I did my first MOOC certification back in 2014. It was from Darden School of Business from University of Virginia on Business Strategy. As I had wanted to do a course or certification on strategy for quite some time, this MOOC filled that requirement perfectly well. The overall curriculum was very interestingly organized. In fact, I had mentioned about this in one of my earlier blog posts sometime back.

As my experience was very positive and quite enriching, I decided to identify few areas which I had wanted to focus on or rather I wanted to invest myself in given my job profile and work experience which would augment the gaps. I identified five areas and the five areas which I identified were:

• Marketing Fundamentals • Talent Management • Negotiations • Business Strategy • Enhancing Leadership Skills

Basis these, I researched around for some courses and I shortlisted five courses which were being offered by various universities including the ones from Ivy League. Since then, I have completed these certifications. As I look back now, I do feel that going through these courses was a very good decision as they have not only filled up the training need I had but have also exposed to whole new world of thought process as these training were facilitated by the well experienced professors who not only are the tenured academicians but many of them come from Industry background which gave a practical insider touch to the subject that was being taught.

I would suggest the following five courses to those professionals especially in finance background who are in the middle management and are on cusp of moving into senior leadership roles. I am sure these training will provide lots of insights as well as practical tips which will enable them to succeed in the new roles. Most importantly, these training are available without any fees. However, if you are looking for a certificate, then you may have to pay a fees ranging from 30 to 75 US dollars.

The courses generally are 4-6 week long and require weekly commitment of about 4-5 hours which can be planned by anyone at their own leisure and pace. In fact, I invested in a tablet so that I have flexibility to do course while I am travelling or immediately after I hit the bed in the night but before I sleep. Sometime, when I am in the middle of the course and things have picked up, I skip reading my morning newspaper and instead do some lectures of the course. This way I utilized even the small slots that were available to me. The course is split into small lectures of not more than 15 minutes each which enables the students doing these courses to take them during small breaks.

My five recommendations are given below. Incidentally, they all are available on Coursera platform.

1. Introduction to Negotiations - Yale School of Business, Yale University

The duration of this course is 6 weeks. The course has been anchored by Professor Barry Nalebuff who is a professor of management at Yale school of business. He is an expert on business strategy and game theory apart from many other subjects. He was one of the co-founders of Honest Tea which was later sold to Coca-Cola Company after successfully running the company for about 10 years.

This course focusses on exposing students to the interesting but complicated world of negotiation and will help with practical tips coming from master negotiators like Linda Babcock and Herb Cohen. There are many role-plays created with the help of students from Yale school of drama. This apart, students have to do couple of negotiations with other students using case studies. These negotiations are recorded and analyzed by other students and feedback given. In turn, you will also get an opportunity to review others recordings and you have option to review as many you want to. I found this part to be extremely useful as I could get perspectives from the recorded negotiations of other students.

2. Building Your Leadership Skills - from HEC Paris

The duration of this course is 3 weeks and is facilitated by Professor Valerie Gauthier. This course introduces a new approach to leadership that is called Savoir-Relier (SR) methodology which is taught to the HEC MBA students. This methodology focuses on enabling team leadership by encouraging relationship between people in spite of differences of opinions. It also focuses on self-knowledge and self-awareness while a person is on the way to discover his own leadership style. All this is done through interesting interactive exercises with fellow students.

3. Introduction to Marketing - The Wharton School; University of Pennsylvania

The duration of this course is 5 weeks and is taught by three of Wharton’s top faculty which is Professors Barbara Kahn, Peter Fader and David Bell. The course covers three main topics from marketing and key principles around branding, customer centricity and go-to-market strategies. This course is a part of specialization and one can decide to do a Capstone project which makes students look at practical solutions from real world challenges. These projects are mentored and evaluated by Wharton staff.

4. Managing Talent – Ross School of Business; University of Michigan

The duration of this course is 4 weeks. The faculty of the course is Scott DeRue, Maxim Sytch and Cherri Alexander. While all three of them are professors with Ross School of Business, Cherri comes with a rich and distinguished career with General Motors before she moved to Ross School.

Being finance professional myself, my knowledge I acquired on Talent Management was more by observing what was being followed in the companies I worked with and a few corporate trainings around the subject. I felt the need to do a structured course which is detailed enough to cover the major concepts on the subject without being too extensive. Having done this course, I can say that the decision was good. In the 4 weeks, it covered the complete cycle of managing talent and creating a robust talent pipeline for the team and organization. The course covers best practices, insights and tools around selecting, recruiting, onboarding, mentoring and coaching talent apart from key approaches to measuring performance and evaluating your employees. Best part is the insights shared by business leaders throughout the course.

5. Foundation of Business Strategy - Darden School of Business; University of Virginia

The duration of this course is 4 weeks and is facilitated by Professor Michael Lenox. I have covered about this course at length in one of my article published couple of months back. The course covers some of the basic and fundamental concepts behind a successful business strategy and provides the tools one needs to understand that strategy namely SWOT, Competitor, Environmental, Five Forces, and Capabilities Analyses, as well as Strategy Maps. As a final activity, I had to do a strategy analysis on any one company of my choice making use of the learnings which was peer reviewed by other students of the course. Business strategy is a vast subject to be mastered in few weeks’ time frame but I can say that it is a good course for beginners as it makes the right launch pad before you pick up more extensive courses around the subject.

I will give more background to these courses in my article in future. In the meantime, you may navigate through few other MOOC providers apart from Coursera for any courses of your preference. My recommendation will be not to spend too much time in looking around for the course and instead just jump in and get going.