Continuing education provides an incredible opportunity for students to gather industry-specific knowledge that can help their careers grow and flourish. However, plenty of professionals don’t have the time or the financial resources to enroll in a full-time program requiring them to be on-campus for classes and exams.
Luckily, there’s a way to gain the benefits of higher-ed classes without sacrificing unavailable hours or taking time off from work: online courses. While for-profit institutions once tarnished the reputation of classes taken online, non-profit universities now see the advantages of offering remote courses, and prospective online students can choose from a wide array of free classes taught by seasoned professors at top-tier colleges.
If you’re considering an online class to bolster your career know-how and possibly set you up for a promotion in the near future, consider these 15 free courses provided by accredited universities and well-regarded companies.
This intro course is a requirement for all first-year students at Columbia Business School, and it provides “an understanding of time-honored financial concepts and rules, and how these can be applied to value firms, bonds, and stocks.” Online students can take the 4-week class for free on edX.org on their own time, and if they wish to obtain a verified certificate at the end, edX.org and Columbia offer those for $225.
Even the most seasoned professionals sometimes struggle with networking, but the University of Washington is here to help with this 6-week course on edX.org. Students can take the classes on their own time, and by the end of the class, they’ll “learn to give an ‘elevator pitch’, to introduce yourself to new people, to highlight your key qualities, to make connections with people and to use your skills to attend a networking event.” The class is free, but students can pay $99 for a verified certificate at the end.
“Wellness” and “business” don’t often go hand-in-hand in the popular imagination, but Harvard Business School believes that there’s a connection between these concepts that shouldn’t be ignored: "Embracing a Culture of Health can improve your employees’ well-being as well as the health of your consumers, your communities, and the environment. A Culture of Health can help you to reduce costs, increase revenues and profits, and enhance your company’s reputation,” insists their course description at edX.org, which provides a 9-week class for free (with an optional $99 verified certificate upon completion).
An often, under-appreciated aspect of management and company leadership involves the ability to empathize with employees and to make use of “soft” social skills. This University of California Berkeley class “delves into the social and emotional skills that sustain positive relationships at work. It highlights the foundational and related skills of empathy and “emotional intelligence,” also known as EQ, which refers to the skills of identifying and regulating our own feelings, tuning into the feelings of others and understanding their perspectives, and using this knowledge to guide us toward constructive social interactions.” The 4-week class is free on edX.org, and participants can receive a verified certificate for $149.
Savvy negotiators often have an advantage when seeking higher rates of pay and more interesting work assignments. This course from the University of Michigan teaches a four-step process to typical negotiations, providing students with the necessary perspective and insight to achieve their goals when liaising with clients and colleagues. The 7-week class can be taken for free on Coursera, with an additional fee for a course certificate at the end.
Struggles with time management plague professionals at all seniority levels, but this course from UC Irvine seeks to teach students the ability to “gain and apply your knowledge and understanding of personal and professional awareness, organization and commitment, and use the tools, methods and techniques that you have learned in goal setting, prioritization, scheduling, and delegation to overcome time management challenges and enhance productivity.” This four-week class can be taken for free on Coursera, with an additional fee for a specialized certificate upon completion.
The first class in a five-course program, Entrepreneurship 1 gives students a solid basis for their entrepreneurial endeavors, designed to “introduce you to the foundational concepts of entrepreneurship, including the definition of entrepreneurship, the profile of the entrepreneur, the difference between entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial management, and the role of venture creation in society.” The class can be taken for free on Coursera, although students wishing to earn a specialization certificate must pay an additional fee.
Entrepreneurial endeavors often require capital, and this class from the University of Maryland seeks to teach students how to finance their dreams by “demystifying key financing concepts to give entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs a guide to secure funding.” The 4-week class is offered through Coursera and is available free of charge.
These days, anyone seeking to launch a business must possess a strong working knowledge of social media. This 5-month class from Northwestern University, offered for free via Coursera (with an additional fee for a specialization certificate), “is designed to achieve two objectives. It gives you the social analytics tools, and training to help you become an influencer on social media. The course also gives you the knowledge and resources to build a complete social media marketing strategy — from consumer insights to final justification metrics.”
The tech industry easily counts among the fastest-growing job markets in the world, and individuals who know how to code have an undeniable advantage when it comes to seeking careers in this field. Online tech training school Codecademy offers a 6-hour intro course called Learn How To Code, which teaches students “a solid foundation in key programming concepts such as variables, functions, and control flow.” The class can be taken for free, and students also have the option to upgrade to Codecademy’s Pro membership, which offers more in-depth courses for $19.99-39.99/month.
Developed for students with an interest in quick and flexible data programming, this class gives you the opportunity to “get started with C and learn how to write your first programs, how to make simple computations and print the results to the screen, how to store values in variables and how to repeat instructions using loops.” Available via edX.org, this free Dartmouth course takes 7 weeks to complete, and an optional verified certificate can be purchased for $49.
Offered by the University of Texas Austin, this class centers around the concept of inquiry-based learning, both in philosophy and in practice. “An inquiry-based approach honors the complex work of learning. It prioritizes the knowledge and experience that students bring to the classroom and it promotes active problem solving, communication, and the shared construction of new ideas,” explains the course description. Students can take the 4-week class for free via edX.org, with the option to purchase a $49 verified certificate upon completion.
If you’re a college instructor (or an aspiring college instructor) with a desire to make your classroom a healthy environment for all students, this course from Columbia University provides valuable intel on that process: “Participants in this course will consider multiple facets of inclusive teaching, including the creation of an equitable course climate, the design and implementation of accessible and inclusive classroom practices and assessments, and the selection and implementation of diverse course content.” The 6-week class is free via edX.org, and participants can pay an extra $49 for a verified certificate upon completion.
In many industries, knowledge of another language will improve your growth trajectory and provide you with unique opportunities. Popular free language app Duolingo allows users to learn over 20 different languages at their own pace with quick, simple exercises. Duolingo is free to use, but members can subscribe to Duolingo Pro for $6.99/month, giving them access to offline lessons and an ad-free interface.
Another well-regarded language program, LingQ focuses its teachings on exposure to media. Students learn from videos, podcasts, articles, and novels produced in their desired language. According to LingQ, “as you flood your brain with natural content and rapidly acquire words and natural phrasing, feel your comprehension skyrocket. With comprehension comes confidence and the ability to feel comfortable in any situation.” LingQ is free, but users can upgrade to a Premium membership for $7.99-39.99/month, granting them access to a larger wealth of lessons both online and offline.
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