The Ultimate List of Free Online Classes for Product Managers in 2020

Kimberly Berls
Dec 14, 2017 · 12 min read

As product managers, we need to continuously learn new skills. I’ve kept this list of free (and low-cost) online classes since 2017, and I update it every year.

This post was refreshed with edits and additions on March 21, 2020. I figured many of you are in quarantine and looking for a class to take!

It’s 2020. A new year, a new virus. How can you learn a new skill during your time in quarantine? There are a billion online classes… so I’ve done the hard work for you. I’ve pored through (and taken) a plethora of online classes and compiled this list of the best ones.

Here is the ultimate list of free and low-cost online classes to learn essential product management skills.

Added in 2020:

Get an overview of AI and what it means for product managers. Then build a training set with Figure 8, and train models using Google AutoML. Learn how to measure outcomes of trained models. This Nanodegree is extremely relevant for product managers that work with ML and data science.

Leading People and TeamsCoursera (specialization)Audit all 5 classes for free, full specialization $49/month

Learn essential leadership skills from the University of Michigan. Focus on inspiring and motivating direct reports and other stakeholders, managing talent, and leading teams. User reviews are stellar.

Chris Voss Teaches the Art of NegotiationMasterclass — Unlimited access for $15/month

Never Split the Difference is one of my (not very well-kept) secrets. Product managers MUST know how to negotiate well, and former hostage negotiator Chris Voss is the master of the art, IMO. Get stronger communication skills, game-changing insights into human nature, and more of what you want out of your product… and life.

As a bonus, in his younger years, Chris Voss had an incredible mustache.

The 3 Best Courses for Product Management Fundamentals:

This course is designed for anyone interested in becoming a product manager, including current project or product managers who want to learn modern fundamentals.

Digital Product ManagementEdX + Boston University — Audit for free, verified certificate $900 (price increased from $200)

This 5-course “MicroMasters” includes courses on agile, Design Thinking, platform strategy and business analytics.

Software Product Management SpecializationCoursera — Audit for free, $49 a month

I completed this entire specialization last year, and found it to be a great foundation for new product managers, and an excellent, over-all refresher for seasoned PMs.

Learn AI Basics.

*Highly Recommended — Still in 2020, this is a GREAT course.*

AI is not only for engineers. If you want your organization to become better at using AI, this is the course to take. You’ll learn the meaning behind common AI terminology, what AI realistically can (and cannot!) do, how to spot opportunities to apply AI to problems in your own organization , and how to build an AI strategy in your company.

Learn about software development process.

Offered in partnership with Georgia Tech, this class will teach you how to select and implement the ideal software process for your development project.

Software Development Processes and MethodologiesCoursera —Free 7 -day trial, then $49 a month

This course looks at traditional processes (waterfall) as well as more ‘modern’ methodologies (Agile and Lean) — a good overall course for all types of methodologies.

Learn about data science.

IBM Data Science Professional Certificate — Coursera — $39/month

This course is for ‘beginners.’ With learning programs ranging from courses to degrees that teach R, Python, SQL, and other top data science skills, this is a great overall course in data science.

Programming for Data Science — Udacity — $45/month

This course is technical in nature but covers everything from SQL to Python.

Data Analyst Nanodegree — Udacity — $899 or $75/month

OK, so this one isn’t exactly free or really ‘low-cost,’ but if you’re looking for a business-focused data science course, this ‘nanodegree’ is on my list of things to accomplish in the next couple of years.

Learn the fundamentals of product design.

This course “is designed to help you materialize your game-changing idea and transform it into a product that you can build a business around.” Learn about product validation, UI/UX practices, and most importantly Google’s Design Sprint and the process for setting and tracking actionable metrics.

Design PatternsCoursera + University of Alberta — Audit for free

Learn how to incorporate consistent, intuitive design patterns into your product. The ultimate goal/ final project is to redesign an existing Java-based Android application using the design patterns learned in class. A great class for PMs new to apps/ design patterns.

Learn how to run product design sprints.

You’ve probably heard the hype about design sprints — so learn how to run one! Clients and managers often don’t want to pay for design (or strategy) — they want ‘results’! Too often, this leads to solutions that just don’t make sense and aren’t valuable to anyone. Design sprints allow you to meet client’s desire for quick, specific outcomes while making time to do things right. In this course, you’ll learn how to plan and run situation-appropriate sprints to avoid waste and deliver value sooner.

Learn about machine learning.

This course does get technical. But if you’re just looking to understand concepts, I’d focus on the Introduction (Week 1), Neural Networks (Weeks 4 & 5), Advice for Applying Machine Learning (Week 6), and Recommender Systems (Week 9).

Episode 16 of the Product Popcorn Podcast — I talk over the basics of supervised and unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning, and neural networks with machine learning engineer Kate Silverstein. Learn the basics in under an hour.

View all podcast episodes on Product Popcorn, iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher

Learn about deep learning… from a business perspective.

It’s not often I see a great course focused on a technical subject, but from a business perspective. This course was designed to help you build business strategies and enable you to conduct technical planning on new DL and ML services and products.

Learn to build personas for your enterprise B2B product.

Learn how to build, critique, and apply the B2B “buyer persona” to your enterprise or start-up business.

Learn about customer analytics.

Learn about the three main types of customer analytics — descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics — and their application to real-world business practices including Amazon, Google, and Starbucks, among others.

Learn to make better data-driven decisions.

I feel like ‘data-driven decisions’ is the catch phrase of the century. But how many product managers really know how to do this? This course teaches the fundamentals of making data-driven decisions.

Learn about product marketing, messaging and media landscape.

