Best Jobs

7 free online courses to make you smarter at business

Start a better start-up. Be a better leader. Drop Voltaire quotes at office parties


If we say “night school” and you think late nights, monotonous teachers and overhead projectors, well, how ’80s are you?

Universities in Canada and all over the world have modernized, diversified and gone digital—and even free. Last year, nearly 800 universities banded together to offer more than 8,000 courses called “MOOCs” (“massive open online courses”) via Coursera to bump up your business skills. They’re self-paced, cost nothing (or next to nothing), and you can do ‘em at home in your pyjamas. Here are seven particularly awesome ones to check out.

Duke University, Programming Fundamentals

Whether your job’s in software or not, you won’t regret banking basic programming skills. Even better, this 32-hour, 4-week course is specifically about solving whichever e-problems ail you with an easy “Seven Step” plan of attack. You’ll also learn to read and write code and design and implement algorithms.

READ: Why it pays to be a rebel talent at the office

George Washington University, Business Start-Up: From Idea to Launch

Budding entrepreneurs, listen up! A self-paced and zero-dollar course starts at the very beginning—your genius business idea, naturally—and walks a would-be business from start-up to smashing success. All from real-world entrepreneurs making it work, classes include pitching, development, funding, promotion and roll-out.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Industry 4.0: How to Revolutionize your Business

Those further along their entrepreneurial path might look to Hong Kong for a look at the future; this course specifically looks at changes and predictions foreseen in the years to come. Among them, the death of the credit card (and triumph of bitcoin); mobile phones replacement by virtual reality; and the mobile Internet’s shrinking of the wage gap.

READ: Why staying humble is so important for CEOs—and so difficult

University of California, Achieving your Ultimate Performance

Looking to move up from pretty great to straight optimum? This class says you can in four easy steps: learn the model, apply to model to your position, test it practically and articulate your success via plan in action. Five weeks later you’ll stand right out in an increasingly competitive work force.

University of Queensland, Becoming an Effective Leader

Dreamers of semesters abroad should head down under for this course on strong leadership. Applicable in any field or at any organization, this class gives aspiring leaders a deep understanding about effective leadership styles, building empathy and good relationships, and the difference between leadership and management. Bonus points for a healthy variety of videos, interviews and case studies that keep this 10-week, 10-hour-a-week course engaging.

READ: How to survive business conferences

The Open University, Modern Empowerment in the Workplace

Human resource managers, or those aspiring in that direction, will love this new look at work in the 21st century. Instead of seeing this era as one of precarious insecurity, here’s a positive take on job flexibility, possibility, work-life balance and empowerment. Fittingly, it’s just three hours a week for a month, making popping this course in your back pocket particularly easy.

Harvard University, Modern Masterpieces of World Literature

And since it doesn’t all have to be business, why not enrol at Harvard in the classics and impress the socks off everyone with your literary sophistication? In eight weeks and just 3-6 hours a week, you’ll power through Goethe, Voltaire, Salmon Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk. Unlike undergrad proper, a self-paced schedule unfolds quite nicely alongside real work. (Plus adding Harvard to your resumé won’t hurt one bit.)