Go Further for Free: 12 Awesome Courses for Marketers, AdMen and Strategic Planners

I am lucky enough that my sort-of-accidentally-chosen career means I meet lots of diverse business challenges, brands, industries and people. However, that also means that in order to be successful in this industry, you have to have a hunger for knowledge. Not just the knowledge you picked up before getting you first industry job, but long, long after. Frankly if a planner (or any marketer) is not a naturally curious person, you can guarantee they are not very good at their jobs. So, it’s really important that we keep ourselves educated!

As I have mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Coursera and how MOOC courses are changing the education game forever. This online community is definitely in my top 3 of ‘best things on the internet ever’, really. With all this in mind, I wanted to share what are the top courses for marketers coming up, all brought to you by prestigious institutes of education such as the below:


Impressive, I know. And the best thing about them is that they are free to complete and get certificates of accomplishment in. You are also able to get verified certificates for a small fee – which track your progress and offer further proof of your course completion. You can also do specialisations, which come with verified certs for around 300-700 euro. All specialisation modules are also individually available for free. There are hundreds of courses on there but I have gone through the whole list to bring you – what I would consider – the top ones for marketers. Please let me know if you do sign up for any of them and 

Stay Curious! 

Marketing Must Haves:

Coursera runs lots of marketing and business related courses, but here are the ones that I feel most apply to the marketing/advertising industry and are available either right now or in the near future… 

Title: Content Strategy for Professionals: Expanding your Content’s Impact and Reach
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   June 1st
Duration: 6 weeks
Educator: North Western University

This is part of a specialisation but unfortunately, the first segment is finished. However, as content is the topic in digital marketing, I am sure lots of agency types as well as brand managers and SMEs will be highly interested in this second module. Content is the most important element for your brand’s success on digital and leads directly to incremental lifts in sales, loyalty and building brand communities/’loyalty’. If you do anyone module as a brand marketing manager, I would highly recommend this one – although I haven’t ‘done’ a coursera course from this university before. However, judging by their own content strategy I automatically have to give them credit. Nice one lads.

Title: Introduction to Communication Science
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   In your own time
Duration: In your own time
Educator: University of Amsterdam

A chance to look at our communications industry from a fresh but long-established perspective that is too-often ignored in marketing. This course will be of particular interest to those working with communication-based brands, politics and media platforms. It looks at really interesting topics such as propaganda, the power of media, cultural ‘tribes’, conformity and our cognitive short cuts.

Title: Digital Marketing (Specialisation)

Cost:   Free/Around €413
Starts:   Now
Duration: 2 Months
Educator: John Hopkins University

This course covers:

1) Branding, brand positioning, challenges and communication strategies

2) Consumer behaviour and responses in a digital world

3) Creativity/innovation in digital marketing and the importance of consumer-centric strategies

4) Data analysis and visualization technique for strategic decision making (cool!)

This specialisation is also part of the University’s iMBA. If you’re interested in it after, check it out here. Cost is about €17924 and there are six specialisation options within it – the most interesting looking being Strategic Management. Of course, you can do all modules, untracked for free now, here with the first module and in your own time.

Title: Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   June 1
Duration: 6 weeks
Educator: University of Michigan

TAs I mentioned in a previous blog post – Insight in a Time of Emojis – there is an awful lot of ‘research’ and ‘insight’ out there, spawned from the rise of big data and egalitarian products such as survey monkey. However just because we have the tools more easily available to us, does not mean we know how to use them any better. Methodology, and theoretical understanding of research, maths, statistics and the intricacies of question phrasing are just some of the core skills absolutely crucial to embarking on a research project that is actually worth anything. I can’t recommend this course and others like it enough. Maybe then we can all band together and collectively call ‘bullsh*t’ on the insight pirates! Although I took specialised modules in this area in university, I will definitely be doing this one again as a ‘refresh’ and to keep up to date. 

Title: Data Science
Cost:   Free/€413
Starts:   June 1st
Duration: 2 Months
Educator: University of Amsterdam

This is a comprehensive course for anyone wishing to understand data science. Something that is now absolutely crucial for marketing – from insights and strategy, to campaign assessment and CRM. This course covers everything from obtaining, cleaning and analysing your data to R Programming (computer language for your query writing) to cluster analysis and data presentation. This one is definitely on my list for some official certification in one of my pet subjects.


Psychology and Neuroscience:

If you are a strategist/planner in marketing, you really can’t learn enough about human behaviour and consumer behaviour… Neuroscience is already becoming highly ‘en vogue’ again – but this time because of serious recent advancements in understanding the brain. A few really well suited courses have unfortunately finished but here are the upcoming ones. Keep an eye out for any future modules too. 

Title: Sleep: Neurobiology, Medicine and Society 200
Cost:   Free
Starts:   June 1st, Verified Cert Available
Duration: 3 Months
Educator: University of Michigan

Neurobiology is going to become more and more interesting to the marketing/advertising industry over the next few years, so I’d highly recommend anything in this area but this course does look particularly good. 