Learn to take a thoughtful, integrated approach to content that stands out. You will learn “why developing engaging content for your audience is an essential component in effective social marketing.” This class also explains paid/owned/earned media, and walks you through an integrated who/what/where approach that utilizes platform-specific messaging to grow your market share.

Learn about social listening and insights.

Looking for in-depth knowledge of social listening and customer insights? This course explores the Big Data of social, and helps gain a complete picture of what can be learned from interactions on social sites. This course is also part of a 6-course Specialization in Social Media Marketing, but I find the social listening course is most relevant to software product managers.

Learn to use Big Data.

This course is geared towards business peeps, and explores what big data is, and how can we use data analytics. It explores case studies for perspective and context.

Learn how to do Agile testing.

This course shows you how to integrate the practice of experimentation across concept/feature testing, usability testing, and testing the software itself. Basically, you’ll learn how to answer these four big questions with experiments: 1. Should we build it? 2. Did it matter? 3. Is it usable? 4. Did it break?

Learn to develop data products.

This is the last course in a 9-course Data Science Specialization, so it does require some statistical knowledge to get through it. However, if you’re not interested in the technical parts, I’d recommend just auditing the course materials to get the gist of it.

Learn about blockchain … from a business perspective.

This is an intro level course for technical and non-technical peeps. It examines blockchains for business, and a number of specific use cases. If you’re curious about blockchain — or you work in FinTech (you must know about blockchain if you work in FinTech), this course is highly recommended!

Learn product marketing for apps.

Are you a mobile product manager, looking to increase you knowledge on the marketing side? This free course from Udacity explores app marketing. Understand your users, develop a market segmentation plan, position your product, and create a value proposition.

Learn negotiation skills.

One student who binge-watched this course concluded that “It’s as good as Breaking Bad.” Another learner compared it to “House of Cards.” Either way, this video-based negotiation course is hosted by one of the top 10 business schools in the country, and you can audit it for free. Which is good news for PMs, because all product managers need stellar negotiation skills.

Negotiation Skills Tutorial — — Free for 7-day trial, $20–30/month for Lynda subscription

Looking for a (very) short course on negotiation? Try this 2-hour tutorial.

Learn how to effectively price and promote your product.

The product I manage was recently involved in a pricing structure overhaul. I wish I’d taken this course beforehand, so I could have contributed more to the conversation. This course covers: How to price your offerings, how to allocate your scarce marketing budget among different promotion vehicles.

Improve your strategy skills & thinking.

This course explores how digital giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix solve problems, raise capital, win market share, and sustain growth. A great course for aspiring CEOs or side-hustlers!

Learn management skills (to kick ass after being promoted!)

The New Manager’s Five-week Success System will give you all the information you need to start managing effectively, from day one. If you are already a new manager, then you will be able to apply this material straight away, and get immediate results.

Coaching Skills for Managers Specialization — Coursera + UC Davis — Free for 7 days, then $49/ month

An in-depth, 4-course specialization for managers that want to take their skills to the next level. You will learn how effective managers use coaching to establish clear expectations and accountability, how to assess performance, and how to conduct coaching conversations that build awareness and get results.

Build strong and cohesive teams.

Building strong, cohesive teams is key to product success. In this 4-course specialization, students will analyze a real world case provided by N2Growth, a global firm that helps clients create a culture of leadership through practice areas like strategy, cultural transformation, and organizational design.

Building Your Team — — 30-day free trial, then $20–30/month

Looking for a short tutorial on team building? This short, one-hour course helps you identify your leadership style, and guides you through the different stages or team development.

Learn to manage those product budgets.

If you’re looking to become more financially literate, this brand-new course will teach you how to perform basic financial analyses to support decision-making.

Finance Essentials for MBA Students — EdX — Audit for free, verified certificate for $49

This is a little more extensive than needed for most product managers, but if you’re looking to move up in your company and ‘talk the talk’ with execs, you should know key financial basics and terms. Learn financial topics like present value, Internal Rate of Return (IRR), capital budgeting, diversification, portfolio choice and the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), all of which are often discussed and explored in great detail in MBA programs across the globe as well as everyday business operations.

Learn to manage an IoT product.

This one isn’t exactly ‘low-cost’, but it is specific, and nothing similar exists in the free course marketplace. PMs from Google, Amazon, and other tech giants have vouched for this program, although I haven’t taken it myself.

2018 is the year I’m finally learning to code. But for real, though.

If this is the case for you, I highly recommend Udacity’s Intro to Programming Nanodegree. It takes 5 months to finish the program (assuming you’re studying about 10 hrs/ week), and at a bargain price of $399 for the entire program. You can also pay $99/ month for however many months it takes you to complete the course. Either way, I’d say it’s a sound investment.

I’m looking for a big, personal transformation

I dabbled in this course in 2015, and really enjoyed the content. If you’re looking for inspiration, personal transformation, or just a boost, this free course is a great start. It’s sold as “an introduction to leading profound social, environmental and personal transformation.” You’ll learn about leadership, self-knowledge, capacities of deep listening and observation, and practices for creating innovation that create wellbeing in society.

I am looking to change jobs. (a.k.a I need resume help!)

Craft Your Cover Letter Udacity — Free — 1 day

Refresh Your ResumeUdacity — Free — 2 days

Strengthen Your LinkedIn Network & BrandUdacity — Free — 1 week

Learn fun, inspirational product management tidbits on the reg!

Subscribe to the Product Popcorn Newsletter — I only send it out once a month.

Follow me on Twitter or Instagram too, for daily inspiration and advice.

And finally, here is a picture of a red panda playing with a piece of bamboo.

Because red pandas make every day, and every new year, better than ever.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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