Don’t have the time or funds to attend an English-language university?
Why not let the university come to you?
That’s what the miracle of MOOCs are for.
A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) lets you take courses from prestigious universities and expert teachers—all from your laptop.
Better yet, most MOOCs are affordable or even free. You can find MOOCs on practically any subject—in this post, we’ll show you several MOOCs for different business English learning goals.
Ready for A+ business English skills? Here’s how to get started.
How to Learn Business English Effectively from a MOOC
Learning from home sounds amazing… until you lose your motivation and become lazy. However, following these tips will help you avoid just that.
- Make a schedule: Carve out a regular time in your agenda for your MOOC. This will keep you disciplined and help make learning a daily habit.
- Remind yourself why you’re studying: If you’re low on willpower, sit down and make a list of reasons why you’re learning business English (whether it’s a new job, a promotion, etc.).
Stick the list somewhere you’ll see it often and give yourself rewards for completing particular exercises.
- Learn actively: Don’t be a passive learner. Make sure you take notes, review what you learn and try to apply that knowledge in your everyday life.
For instance, when you learn an important new word, try using it when you speak to your friends and coworkers.
- Take extra initiative: Supplement your learning by checking out other sources such as business English audiobooks or news from the business world. Reviewing the vocabulary from your MOOC when you’re stuck in a waiting room or on public transport is also helpful.
Of course, it’s always important to apply your lessons to real life. Using innovative tools like FluentU are an effective (but fun) way to do this.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
The Top 9 MOOCs for Business English Mastery
The internet is filled with amazing business English courses, so it might take time to find one that’s perfectly suited to your needs.
Fortunately, you don’t have to waste time searching for the right one. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best MOOCs out there for different learning goals.
Most of the courses listed below are available through Coursera, one of the best sources for MOOCs that you can find on the internet. Coursera MOOCs are taught by expert professors and are accessible to anyone. If you enjoy MOOC learning, check out the wide range of options Coursera has for business English, as well as general language learning and many other fields.
Some of these MOOCs are “self-paced,” meaning you can complete them on your own schedule. Others follow a set schedule and are offered regularly at different times throughout the year. However, many course materials for scheduled courses will be available at any time once you enroll.
Some may require a fee to access certain graded assignments or certificates. (But if you can’t afford the fees, there are sometimes options for “financial aid” to help with expenses.)
However, in my experience with MOOCs, anyone can audit any course for free. Auditing means you can enroll in the MOOC “informally” without getting a certificate or academic credit.
General Learning and Communication Skills MOOCs
At the end of the day, successful business English boils down to one thing: efficient communication. And for that, these MOOCs are your best friends.
Brought to you by the University of Washington, this MOOC is a five-course pack for business English speaking and writing.
It covers networking, meetings, planning and negotiating and making presentations. The lessons include examples from real-life companies like Starbucks and Amazon.
There’s even a special section called the “Capstone Project” where you can demonstrate your competence in everything that you’ve learned throughout the course.
This MOOC by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is great for absolute beginners.
Topics covered include analyzing business data, supporting arguments and using appropriate communication styles, among several others.
Another MOOC by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, this one is suited for non-native speakers working in international, multicultural environments.
It’ll help you tackle misunderstandings between people from different cultures. You’ll also learn to communicate effectively and appropriately in different cultural settings.
MOOCs for Effective Business English Writing
Although effective communication will land you a job, superior writing skills will ensure you’re truly indispensable in the workplace.
At first glance, “academic writing” and “business writing” may appear to be markedly different fields. However, there’s overlap between the two, and it’s a good idea to be proficient in both.
This course by the University of California, Berkeley will introduce you to the intricacies of both academic and business writing. You’ll get lots of writing practice so you can learn how to use the correct tone for different situations.
You’ll also develop your vocabulary, grammar knowledge and editing skills.
This course by Saylor Academy is another great resource that covers essential technical terms in your study of business English.
Also, this course contains self-assessments so you can evaluate your own writing and further improve your skills.
Of course, business English is typically pretty technical, but you don’t want to bore your reader by rattling off jargon (technical or specialized vocabulary that’s particular to a profession).
There’s a style to great business writing. This course by the Georgia Institute of Technology will help you develop a personal voice in every business English report you write.
The clearer and more interesting your writing is, the more persuasive and effective you’ll be in your workplace.
If you already have a job in an English-speaking region, congratulations! But don’t just stop there.
To shine in your workplace and climb your way upwards, you need to keep learning. These MOOCs will teach you some industry secrets, explain difficult jargon and improve your workplace skills.
If you’ve always wanted to learn the secrets of persuasive talking, this MOOC is for you. It’ll help with everything from negotiating to advertising, marketing and convincing your boss to give you the weekend off.
Offered by Arizona State University, this is a six-week specialized course for those working or wanting to work in marketing and advertising.
It covers both speaking and writing skills, such as reports, presentations and emails. You’ll learn vocabulary for branding, market research and other advertising fields.
This course requires only one to two hours per week of work. It uses realistic stories and characters to prepare you for common conversations and situations in the finance world.
You’ll develop the right vocabulary for presentations and the critical skills required for reading reports.
However, users have noted that there’s a greater focus on finance than economics, so those in accounting should make sure to check this one out.
Not only is this course by the University of Pennsylvania fully free, it’ll also be of special benefit to those who want to improve their business English to start their own business.
You’ll learn about business plans, market research and other important elements of starting your own business—all from an ESL perspective. Importantly, you’ll also learn about funding and developing a persuasive business pitch.
So if you have that independent streak in you and dream of your own start-up, this course will teach you all you need to know about being an entrepreneur and succeeding in an English environment.
MOOCs make learning accessible and affordable to all. They also make learning quite fun with their state-of-the-art teaching methods and amazing resources. However, to get the most out of it, you must remain disciplined and committed and you’re bound to see the results. Happy learning!
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to contact her on LinkedIn for freelancing inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.