Since massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, exploded on the higher education scene, they've increased the breadth and access of classes in a variety of disciplines.
Websites like Coursera and edX have leveled the playing field, allowing curious students from around the world to explore classes offered by top-tier universities. MOOCs have become so mainstream that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology even announced this year that it would use them as an admissions test for one of its masters degree programs.
Online classes can also be a boon for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to hone their skills before launching their own startups. Here are seven online courses that aim to make you smarter and uniquely equipped for entrepreneurship's toughest tasks:
1. Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies
This course, offered on Coursera, teaches students how to start their own businesses in markets with little access to funding from the private sector. Run by Case Western Reserve University, the class uses northeast Ohio as the backdrop to show students how to take advantage of less conventional financing methods. Among others, there are intermediary organizations, to build companies in areas without entrepreneurial infrastructure. The course also brings in guest lecturers from other markets--Greece, Rwanda, Argentina--to discuss how they are working to develop entrepreneurial communities in their respective regions. (free without certificate)
2. Understanding the Music Business: What Is Music Worth?
This Coursera class examines the business side of music, particularly what it calls the "contradictory" media coverage of the state of the industry. Through interviews with industry leaders and footage from recording sessions, the course--offered by Vanderbilt University, located in the famed music hub of Nashville--outlines the basic principles of recording, marketing, licensing, and live performance. It encourages students to brainstorm about the future profitability of the music industry. (free)
3. Managing a Multigenerational and Diverse Workforce
This course, offered by MOOC provider edX, examines demographic trends in labor markets and teaches managers how to supervise workers of different cultures and values. The instructor works with students to create a personal strategy for engaging workers of different ages, too. The class also teaches managers of global companies how to direct a geographically diverse work force. ($149)
4. Emotional Intelligence
Offered by University of the People, a nonprofit online institution based in Pasadena, California, this class examines the concepts and applications behind emotional intelligence, which it defines as the ability to manage one's internal environment as well as the ability to participate in interpersonal relationships. The interactive course teaches students how to develop strategies to improve basic emotional intelligence skills and experiment with strategies to deal with people of different emotional backgrounds and skill levels. (free excluding processing fees)
5. Succeeding on Kickstarter
This class, offered on online classroom Skillshare, examines the factors behind financially successful--as well as failed--Kickstarter projects. The instructional material is gathered from more than 40 interviews with project creators. The course also requires that students develop their own Kickstarter campaign for a business proposal and teaches them how best to market their ideas. (free for 14 days)
6. Start a Home Web Design Business and Make $1,000 Per Month
This practical Skillshare course requires students to set up a home web design business. The goal is that by the end of the course, which teaches skills such as how to find customers and the best way to upsell them for maximum profit, students will be ready to start accepting actual clients. The class promises that, even with no money or prior experience, students can expect to earn about $1,000 per month if they follow the principles outlined in the syllabus. ($299)
7. The Importance of Listening
This course, offered by Northwestern University on Coursera, is the second in a six-part series on social media marketing. The class dives into data that can be obtained from social media, using guest speakers from companies such as Socialgist and Broadreader. Included in the class are analytics tools and videos to help increase the effectiveness of content strategies. (free without certificate)