You need to train your employees — and yourself, for that matter. But money's tight. Your competition has an actual training budget and routinely sends managers and employees to seminars and other trainings as a matter of course. How do you stay current or ahead of your competitors if you can't afford the high cost of training, let alone travel, food and board?

Easy. You turn to online learning websites.

Online learning websites can help you when you need to train because they're easy to access and, best of all, many of them are affordable. And there are multiple levels of courses developed by top universities and organizations, so you know the offerings are solid.

Choosing a site can be tough, though. There are so many options. But next time you need to train yourself or someone else, try one of the following resources. As always, prices and availability may change.

Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has course archives in its SBA Learning Center. Tap courses like Social Media Marketing or access your local SBA, which should have archives of its own.

Meant for: Business owners

Pricing: $0


Now owned by LinkedIn, Lynda is probably the most prominent online learning website. It offers a Lynda for Business section that's helpful for everyone. Try Upskill Your Entire Workforce for business leaders or trainings on Microsoft Office for staff.

Meant for: Business owners and staff

Pricing: Ranges from $25/month for basic to $375/year for premium subscriptions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (and Other Universities)

Yes. That MIT. They have classes tailored to business owners in their MITx Entrepreneur Series. Other top universities like Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Carnegie Mellon also offer open learning online. And it's a good idea to check local universities to see if they offer online training.

Meant for: Business owners

Pricing: $0 to audit, though certificate and degree programs can cost hundreds, if not over a thousand dollars, per course, depending on the university.


Udemy offers 55,000+ courses, including a collection called Udemy for Business, searchable by topics like management, office productivity and finance and accounting. One nice feature is that it shows the number of lectures a facilitator has led, each facilitator's background and a rating for the facilitator and the course.

Meant for: Business owners and staff

Pricing: Varies but is generally affordable — for example, several customer service training courses cost as little as $12


Coursera offers more than 600 business courses. Courses like Writing Professional Email and Memos, which could benefit staff at any level, are created and facilitated by professionals and universities. The five-part Entrepreneurship Series was created and facilitated by the University of Pennsylvania. Course descriptions describe each class's level, explain what the course will do for the student and suggest how the information learned can be used day to day. Ratings and reviews are also available.

Meant for: Business owners and staff

Pricing: $0 for seven days of auditing. $49 for a single course with access to graded materials. $49 a month to continue with other courses.

Bonus: Open Culture

If you have trouble finding exactly what you need, try Open Culture, a database of over 1,300 free online courses from universities such as Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard and Oxford, among others.

When it comes to keeping up with the competition, it can pay to know all your options. Supporting training and development doesn't have to mean breaking the bank. Start by trying a few online courses on your own to see which resources may work best for your employees.

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Tags: Employee Development Budgets Training