Whether you are contemplating starting a business for the first time or starting a new type of business, the most important tool you can have in your toolbox is knowledge. As a follow-up to Angelique O’Rourke’s recent article Top 10 Free Online Classes for Small Business Marketing, here are 11 highly rated free online courses on various topics related to starting a business. Together, they provide a broad entrepreneurship education from which anyone can benefit.
Note: Some of these courses are available in a self-paced format, while others are scheduled to run periodically. On some platforms, even after a scheduled course has ended, you can still enroll and take the course on a self-paced basis.
Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? This course from the University of California, Irvine Continuing Education department, will introduce you to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, including the entrepreneurial process and how to recognize business opportunities. The goal is for people with little to no knowledge of entrepreneurship to emerge with tools they can use to assess their readiness to start their own business.
This course, which was rated the top entrepreneurship course and one of the top three business courses offered by massive open online course (MOOC) provider Coursera, is perfect for those who may have a great idea, but don’t have a business background. As the first course in Coursera’s “Entrepreneurship: Launching an Innovative Business” specialization, and as a general introduction to entrepreneurship, industry, and markets, it is well worth a few hours of your time.
This is not a course per se, but rather a curated collection of articles and videos from resources around the web. It is organized into 12 self-paced lessons, starting with an overview of entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurship process, and progressing through various foundational topics and practical applications.
What better way to learn about entrepreneurship than from a successful entrepreneur? This course is taught by Steve Blank, who has built several Silicon Valley startups, authored two books on entrepreneurship, and teaches around the world. In this course, you will learn about the Customer Development Process, which teaches entrepreneurs how to develop and test their ideas using data from real customers.
Design thinking is another idea that has taken the business world by storm. This powerful approach to problem-solving can help you better connect with your customers and drive meaningful innovation in your company. During this eight-week course, you will apply the entire design thinking process—from brainstorming to prototyping, to testing your prototype—to solve a real problem facing your business.
Many would-be entrepreneurs have great ideas, but don’t have any clue how to get those ideas funded. This short (four-week) course will introduce you to the vocabulary of investment and teach you how “speak the language of raising start-up capital.” You will also learn how to create an investor pitch that will put you on a good track toward raising the funding your business needs.
Finally, this graduate-level course is for the more advanced entrepreneur who is seeking the skills to develop “major innovations.” It teaches the user innovation paradigm, which is an innovation process that focuses on the needs of the end user. The courseware lets you work through the materials at your own pace, with readings, video lectures, and assignments from the actual course, which was taught at MIT in 2012.
Whether you are a student studying business, a new entrepreneur just starting out, or someone who has been in the game for a while, it is always a good time for you to enhance your knowledge and upgrade your skills. Whether you choose to read books, take free online courses, or join a local entrepreneurs group, the most important thing is that you never stop learning.
Have you completed any of these courses? Which did you find most helpful? Let us know in the comments.