• Jiji

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A growing number of workers in Japan are taking online courses as the novel coronavirus pandemic has given them time and reasons for such study.

People have been particularly drawn to courses to gain skills and knowledge about information technology such as programming skills necessary to build websites and apps.

The arrival of the coronavirus prompted many companies to shift to remote work, allowing workers to avoid commuting. People have found they can use the time saved to tackle something new.

The spread of the virus has also accelerated the transformation of existing systems with digital technologies. The trend has encouraged many people to think that IT-related knowledge and skills can help them explore new opportunities such as new jobs or side jobs.

A 33-year-old engineer from Tokyo started learning a new programming language through an online course after work as he shifted to remote work under the Japanese government’s state of emergency over the coronavirus crisis this spring.

The new work style saved him from the physical exhaustion he had felt from commuting and just being in the office, he said. With those burdens gone now, “I have time and physical capacity to learn.”

“I was able to broaden my horizons,” he said. “I now have new options. I could switch to a new job or take a side job.”

At Progate Inc., a Tokyo-based operator of online programming courses, the number of domestic members registered with its services rose from over 900,000 in January to over 1.2 million in six months. As of the end of August, it had topped 1.4 million. The Tokyo engineer is learning through a Progate course.

Progate Chief Executive Officer Masanori Kato said a growing number of people have shown interest in learning programming amid the progress of digitization in recent years.

“The coronavirus epidemic accelerated the growth,” he said.

Elsewhere, Udemy online video courses, jointly offered by Japanese education service provider Benesse Corp. and a U.S. venture, have seen a sharp rise in the numbers of both students and learning hours, particularly in IT-related courses, since the state of emergency was declared in Japan, said an official working for the services.

Users appreciate Udemy courses because the videos, made by people working as engineers, are practical and can be of immediate use and also enable them to learn specific skills that could lead to a new job, the official said.

A Cabinet Office survey on public views on daily life released in June showed that the majority of respondents, especially in the teens to 30s age groups, said the coronavirus epidemic had prompted them to take up new challenges.

Progate CEO Kato said, “It’s our job to provide interesting courses for people who are serious about having a wider variety of possibilities in life.”

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