Fancy taking a 15-week Introduction to Finance course for free? Or how about studying Public Speaking at the University of Washington? Statistics at Princeton?
These are just some of the universities offering courses on Coursera, a fast expanding online service. Edinburgh University was one of the first UK universities to sign up to the service, joining some of the top educational institutions around the world.
When you start a business finding the time and money for Continuing Professional Development can be a huge challenge. Learning for free online certainly cuts down on travel time away from work. And if you can’t yet spare the cash to invest in refreshing your specialist knowledge, Coursera may be just the ticket.
There are also a considerable number of more vocational free online courses, if you look. Many of them have a business bent. The BBC is a good place to start for beginner level courses. Of course, the Open University has been delivering distance learning courses since the 1960’s and the whole university is dedicated to serving students at a distance. The development of the internet has enabled them to enhance and develop their services. The Open University’s OpenLearn website provides free access to Open University materials in Money & Management; Science, Maths & Technology; Languages and a range of other areas.
And let’s not forget YouTube, where you can find short tutorials for everything; from learning how to use software packages to how to strip an engine. If ‘demonstration’ is an important part of your business, for example Training, Caring, Catering, then producing a short tutorial for your own website can be a great way of showing customers your expertise and building engagement and trust at the same time. Lauren Luke created YouTube tutorials to demonstrate to customers how to apply the make-up products she was selling on eBay. Her tutorials cost her virtually nothing to make and became by far the most successful part of her business.
Of course if you prefer to learn by reading, the internet has become a fantastic source of guides to just about everything. For good general business guides, check out our selection here. And here is a good guide to the different kind of loans available for small businesses.
If you are prepared to dip your hand in your pocket, the choice of online learning opportunities widens considerably. Learn Direct leads you to a series of courses in areas ranging from computers to sales and marketing. The Arts and Creative Industries are well catered for by the Colleges making up the University of the Arts London.
If you are considering an accredited online University education, many leading Universities are now online, including Essex, Cambridge and Oxford in the UK. You can check out university offerings in the US and elsewhere on the Chronicle of Higher Education web site.
Satisfaction levels with online learning are good and your level of technical skills isn’t a factor. Numbers are increasing sharply; some of the Coursera courses are expecting over 100,000 students. Lauren Luke has had over 75 million views of her make-up tutorials!
Nowadays, university fees in the UK are pretty steep for part-time as well as full-time courses. Before you start a university course that will compete with your business for your time, money and energy, it is probably a good idea to investigate the benefits you will gain from the course as thoroughly as possible. Taking a free or cheap online course in the subject can be an excellent way of doing that.