10 Places to Get a Free Business Education Online

Getting a business education doesn't have to be expensive. An increasing number of colleges, universities and even nonprofit organizations offer free business courses online. Find out how you can sign up for these courses and what you can get from them.

Online Business Courses for Credit

Online business courses that don't require students to register or pay tuition are plentiful, but these courses don't lead to college credit. Students who would rather earn credit for the courses they take online might want to consider resources that charge a fee in exchange for access to online course materials.Study.com offers this form of distance learning through its quick and informative video lessons and corresponding self-assessment quizzes. Students also have access to free transcripts for the video lessons.

Students can start with Business 101: Principles of Management which include chapters like:

  • Management Basics - Study different managers' roles and examine the four functions of management.
  • Leading in Organizations - This chapter explores the difference between leadership and management and how the two work together. Various leadership styles are also covered.

Business 102: Principles of Marketing includes chapters like:

Business 104: Information Systems and Computer Applications offers these chapters and more:

  • Network Systems Technology - Examine client/server systems, network operating systems and wireless computing devices in this chapter.
  • Systems Development - Subjects include life cycles, graphical user interfaces, application development processes and project management tools.

Free Online Business Courses

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT OpenCourseWare offers undergraduate and graduate courses in business topics that include management, globalization, project management, accounting, and many other business specializations. Through this free online resource, students can find bachelor's and master's-level business courses originally offered through MIT's Sloan School of Management.

  • Managerial Psychology: an undergraduate course covering the basics of behavioral science in the workplace. Resources include downloadable lecture notes, reading lists, and assignments.
  • Management Communication for Undergraduates: provides insight into business communication methods and theories. Students can download lecture and instructor notes, study guides, exercises, and worksheets.
  • Practical Information Technology Management: offers undergraduate education related to technology implementation in business. A list of original readings and textbooks are provided, as well as downloadable lecture notes and course projects.
  • Operations Management: is a graduate-level course that teaches all the facets of product development and supply chain management. Resources include the course reading list, lecture notes, and writing assignments.

2. The U.S. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration's Learning Center has a comprehensive supply of business courses. Topics include starting a business, business management, government contracting, international trade, and much more. The courses typically consist of short video segments, and a downloadable completion certificate can be printed at the end of each course.

  • Financing Options for Small Businesses: centers around determining financial needs, loans, grants, venture capital, angel investors, crowd funding and more. The self-paced course is approximately 30 minutes, and includes online videos and downloadable worksheets.
  • Strategic Planning course: looks at the significance of strategic planning while breaking down the steps of the process. The videos can be viewed in around 30 minutes.

3. Free Management Library

  • The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA(SM) Program is a resource for those who want to learn more about starting and managing a nonprofit organization. Completion of this program doesn't result in an MBA degree, but enrollment is free. The 200-hour course is entirely self-paced, and students can take all modules in order or select only those they're interested in. The modules include references to free reading materials, discussion questions, activities, assessments, reminders, and progress tracking.

4. Financial Management Training Center Courses

The Financial Management Training Center provides free downloadable business courses in PDF format that cover a variety of topics. All courses can be taken online and are self-paced. They include full exams as well as evaluation forms for people seeking Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

  • The Management of Capital: provides a basic overview of navigating a company's financial structure. After downloading the exam software and passing a multiple-choice test at the end of the course, students can earn two hours of CPE credit.
  • Creating Value for Non Profits and NGOs: serves as an introduction to concepts related to value-based financial management for non-profit organizations and NGOs. A development guide and social entrepreneurship self-assessment are also available for the course. This course offers two hours of CPE credit after passing a final exam.
  • Managing Projects: teaches the essentials of project management, including the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and Earned Value Management. In addition to the course PDF, a primer guide, workbook and PM tool kit are also available online. Passing the final exam makes students eligible for two hours of CPE credit.