Title: Psychological First Aid
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   Now (May 18th)
Duration: 6 weeks
Educator: John Hopkins University

This course is about giving psychological first aid to others – not self-help and deals with some issues of severe trauma. From a marketing perspective, could be very useful for those looking at information campaigns. 

Title: Psychology of Popularity 200
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   22nd of June
Duration: 6 weeks
Educator: University of North Carolina

No need to say why this course should be interesting to marketers, planners and well, everyone! Particularly of interest though is that you can be a participant in their research too… #youcantsitwithus

Understanding Modern Culture and Society: 

If you want to change people’s habits and views, if you want to understand their current tastes and decision making processes – both as consumers and human beings – you have to keep up to date with a strong understanding of modern culture and society. A good marketer shouldn’t merely know what’s on trend, they should also know why. The below modules therefore are highly relevant to marketers – despite their awesome ‘fun’ factor – and great starter courses if your not yet sure if you want to commit to something a little ‘heavier’. 

Title: Fantasy and Science-Fiction – the Human Mind, Our Modern WorldDown-the-Rabbit-Hole-Studying-for-Finals
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   June 1st
Duration: 11 weeks
Educator: University of Michigan

This course will be of particular interest to creatives and anyone with a background in English Literature. It requires some heavy reading/knowledge of the classics but most are relatively short texts. Personally I will be taking this to see how it compares to my UCD arts English modules and to have a greater understanding of children’s literature. From a creative perspective, it’s really useful to have an in-depth understanding of the foundational stories that have so much reference in our modern culture… Also will really help with your writing skills both creative and argumental. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.43.41

Title: Superhero Entertainments
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   Sept 28th
Duration: 8 weeks
Educator: National University of Singapore

The best coursera course I have completed so far was on comic books and by the University of Colorado. I wrote a blog post about it here. Unfortunately the new course is not available yet (it will probably run around October) but I can’t recommend studying anything to do with comics enough as a sequential art that is a keystone in understanding both human nature and storytelling. The re-rise of the Superhero in recent years in movies, TV shows and pop culture says so much about us as a society, our obsessions, pre-dispositions, desires and particularly, our collective anxieties. Hopefully this course shall be just as eye opening, so put a reminder in your Google calendar! 

Engaging Economics:

Alongside psychology, I think Economics is a really useful subject to have a background knowledge in for marketing. I’m a serious micro and behavioural economics fanatic but the below is a good introductory slice…

Title: The Power of Microeconomics – Economic Principles in the Real World Money-stack
Cost:   Free
Starts:   In your own time
Duration: In your own time
Educator: University of California, Irvine

A good course to pair with… 

Title: The Power of Macroeconomics – Economic Principles in the Real World
Cost:   Free
Starts:   In your own time
Duration: In your own time
Educator: University of California, Irvine

Spot the difference? Which side of the fence will you end up on? And while you’re at it from the ‘University of Life’ (ok no, same one, Irvine) learn how to manage your own finances here (I sorta really should do this course).

Title: Economics and Banking Part 1 
Cost:   Free, Verified Cert Available
Starts:   May 3rd – but you can still start now
Duration: 7 weeks
Educator: Barnard College, Columbia

These economists sure like their two-parters huh? This one focuses particularly on money – which, when you think about it is a pretty bizarre concept – and our recent history. So go on, furnish your Celtic Tiger pub rants with educated arguments to wow them all! 😉

Just Cause:

Because knowledge is power, and because in advertising, you never know when your expertise in some random field can come in handy, here are some other great courses you may want to look at for your own pursuits…

Forensic Science – ‘cause who doesn’t love Sherlock/Elementary/CSI? Hurry though,  it’s already started.giphy

Chinese for Beginners – seen as how they’re running the world and all.

Work Smarter not Harder – a course on time management and productivity.

Gut Check: Exploring your Microbiome – cause your health is wealth, don’t you know. For anyone who’s interested in nutrition and how the modern diet is effecting all aspects of human health.

Fundamentals of Management – for anyone looking to up their game in the workplace.

Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making – again, for anyone looking to up their game in the workplace and well, life.

New Models of Business in Society – for anyone in a managerial role or looking to set up their own business

Essentials of Entrepreneurship: Thinking and Action – samezees!.  Both of these have a very engaging speaker by the way.

Communication in the 21st Century Workplace – no doubt a really interesting course. For my blog post on digital addictions and the workplace, click here.

Managing Fashion and Luxury Companies – This is course I completed last year. I will be particularly useful for anyone who working with international retail accounts or luxury goods market. The speakers are particularly likeable and this is a ‘no fluff’ approach to luxury and fashion for those that love it enough to want to know the technical and structural aspects of the industry. It also includes a lot of interviews with ‘on-the-ground’ industry specialists. Their engagement with the students over social media during my ‘live’ course was particularly innovating and really makes you feel part of a real class group. This one however is now a ‘do in your own time’ – which is great to for other reasons. I have made a few interesting contacts around the world through it too.

So there you have it. I do hope you find something of interest and that perhaps your first online MOOC kindles a new found love and belief in further education. If you do, please spread the word and share this list. I will try to keep it up to date. Any questions, or if you sign up for something please let me know by commenting below study buddy!

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