they also help with decision-making, time management and problem-solving. By working on your critical thinking skills, you can also learn to be a better communicator and be more aware of things like cognitive bias. 

Top courses for January: 

Popular with FutureLearners

If you’ve still not found something that catches your interest but want some learning things to do in January, you might want to take inspiration from our existing learners. We looked at some of our most-visited and top online courses in January over the last two years. 

You might find that some of the below subject areas and topics might be the perfect way of kicking off 2021. 

English study

It’s estimated that there are around 1.5 billion English language learners around the world. Whether you’re learning or teaching English, we have a whole host of resources to help you with things like grammar, speaking, writing, and reading. If you’re looking for the best things to learn online, why not check out our new ExpertTack on How to Plan and Teach Great English Lessons. Alternatively, you might want to look at Exploring English: Language and Culture

Project Management

Project management skills are sought-after across just about every industry. The ability to plan, execute and analyse projects can help you at work and in your day-to-day life. Our Project Management: Beyond the Basics course is always popular, and our new Project Management ExpertTrack is worth checking out.  

Cyber security 

Online services play a role in most of our lives. As such, gaining an understanding of cyber security and the threats out there is vital. Last year, our Introduction to Cyber Security course was a big hit. This year, we have the new addition of our Cyber Security Foundations ExpertTrack

Computer programming

Whether for a hobby or for your career, computing programming is a fascinating field to get into. Last January, we had loads of learners visit our Computer Programming for Everyone course. If you’re looking for a more detailed look, we have an ExpertTrack covering the fundamentals of software development


In another post, we recently took a deeper look at careers in psychology. It’s clearly a fascinating industry, whether as a profession or an area of general interest. Our Introduction to Psychology ExpertTrack could give you the perfect place to start. 

Final thoughts 

Hopefully, through our look at some of the top January courses, you now have plenty of inspiration for what to learn in 2021. Remember, part of the process of creating new habits is making gradual and structured process. You’ll find that our online courses and ExpertTracks (new series of courses starting in January) give you that framework, making sure you stay on track with your learning goals for the new year.

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now