5 Online Courses Every Entrepreneur Should Take (and How to Get the Most Out of Them)

A commitment to lifelong learning should be at the top of all entrepreneurs’ minds. After all, it’s one of the most commonly found traits among super-successful entrepreneurs. So as you prepare to take the wee ones back to school, perhaps it is time for you to do the same. To assist you, I’ve curated my favorite online courses for entrepreneurs this year.

1. Y Combinator’s Startup School

Y Combinator is Silicon Valley’s most famous, and most successful, startup accelerator. It also offers a 10-week online course that covers in-depth topics most interesting to high-growth startup founders. Instructors include the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Paul Graham, Sam Altman, and Drew Houston. This course is best for a pair of founders in a garage working on the next Google.

2. Babson College’s ‘Entrepreneurial Operations: Launching a Startup’

Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the finest university in the world for entrepreneurship, Babson College takes its best and brightest online in this amazing course. Topics include: exploring your ventures value chain, mitigating potential operational risks, and how to successfully launch a startup. This one is perfect if you are a serial founder who wants more structure.

3. Steve Blank’s ‘How to Build a Startup’

Steve Blank is the grandfather of the Lean Startup method, having taught Eric Reis, the author of The Lean Startup. In this month-long, free online course, Blank teaches how to rapidly develop and test ideas by gathering massive amounts of customer and marketplace feedback. If you want to understand the why, not just the how, this one’s for you.

4. Eric Reis’s ‘The Lean Startup’

Speaking of Eric Reis, the author takes his approach (now featured at Harvard Business School) online with this short seminar. Students quickly get up to speed on the methodology that changed how startups launch. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to start a high-growth venture.

5. Ryerson’s ‘100 Steps 2 Startup’

My university generates more startup founders and small business owners than any other school in Canada, and we spent three years translating the process into more than 10 hours of video and exercises. I created the course “100 Steps 2 Startup,” which breaks starting a business into 100 explicit actionable micro-steps from ideation to revenue generation to product market fit.

Where Reis and Blank clearly focus on the 1 percent of founders focused on high-growth digital startups, my course focuses on the other 99 percent–the small and medium-sized startups. Best of all, this course doesn’t require an Ivy League education to grok.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Course

Once you’ve decided to embark on the journey to complete one of the above classes, you are on your way to success. But in order to get the most out of your course, I recommend the following five steps.

  1. Find collaborators. Find one or two colleagues that will take the course with you. If you don’t have any, look on the course’s online page and see if other students are accessible. Working with a peer will not only help you digest the material, it will keep you accountable.
  2. Set a goal. When will you finish the course? What do you hope to accomplish? Every journey has a destination–what’s yours?
  3. Set a place. Create a quiet, calm space where your learning is optimal. A good study environment is a concern while learning online, so make sure yours doesn’t distract your study routine.
  4. Set a cadence. Work a little every day, every week. Break the course into smaller lessons and agree to tackle them in small bite-sized morsels. This will make your goal and the journey much more manageable.
  5. Take notes. Not on your laptop or phone–on a pad of paper with a pencil. There is growing evidence that analog writing leads to better retention and understanding of material. So be an active learner, and take notes the old school way.

As the kids get ready to back to school, so should you, the entrepreneur. But you can do so from a plane, a coffee shop, or the beach. In today’s world all you need is an internet connection, a computer, and a pad of paper.

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