5. Kutztown University - Small Business Development Center

Several paid courses offered by SmallBizU are available for free through Kutztown University. After providing the university with an email address and zip code and registering with the course site, you can access courses in money, marketing, management, and many other business topics at no cost. The courses consist of multi-chapter videos, worksheets, offline resources, and other helpful tools to use during and after completing the course. The following list shows a sample of the topics offered:

  • Finding and Attracting an Investor
  • Creating Financial Projections
  • Pricing Strategy and Tactics
  • Understanding Intellectual Property
  • Strategic Planning and Execution
  • Hiring and Managing Employees

6. OpenCulture.com Courses

OpenCulture.com links to over 100 business courses offered by schools, government agencies, and other educational organizations. Some courses are offered as videos through iTunes or YouTube, though many can be accessed directly on the website of the administering organizations. In some cases, students will need to register or provide their name and email address to access the course.

  • Creative Problem Solving: offered through Assist Knowledge Development., this video course covers topics in developing and overcoming barriers to creativity, understanding the creative problem-solving process, and generating creative ideas. The entire course takes around 30 minutes to complete.
  • Principles of Management: originally offered by Iona College, this course is available as a multi-video course through iTunes. Topics in the course include management ethics and social responsibility, organizational behavior, productivity and quality, motivation, decision making, and leadership. The time to complete all the videos is just over 5.5 hours.
  • Introduction to Modern Human Resource Management: a Flash video course offered through alison.com, which requires registration. The course takes less than three hours and includes a student assessment and certificate of completion. The site offers a note-taking feature, interactive learning modules, and a course progress indicator.

7. MyOwnBusiness Institute

Offering business courses in English and Spanish from several resources and schools, MyOwnBusiness Institute is the free education division of Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business. In addition to the free course links, students also have access to a free business plan template and several resources, tools, and documents to provide information on starting and managing a small business. Some courses require free enrollment, which provides an access key and/or URL for the course.

  • Starting a Business: a 15-part course that covers topics ranging from developing a business plan, financing a business, buying a business, developing a marketing strategy, managing employees, and expanding a business. The sessions include reading materials, quizzes, and relevant tools, and the course offers a final exam and a progress tracker.
  • Business Expansion: includes 15 sessions that cover topics in establishing financial controls, building teams, developing negotiating skills, leveraging e-commerce strategies, franchising, and selling a business. A final exam and course progress tracker are included, and each module includes a self-assessment quiz.

8. Master Class Management

The business course offered by Master Class Management is completely free and doesn't require registration, though students who would like to receive a certificate can purchase it at the completion of the course.

  • Management and Leadership Training: a 10-module course that takes about 20 hours to complete. The text from each lesson can be viewed online, though the full-featured course needs to be downloaded. Each module contains a self-assessment quiz, and module topics include leadership, hiring, team building, time management, business ethics, operations, and marketing.

9. The Open University

Offering over 1,300 free resources for business education, The Open University's library contains just under 100 introductory, intermediate and advanced online courses in topics ranging from accounting and entrepreneurship to human resources and marketing. Courses consist of reading material that can be viewed online or downloaded as a Word, Kindle, PDF, or ePub document.

  • Supply Chain Sustainability: an 8-hour Level 1 introductory course that describes supply chain sustainability perspectives.
  • The Concept of Innovation: a Level 2 intermediate course that takes around 3 hours to complete. The course covers the importance and benefits of innovation and includes interactive activities.
  • Technology, Innovation and Management: a 10-hour Level 3 advanced course. It consists of 8 modules that explain the nature of innovation and technology in business and how to manage innovation projects.

10. Harvard University

Harvard Business School, known for its exceptionally high quality in education, offers many online business courses and occasionally provides a few for free. The courses, offered through EdX, typically anticipate a study schedule of 2-6 hours a week over a period of several weeks. Audited courses award no college credit, but at the end students can upgrade and pay a fee to receive a certificate of completion.

  • Computer Science for Business Professionals: a free course that can be completed in 6 weeks with 2-6 hours of study per week. The course combines videos, lecture notes, slides, assignments, and discussion options through social media platforms. Topics include computational thinking, web development, internet technologies, cloud computing, and technology stacks.
  • Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies: a 6-week introductory course covering sustainability in healthcare, branding and entrepreneurship in food services, innovation and legal constraints, and population dynamics and personal security.

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