Hiring and Growth

20 of the Best Business School Classes—That You Can Take for Free

Kinjal Dagli Shah Freelance writer and journalist 
The Best Free Online Business Courses for Entrepreneurs in 2018

Still eyeing B-school? Putting your business on hold—and plunking down the cost of tuition—can feel pretty impossible for most entrepreneurs.

Simple time tracking that syncs with payroll.

But getting the business education you want doesn’t have to come with the price tag of a fancy degree.

You can take classes from some of the country’s top universities—that actually work with your tight calendar and budget. The secret? Building your own curriculum by going online.

To give you a place to start, we rounded up 20 of the best free online classes for entrepreneurs looking to create their own B-school adventures.

20 of the best online classes for entrepreneurs.

Stanford University Logo

School: Stanford University

1. How to Start a Startup

What you’ll learn: Hands-on startup tips from some of the most recognizable entrepreneurs.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: This course is a collection of video lectures by Sam Altman, a serial entrepreneur from startup incubator Y Combinator. They were recorded at Stanford in 2014 and tackle issues like raising money, building customer-first products, hiring kickass teams, understanding legal essentials, and other top-of-mind areas for startup founders. Altman infuses the lectures with real-life examples from companies like Airbnb, Apple, Google, and Facebook to help drive each point home.

MIT Logo

2. Becoming an Entrepreneur

School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What you’ll learn: How to define your goals as an entrepreneur and get started.

Time commitment: 6 weeks, 1–3 hours a week

Class details: This one is for new business owners who aren’t sure where to start, or those who want a refresher on new business basics. Taught by MIT instructor Martin Culpepper and a “goofy” startup founder by the name of Laurie Stach, the course explains how to spot a promising business opportunity, conduct market research, and define your target customer. 

MIT Management Sloan School Logo

3. Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans

School: MIT Sloan School of Management

What you’ll learn: How to write a business plan that moves your company forward.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: This class is over 25 years old (seriously) and has become a fundamental course for Sloan MBA students. It’s broken down into four sessions and covers the role of business plans and business models, as well as how to make financial projections. At the end of the course, you should walk away with a business plan template that will give you the direction you need to make wiser decisions for your company.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania Logo

4. Developing the Opportunity

School: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: How to turn your wild idea into an actual money-making business.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? This course will help you define entrepreneurship, and also understand how to validate ideas and turn them into prototypes to test. Spending time on the validation step is key before jumping into a new business, and this course will break down how you can ensure success. It’s the first course in a four-part series on entrepreneurship, so you’ll be ready to move up to the next level once you’re done.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania Logo

5. Launching Your Startup

School: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: The practical steps to starting your startup and the concepts you need to memorize.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: After you know what you want to do, the next step is to physically set up your new business. This course introduces you to the key stages of the process: employee equity, how to master the pitch, how to build and manage a team, when to quit your day job, and what a minimum viable product is.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania Logo

6. Growth Strategies

School: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: How to grow your business by flexing different marketing muscles.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: After you complete “Launching Your Startup,” this course will help you with attracting a customer base, understanding digital marketing strategies like email and optimizing for search, figuring out pricing and cost structures, and building a sales funnel and process. By the end, you’ll have a solid overview of what growth looks like for various kinds of companies.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania Logo

7. Financing and Profitability

School: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: How to get to profitability. Or in other words, how to make money.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 1–2 hours a week

Class details: The final level in this entrepreneurship series is all about raking in the dough. It explores different financing models so you can pick the best path for your business. Once you complete the course, you should be able to do your own breakeven analysis and have a handle on different pitch and exit strategies.

Ohio State University Logo

8. Branding, Content, and Social Media

School: Ohio State University

What you’ll learn: How to create a digital communications strategy for your small business.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Class details: This course, available as a podcast, will help you crystallize your messaging so you reach and resonate with your desired audience online. The course requires that you have a business to apply the learnings to, even if it’s made up. So hey, if you’re a business owner, you already have a leg up.

Cornell University Logo

9. Structuring Business Agreements for Success

School: Cornell University

What you’ll learn: How to set up a contract that protects your business.

Time commitment: 5 weeks, 2–3 hours a week

Class details: Attorneys and law professors wrote this course to explain all the different situations where you may need to draw up a contract—and how to actually put one together. You’ll learn about the elements of a successful contract, how different sections will help protect you, the role of risk and what your tolerance should be, and when you need to phone a lawyer friend for extra help.

Yale University Logo

10. Introduction to Negotiation

School: Yale University

What you’ll learn: How to be a better negotiator.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Course details: From vendors to business partners to customers, negotiation is the crux of every business owner’s life. This course will show you how to make persuasive arguments over email, when you don’t have a leg up, and when gender issues come into play.

