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10 Online Programs to Boost Your Business Skills

10 Online Programs to Boost Your Business Skills
Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

No matter how long you've been out of school, you're never truly done learning. This is especially true of entrepreneurs, many of whom figure out the ropes of running a business as they go. Taking opportunities to improve your business skills is always a good idea, but once you get your startup going, you likely won't have the time or budget to go back to school and enroll in a traditional university course.

The good news is, you don't have to: There are plenty of online education programs designed specifically for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to do more than just attend an occasional workshop or seminar. Here are 10 websites that let you take online courses — many of them free of charge — to boost your business savvy. 

If you've ever wanted to take a class at one of the world's top universities, Coursera offers you the chance to do it. While none of the courses are for credit, it's an incredible opportunity to expand your knowledge in a wide range of subject areas. You can take a single class for free, or pay for a verified certificate so you can add it to your professional credentials. Coursera has also created "specialization" tracks that combine a series of courses with a capstone project to help you master a certain skill set. Learn more at Coursera.org.

Similar to Coursera's model, edX offers free online access to university courses. In addition to enrolling in noncredit college and professional education courses, you can take high-school-level classes as well as self-paced and archived programs. Like Coursera, edX students can choose to audit a class for free or pay for a verified certificate. Learn more at edX.org.

Women have come a long way in the business world, but they can go even further when they connect with and support one another. That's the idea behind Hello Fearless, which calls itself "the school for female entrepreneurs." The website's educational component, Boss School, is a 10-week program designed to help women step up their entrepreneurial game through online business courses, funding, a strong support community and other resources. When class isn't in session, Hello Fearless still has a wide range of inspirational articles and other content to keep you motivated. Learn more at HelloFearless.com.

To help entrepreneurs establish and grow their business, business tech giant HP started a free training program called HP LIFE (Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs). Together with partners EDC, USAID and UNIDO, the HP LIFE program gives registered members access to its full arsenal of interactive courses that link common business challenges and technology solutions. Face-to-face training is also available in select global locations. Learn more at life-global.org.

Video education platform Lynda.com has a wide range of business training courses available, covering everything from leadership skills to marketing and project management. Free video tutorials are available for each course, but paid members receive unlimited access to new weekly installments, as well as downloadable project files and offline viewing capabilities for premium members. Lynda.com offers a 10-day free trial period for all new members. Learn more at lynda.com.

Like Coursera and edX, NovoEd allows individuals to enroll in online courses taught by its partner universities. However, this platform emphasizes collaboration above all else, and enables students to virtually connect, share ideas and work on group projects for the classes they take. When you search for NovoEd courses, you can filter results by category, paid versus free, and class length. Learn more at NovoEd.com.

OpenLearn is the "home of free learning" from The Open University (OU), a global educational program that offers undergraduate/graduate degrees and certificates with little to no formal entry requirements. In the spirit of OU, this platform provides free access to multihour video excerpts from its formal courses, as well as short videos from field experts. For entrepreneurs, OpenLearn's "Money & Management" category covers many business and finance basics. Learn more at open.edu.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has served as an all-purpose resource for entrepreneurs since 1953, but did you know this government agency also has its own online learning center? You can view video content, text-based transcripts, chat sessions and more to expand your knowledge of important small business issues. Learn more at SBA.gov.

Though Thrive15 has been in development for nearly three years, this entrepreneurial business education program just launched out of beta last week (Feb. 10). This affordable alternative to a formal business education costs about 1 percent of the $50,000 a year average, and gives business owners the opportunity to take a series of 15-minute practical online courses taught by moguls, mentors and everyday entrepreneurs. Learn more at Thrive15.com.

Want a job in tech but need a more impressive résumé? Earn a Nanodegree from Udacity. These programs, some of which are created by industry leaders like Google, AT&T and Facebook, give you the recognizable credentials you need to advance your career and, with any luck, get a job with those companies. Each Nanodegree course description includes a course summary, skill level and applicable prerequisites, estimated completion time and cost. Learn more at Udacity.com.

Although you can't take a course directly through 2U, this ed tech company has helped some of the country's leading schools, like UC Berkeley and UNC Chapel Hill, bring their graduate programs online. Once you apply and are accepted to a program, you'll use 2U's cloud-based platform to virtually participate in live, seminar-style classes and hands-on experiences. Learn more at 2U.com.

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.