10 Online Classes You Can Take RIGHT NOW to Keep Your PR and Biz Skills Sharp

10 Online Classes You Can Take RIGHT NOW to Keep Your PR and Biz Skills Sharp


Boost your career by taking an online course. [Thomas Barwick / Getty Images]
Give your career a boost by taking an online course. [Photo: Thomas Barwick]
Summer is in the air and the atmosphere in the office is more laid back then ever. You may be tempted to slack off, but now is a great time to begin thinking of ways to sharpen your skill set.

One of the least talked about windfalls of technological advancement is the increased accessibility of online education programs from top colleges and universities. One of my favorite online education providers (and a favorite brand in general) is Coursera.

Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I’m currently taking a marketing class from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business (taught by the actual professors who teach the class on campus) and have added several other interesting courses to my watch list to take next “semester.”

For me, it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned things from each lecture that I am able to apply to my business immediately. Eventually, I want to set aside the time to take more courses because in the rapidly world of business and PR it pays to have an unquenchable thirst for learning.

Here are 11 Coursera courses that caught my eye:

1. Understanding Media By Understanding Google – Northwestern University (Started May 26, 2014)
Google Inc. is one of the key success stories of the Internet era. The company has expanded beyond its original search business through innovation and acquisition to touch the lives of nearly every person who lives life online. For example, Americans spend more than 3,400 hours per year using consumer media, the field where Google’s impact is most profound, and citizens around the world must understand what the company has wrought not only to control our offline and online environments, but also to interact and engage successfully with anyone in our professional and personal lives.

Enrollees in this course learn how to understand the tactics that modern media companies, journalists, marketers, politicians, technologists, and social networks are using to reach them and affect their behavior. They learn how to adopt strategies that put them on an even footing with these entities in achieving their own communications goals. 

2. Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills – University of London (Started May 27, 2014)
Learn how to make effective decisions about your future career and how to take control of your professional development by honing your critical thinking and employability skills. Suitable for anyone undertaking some form of study, regardless of academic discipline, interests or employment background.

3. Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies – University of Maryland (Started June 9, 2014)
This course assists aspiring entrepreneurs in developing great ideas into great companies. With strong economies presenting rich opportunities for new venture creation, and challenging economic times presenting the necessity for many to make their own job, the need to develop the skills to develop and act on innovative business opportunities is ever present. Using proven content, methods, and models for new venture opportunity assessment and analysis, students will learn how to enhance their entrepreneurial mindset and develop their functional skill sets to see and act entrepreneurially. The initial steps to creating a business plan, and raising financial capital to launch the firm, are examined as well. Our goal is to demystify the startup process, and to help you build the skills to identify and act on innovative opportunities now, and in the future.

4. Supply Chain Management: A Learning Perspective – Korea Advanced Institute (Starts June 16, 2014)
In this course, we want to understand fundamental principles of value creation for the consumers or the market. We try to answer questions like how the product or service is made, how the value-creating activities or functions are coordinated, who should play what leadership roles in realizing all these, and so on. As our course title hints, we approach all of these issues from a learning perspective, which is dynamic in nature and emphasizes long-term capability building rather than short-term symptomatic problem solving. 

5. Foundations of Business Strategy – University of Virginia (Starts June 16, 2014)
In this course, we will explore the underlying theory and frameworks that provide the foundations of a successful business strategy.  We will develop your ability to think strategically by providing you the tools for conducting a strategic analysis. Strategic analysis is critical for analyzing the competitive context in which an organization operates and for making reasoned and reasonable recommendations for how that organization should position itself and what actions it should take to maximize value creation. Aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, analysts, and consultants all may find value in mastering these fundamentals.

6. Crafting An Effective Writer: Fundamental English Writing  – Mt. San Jacinto College (Starts June 20, 2014)
Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing. By dedicating yourself to the craft of writing English, you will learn to use the eight parts of speech and grammar to develop the four basic sentence types into a well-organized, detailed paragraph. This course is designed for anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you need to write more clearly for work, prepare for a placement test for a college, or improve your skills for current writing projects, this class is beneficial. 

7. Advanced Competitive Strategy – LMU (Starts June 20, 2014)
In Advanced Competitive Strategy we will look at how companies can build up and maintain their customer base by increasing switching costs and facilitating strategic customer lock-ins. 
We will find out how a firm can increase its profits by pursuing suitable price discrimination and product differentiation strategies including or discarding of individual steps in their value creation process. You will learn everything about network effects and discover how they can be used by companies to their own, as opposed to their competitors’, advantage. We will analyze the workings of mergers and acquisitions and support you in considering the individual steps that are involved before, during and after the match-making process.

8. Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations – Vanderbilt University (Starts July 1, 2014)
This course is intended to help you improve your ability to manage creativity, innovation and change in business, education, healthcare, government, and in any other complex organization or institution by diagnosing potential innovation failures before they can occur. Using an “innovation constraints framework that draws on modern social science research and on insights from business practice, participants will learn how to best manage people (be they co-workers, bosses, customers, clients, friends or any other stakeholders) when innovation is the goal.  While we see several examples of technological innovation, we are not focused on the management of technology.  Instead, we focus on something much more powerful:  understanding and managing the people engaged in creation, innovation and positive change, regardless of the context.

9. Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys – University of Michigan (Starts July 7, 2014)
This course will cover the basic elements of designing and evaluating questionnaires. We will review the process of responding to questions, challenges and options for asking questions about behavioral frequencies, practical techniques for evaluating questions, mode specific questionnaire characteristics, and review methods of standardized and conversational interviewing.

10. Social Psychology – Wesleyan University (Starts July 14, 2014)
Each of us is dealt a different hand in life, but we all face similar questions when it comes to human behavior: What leads us to like one person and dislike another? How do conflicts and prejudices develop, and how can they be reduced? Can psychological research help protect the environment, and if so, how? This course offers an introduction to classic and contemporary social psychology, covering topics such as decision making, persuasion, group behavior, personal attraction, and factors that promote health and well-being.

Will you take an online course this summer to enhance your skill set?