Penn University of Pennsylvania Logo

11. Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models

School: University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: How to use basic spreadsheet tools.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 1–3 hours a week

Course details: This is the perfect opportunity to brush up on Excel and Google Sheets basics. You’ll get an overview of the formulas you need to master to get more in tune with your data. Keep in mind that a general awareness of Google Sheets or Excel is required before signing up.

University of Washington Logo

12. Using Email for Networking

School: University of Washington

What you’ll learn: How to write an email that people will open and engage with.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 3–5 hours a week

Course details: This course dissects the anatomy of an effective email: the subject line, greeting, body, closing, format, and tone. You’ll be able to practice writing emails for scenarios you encounter every day, like inviting a person to a meeting and following up with an important contact.

The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business Logo

13. A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment

Schools: Indian School of Business and McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin

What you’ll learn: How to add more happiness into your life.

Time commitment: 6 weeks, 2–3 hours a week.

Course details: This popular course is all about the happiness pitfalls successful people often fall into. It features a roster of experts in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral decision theory, like Dan Ariely and Ed Diener. They’ll go over tactical frameworks you can incorporate into your own life to make you feel more fulfilled—even when you have a million fires to put out every day.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania Logo

14. Building High-Performing Teams

School: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

What you’ll learn: How to build a productive team that gets along.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 2–4 hours a week

Class details: Have a team that doesn’t exactly jell? Take this course to find out how you can prevent groupthink, friction, and communication issues. The course also digs into the different problems that come up on physical versus virtual teams, so you can get solutions tied to your exact type of business.

Deakin University of Australia Logo

15. Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive

School: Deakin University

What you’ll learn: How to become more resilient at work.

Time commitment: 2 weeks, 3 hours a week

Course details: This course will explain the power of resilience along with tactics you can apply to both work and the rest of your life. At the end of the course, you’ll walk away with a resilience plan that you can apply directly to work.

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

16. Retail Fundamentals

School: Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University

What you’ll learn: How to run a successful retail business.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 3–5 hours a week

Course details: The course is designed for retail store managers and small business owners who want to overcome the biggest challenges that come up for shop owners: forecasting, inventory management, product assortment, and pricing. Bonus: You’ll also be able to apply the lessons learned to a fake business you create in the course.

Kellogg School of Management Logo

17. Connecting with Sales Prospects

School: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

What you’ll learn: How to be a better salesperson.

Time commitment: 5 weeks, 5–7 hours a week

Course details: This course is part two of a four-part series on how to sell more efficiently. Specifically, you’ll discover how to run better sales meetings, deal with rejection, and use storytelling to make customers connect with what you’re selling.

The University of British Columbia Logo

18. Family Business – Strategy Essentials

School: University of British Columbia

What you’ll learn: How to use family dynamics to strengthen your business.

Time commitment: 6 weeks, 3–4 hours a week

Course details: Running a family business can be incredibly rewarding—and riddled with challenges. Participants will walk away with a better grasp of how to use family values to inform business strategy, ensure relationships don’t isolate anyone on the team, and the importance of agreements.

University of Minnesota Logo

19. Preparing to Manage Human Resources

School: University of Minnesota

What you’ll learn: How to get started with HR.

Time commitment: 4 weeks, 4–5 hours a week

Course details: This course is designed for people who have zero experience with HR, so it’s perfect if HR is suddenly a new part of your job description as you grow your team. The instructor goes over what it means to manage people, alternative strategies for doing so, and how to motivate your team to go above and beyond.

Coventry University Logo

20. Emotional Intelligence at Work

School: Coventry University

What you’ll learn: How emotional intelligence can help your team succeed.

Time commitment: 2 weeks, 3 hours a week

Course details: This course is a deep dive into the world of emotional intelligence (EQ) and how to apply it at work. You’ll learn what EQ is, how to measure it, and how to use it to prevent conflicts and relate better with your team.

Khan Academy Logo

Bonus: Khan Academy’s Interviews with Entrepreneurs

What you’ll learn: How some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world got to where they are.

Time commitment: Self-paced.

Course details: Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, sat down with over 25 entrepreneurs to dissect the biggest learnings they’ve picked up along the path to their success. Khan covers topics like doing business with friends, finding the perfect customer, and why failure is so key to developing as an entrepreneur. It’s a video course cut up into bite-sized lessons, which makes it super easy to tune into.


Pop into the courses above to see which ones make sense for your business. All it takes is a couple of hours a week, a handful of calendar blocks, and a hunger to keep becoming a better version of yourself.

Note: Every class on this list is free to audit, but if you’re interested in earning a certificate and/or getting your assignments graded, you may have to pay a fee.

Updated: August 8, 2019

Kinjal Dagli Shah
Kinjal Dagli Shah Kinjal Dagli Shah is a writer and journalist living in Toronto. She has worked in newsrooms in India, the US, and Canada over a span of 15 years and counting.

Comments

*Required fields

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top