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List of Free Online Continuing Education for Business Professionals

Jan 04, 2019

Brush up your business knowledge or develop new skills with our list of free or low-cost online continuing education courses for business professionals. Learn about different online learning resources and discover one that's right for you.

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Online Business Continuing Education Courses for Credit

Free online business courses consist mostly of lecture notes and readings, and they typically don't issue credit. Students who would like to brush up on business basics or prepare to continue their education in a degree program might want to opt for online resources that can lead to academic credit.

Study.com's online business courses, for example, are taught by experienced educators and prepare students to earn an alternative form of college credit at participating schools. For less than the cost of a traditional class, registered members can access course content in the form of short, illustrated video lessons and test their knowledge with the corresponding self-assessment quizzes. Business courses include:

  • Business 101: Principles of Management - This course focuses on the four functions of management: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Learners study topics such as communication and motivation in the workplace, management versus leadership, group development and organizational change.
  • Business 102: Principles of Marketing - Learn the four P's of marketing (product, place, promotion and price) as well as how to use advertising effectively. Videos are also available on product advertising, consumer behavior, social factors in marketing and international marketing.
  • Business 107: Organizational Behavior - Explore the relationship between employee performance and workplace values and get tips for managing conflict. Lessons also address leadership and decision-making styles, organizational culture and organizational design.
  • Business 110: Business Math - Review linear and quadratic equations, graphing, probability and statistics. Students can also learn how to calculate depreciation values and interest or conduct a financial analysis.
  • Economics 102: Macroeconomics - In addition to measuring the cost of living and inflation, students learn about measuring the unemployment rate, calculating opportunity cost, adjusting wages for inflation and examining the difference between a recession and a depression.

Free Online Business Courses

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Visit MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) to access the best of MIT's previous course offerings and materials, including courses from the MIT Sloan School of Management. While OCW's coursework is no longer applicable for college credit, students and educators alike are free to use the available curricula, readings and resources (such as lecture notes, audio/video, activities and exams) for study or classroom use. All materials on OCW are free to access and download, though some courses may require the purchase of an additional textbook for full completion.

  • Cross-Cultural Leadership, originally a graduate-level offering from 2004, was designed to help business managers work effectively with employees both domestically and abroad. The course addresses the challenges of working outside one's home country, including working within the norms and customs of other cultures. A reading list, lecture notes, assignment rubrics and instructions for a final paper are provided.
  • Global Strategy and Organization is geared towards MBA students and was offered in 2008. Students learn about the foundations of making strategic business decisions with global implications. Students also consider the challenges of overseas operations, cultural differences, distribution costs and outsourcing. The course includes lecture notes and assignments with no solutions. The required textbook is Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter by P. Ghemawat, with a list of other readings provided.
  • People and Organizations, an undergrad course from Fall 2010, looks at the challenges management professionals face as business leaders. This course examines organizational strategy and structure from a historical perspective and through cultural lenses and current events. Students have access to lecture notes, readings and assignments.
  • Practical Information Technology Management is designed to teach undergraduate students how professionals incorporate information technology into business while encouraging employees to engage in these changes. Students learn how to make wise decisions regarding the implementation of IT, as well as how to solve common issues that arise from this. Originally offered in 2005, this course includes lecture notes and examples of student projects.

The Open University

Students from all over the world are welcome to access higher education with The Open University (OU), a UK-based distance university established in 1969. The OU offers non-degree education for free with its OpenLearn service, covering a wide range of subjects and specialties through articles, podcasts, videos, eBooks and courses. Courses vary in difficulty and length, but all are self-paced and downloadable (for PC, mobile device or Kindle). OpenLearn courses are non-credit, but students may earn a statement of participation upon finishing. Full access to course features, such as progress tracking, quizzes and activities, is available after creating a free account.

  • Creating an Ethical Organisation is an advanced-level course that discusses the framework of business operations as defined by regulations, economic policy, politics and culture. This course explores how and why to take an ethical approach to one's business and HR operations. This course contains two chapters, with a recommended study time of six hours total.
  • Equity Finance exposes advanced business students to various forms of equity finance, including stocks, venture capital and private equity. The costs and benefits of going public versus staying private are also evaluated. Course content is divided into seven small lectures paired with question and answer sections. This course takes an average of six hours study to complete.
  • Implementing the Project is an eight-hour advanced course appropriate for project managers and anyone else in a supervisory role. The class looks at the tools necessary to ensure efficient project completion and emphasizes the importance of communication and monitoring. The course provides four chapters with example cases and activities.
  • Influences on Corporate Governance is geared towards advanced students and addresses the issue of corporate governance in light of recent corporate scandals. The relationship between corporate governance and company performance is highlighted through two chapters with several lessons, plus tables and a couple of activity discussions.

University of California - Berkeley

UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business opened in 1898 as the College of Commerce. While it is the second oldest business school in the United States, it remains on the cutting edge of leadership development and business research, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, management and entrepreneurship. Students and professionals may also partake in what this school has to offer by visiting Berkeley Haas on YouTube, which hosts dozens of free and current videos featuring guest speakers, commencement speeches, Haas faculty, conferences and much more.

  • How to Write a Business Plan is from the Berkeley Haas Best Entrepreneurial Practices series, which brings Berkeley and Silicon Valley community members together to speak about practical issues for those interested in starting, financing and running a business. This lecture, from 2010, lasts just over an hour and presents an informative look at writing an effective business plan, with details on its most important aspects, plus insights from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
  • The Big Short and Future of Finance is a little over an hour and is presented by Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Recorded in 2010 as part of the Dean's Speaker Series, the author discusses the future of finance, the many catastrophes the field has endured and how future business professionals can make changes. This video is co-sponsored by the Center for Responsible Business.
  • Margo Alexander: First Woman in Finance was recorded in 2018 and is also part of the Dean's Speaker Series. Join Wall Street mogul and Acumen's Chair Emeritus Margo Alexander as she discusses her life experiences in business, from her time as an undergrad at Berkeley Haas to her climb up the corporate ladder. Alexander discusses her own philosophies regarding leadership, questioning the status quo, plus the unique experiences faced by a woman in the world of finance.

Harvard University

Harvard University now offers a number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) through edX, which allows students to audit courses for free. This means that students may access course materials (such as readings, lectures and videos) free of charge but might have to pay an extra fee for features like a certificate of completion. While these courses are self-paced, enrollment may only be open during specific periods; be sure to check in advance and register for the classes you want to take while possible.

  • Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health, presented by faculty from Harvard Business School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explains the many benefits of a workplace culture that emphasizes employee health and wellness. Learn how a culture of health can improve productivity and employee retention while reducing costs. This intro-level course takes an average of nine weeks to complete.
  • Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract provides a thorough introduction to contracts. Taught by Harvard Law professor Charles Fried, this intermediate-level course covers contract theory and purpose as well as what makes an offer or acceptance valid. Contract law limitations, the abilities of a third party, gifts and bargains, fraud, contractual breaches and more are also covered. This eight-week course is self-paced and has no prerequisites.
  • Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies is an introductory course for business and management students taught by Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna. Students explore the intersection of entrepreneurship and innovation and take a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing complicated social issues. Students also develop skills in identifying opportunities for innovation in developing markets. Recommended study time for this course is about 3-5 hours per week, for six weeks.
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