Online Short Courses in Leadership and Management

Developing Targeted Skills: Online Short Courses in Leadership and Management

Need to advance your skills on one of today’s management issues? Want to hone a specific business skill? Are you not interested or not ready to commit to a full degree program?

You’ll find thousands of short, online courses that can help. Typically requiring several hours of coursework each week over an average of 6-10 weeks, these courses cover a gamut of topics including:

  • Leadership and organizational development
  • Project management
  • Digital marketing
  • Human resource management
  • Finance and accounting for business
  • Business analytics and Big Data

Within these categories, you can find foundational courses that introduce management basics or advanced courses that dig deeper into cutting-edge topics such as the business impacts of artificial intelligence.

Choosing the Right Online Management or Leadership Course for You Factors to Consider

From selective, paid courses from top online education companies to free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) accessible to all, you’ll find a wide range of online learning options. To get the best results, though, you’ll want to consider:


If you want to learn from some of the best minds in management and business, look for providers who partner with universities known for thought leadership in those fields. Today, you’ll find faculty from Harvard, Oxford, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and other top-tier universities teaching a wide range of foundational and advanced courses online.

Going beyond brand recognition, make sure to check student reviews of the provider’s online technology platform and any available video tours of the virtual classroom. Is the platform reliable, user-friendly, interactive, and engaging? Even the most brilliant instructor can’t shine if the platform is glitchy.

Student Support

Do you want a more supportive student experience with instructor feedback and peer interaction or a minimally-supported, independent course? The choice depends on your learning style, your goals, and budget.

If you’re a self-driven professional looking to brush up on a particular topic, then a free course with minimal support may be right for you. But if you’re a busy professional seeking to gain a specific skill set and credentialing, a paid course with graded assignments and instructor feedback may be a better investment.

Whether you choose a free or paid course, you can improve your chances of success by checking whether the course offers:

  • Frequent or multiple start dates
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Interactive help tools and forums where you can ask questions
  • E-mail reminderse on assignments and classes

Course Completion Rate

When comparing course completion rates, it’s important to know that free courses (MOOCs) historically have a completion rate of just 15-40% according to various studies. However, with some courses registering thousands of students across the globe, that low rate may have more to do with student motivation or reasons for enrolling than course quality.

By contrast, some paid online courses have completion rates as high as 90%. Research suggests that these higher rates may be due largely to student motivation. That is, students enroll to achieve well-defined career and learning goals and, having paid for the course, are motivated to “get their money’s worth.”

Clear Learning Outcomes

Regardless of the type of course, your time has value. To ensure the return on your investment, look for courses that have clear learning outcomes aligned to your specific goals. The best short online courses in management, business or organizational development will have clearly defined outcomes reflective of the latest business trends and issues.

Certification Available

If you’re seeking to bolster your credentials in a field, you’ll want to check whether the course offers a certificate of completion. Certificates indicate your identity has been verified by the provider and you’ve satisfactorily completed required coursework and assessments. In paid courses, certificates are usually included in the course price. In other-wise free courses, certification fees typically range between $49 – $200. (Some providers also offer specialization or micro-master certifications for completing a series of courses in a specific discipline.

Available from schools such as MIT and Harvard, short course certifications can be an affordable way to boost your career.

Leadership, Business and Management Short Course Providers: A Snapshot

With the factors above in mind, you’re in a better position to find the course that’s right for you. To help you get you started, below is a representative snapshot of providers including paid providers and nonprofit platforms. Follow the links to view a sample course in each category.

Leadership, Business and Management Short Course Providers: A Snapshot
Provider Instructional partners include but are not limited to: Completion rate: Certifications available? Management-related course offerings include:
Get Smarter (sponsored)
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • University of Cape Town
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Oxford
  • HarvardX
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
90% Yes, included in course cost 6-12 week courses in:

  • Dartmouth
  • UC Berkeley
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • University of Texas
  • Microsoft
60%2 Availability varies by course 1-16 week courses in:

  • Marketing analytics
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Project management
  • Specialized topics such as mergers and acquisitions, supplier chain management, etc.
American Management Association AMA faculty of business experts Unavailable on website Yes, AMA Certificate Programs available. Also offers CEU’s and PDU’s 1-4 day courses of 3-4 hours each:

  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Management and supervisory skills
  • Marketing
Udemy Independent course developers expert in their fields1 Unavailable on site Yes 30-minute to 40+ hour video courses on:

  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Change management
  • Organizational development
  • Finance project
  • Northwestern University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Stanford
  • UC San Diego
  • Duke University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Wharton School
4%3 Yes, paid 2-day to 10-week courses in:

  • Organizational leadership
  • Project management
  • Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Management
1Unlike other providers in this list, Udemy is a library or “global marketplace” of online courses developed by independent experts in their respective fields. Return to footnote reference
2 Return to footnote reference
3 Return to footnote reference