Looking to learn the ropes of the business world? These 6 organizations offer free or paid business courses online

Connie Queline

Looking to learn the ropes of the business world? These 6 organizations offer free or paid business courses online

Business skills are inescapable. No matter the industry, having foundational business skills are extremely helpful—and in many cases, paramount.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn reinforced this through the release of its list of the most in-demand skills for 2024. What’s notable is that contrary to what you might think, technical skills did not top the list. Instead, communication, customer service, leadership, and project management were deemed the most crucial. 

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While this may be welcoming news for some, for others—it may pose a challenge because there’s a perfect secret and easy recipe to becoming an effective business communicator or leader quickly. Online learning, though, is certainly one way.

Greg Brown is the president and CEO of Udemy, one of the largest online learning platforms. He says that especially in light of recent AI developments and shifts to a skills-based economy, learning in-demand skills online is critical for successful business professionals.

“As AI becomes even more integrated into our platform, learning the fundamentals of business will become even more personalized and adaptive to a learner’s needs, making it an incredibly efficient and effective way to learn,” he says. 

In fact, according to Udemy’s recently released Q4 2023 Global Workplace Learning Index, the top global emergent professional skills are business idea generation and chatbot—highlighting in part the importance of upskilling.

“Skills are the new currency, and there’s a pressing need for ongoing skill enhancement to stay relevant and competitive,” Brown adds.

So, for those who are looking to learn the basics of business—or gain the most up-to-date insight on how to use growing tech tools like generative AI in business—Fortune has done some of the initial research for you and created a list of platforms for you to check out offering ways to learn business online. 

3 organizations offering business courses online for free

Alison

Alison offers thousands of business-related courses, enabling individuals to empower themselves through their own learning. Topics relate to both hard and soft skills. The platform especially has many offerings relating to workplace safety, management, and human resources.

Length: Self-paced; many courses take 2–4 hours

Offerings: More than 1,250 free business-related offerings

MIT OpenCourseWare

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most well-known science, technology, and business schools in the world offers resources from thousands of its world-class courses online. With school alumni including names like Buzz Aldrin, Sal Khan, and Bridgit Mendler, checking out the free OpenCourseWare lectures, notes, and exams could be a great way to stay ahead in business. Over a hundred courses are available from its business school—home to the 8th best MBA program, according to Fortune’s rankings.

Length: Self-paced

Offerings: 184 Sloan School of Management courses

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA Learning Platform offers free courses on how to start, pivot, or grow your small business. Through a variety of videos and worksheets, the platform can be especially resourceful for those with little to no business acumen. Topic areas include Plan, Launch, Manage, Market, Grow, and Federal Procurement Readiness 

Length: Self-paced

Offerings: 7 courses, each with 16–70 objectives.

3 organizations offering business courses online for a fee

Coursera

Coursera is home to thousands of degrees, certificates, and course offerings, including from top companies and universities. Business topics are no exception (you can even earn an MBA on the platform). For those looking to have a structured set of business courses, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania have business specialization programs on the platform. 

Cost: Varies (Coursera Plus costs $59/month)

Length: Self-paced; part-time commitment to some programs can last a few months

Harvard Business School Online

Harvard Business School is notoriously one of the best in the world and has produced many Fortune 500 leaders. It’s no question that their online learning platform is a way to learn some of the most in-demand skills in the business world. The subject areas range from broad topics like business essentials to more specific topics like marketing and digital transformation.

Cost: Average $1,750/course

Length: Many average 6 weeks for part-time commitment

Udemy

Udemy offers a seemingly endless number of courses in the business space—ranging in specificity from broad fundamentals to specific and advanced tech tools. Topics also touch on both hard and soft skills. The platform also allows for user reviews, which can help you navigate which program is right for you and your goals. 

Cost: Some free; many less than $100

Length: Mostly 0-3 hours; some advanced lessons can take a few weeks.

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