Workflows & Processes

The Best Online Learning Platforms for Small Business Owners

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Learning new skills is an important part of any business journey. As a small business owner, however, finding the time to do so isn’t always easy! This makes flexible online learning platforms an incredibly valuable tool.

Regularly adding new skills to your belt is important. It not only helps grow your business, but it can increase your confidence too. No-one starts off an expert, and over time you’ll find yourself having to research topics you’ve never explored before. Whether that’s general business advice or more specific resources, the following online learning platforms can help.

I’ll explore several popular online learning platforms in this post. Whatever your business needs, there is sure to be a resource to help.

Online Learning Platforms

The following platforms operate entirely online, making them accessible from wherever you’re working. I’ll break down the costs, format and give an example of one of the courses or resources they have available.

While I have not actively used these platforms myself, they are among the most popular out there. If you have any experience with them or can recommend a platform that isn’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear about it!

Digital Business Academy


Pricing: Free

Format: Mix of Text and short video content

Content Development: Collaboration between a number of educational bodies including UCL and the University of Cambridge

Tech Nation’s Digital Business Academy is a fantastic platform which offers free business learning resources. Simply register with your email address or social account and start studying! Especially if you’re just starting out, this is the ideal scenario.

These courses are described as “expert and bitesize”. This is exactly what many small business owners are looking for in an online learning platform. Topics include Brand & Communications, Ideas & Products, Marketing & Sales and Operations & Finance.

Being a free platform, the Digital Business Academy may be more limited than others when it comes to content. However, for dipping your toe in, it has a great range of short courses. They also offer points on each course, which translate to rewards! These include discounts on desk space, mentoring and subscriptions.

Example: Understand Startup Finance

Keeping on top of your finances is crucial in business, especially in the early stages. One of the courses featured on this online learning platform is Understand Startup Finance. This course involves six bitesize units covering profit and loss, raising funds and day to day finance. It was created by the University of Cambridge & Tech Nation, with Judge Business School.

LinkedIn Learning


Price: Free One Month Trial then £24.98 per month (40% saving on annual plan). Courses can also be purchased individually (prices vary depending on course).

Format: Very flexible – video content, audio content, offline viewing and personalised content

Content Development: Courses are taught by real world professionals in the field

LinkedIn Learning (previously “Lynda” before it was acquired by LinkedIn) has 16,000 courses to choose from. While it is a more expensive option, the quality of the content reflects this.

If you’re looking for an online learning platform to really get your teeth into, this could be the one. Trending topics include Project Management Skills, Spreadsheets and Data Analysis.

LinkedIn Learning offers a mix of bitesize video content and much more in depth learning. So depending on the time you have to hand, there will be something to suit your needs.

Example: Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365)

Smoothly running admin is an essential part of any good business. So this Excel Essential Training is a handy course to explore! It covers formulas and functions, charts, formatting, security and sharing. In short, everything you need to know to operate a successful spreadsheet! This course is £29.99 to buy individually and is taught by spreadsheet author and trainer Dennis Taylor.

What users say: gave LinkedIn Learning 4 Stars. “All in all, LinkedIn Learning is definitely worth it for the serious learner. It’s a superb choice for learners who want to develop strong job skills, but don’t want to pursue certificates or degrees at a university. For the most casual and curious learners, though, the cost of LinkedIn Learning may be a bit steep.”



Price: Free Version or Premium Version for $19 per month ($99 per year annually). Team option also available ($99 per person per year).

Format: Video lessons, course projects and community interaction

Content Development: Courses are taught by real world creatives

If you like the idea of learning as part of a community, Skillshare is the online learning platform for you. It’s a more creatively led site than some of the others. Skillshare explores everything from film and creative writing to business analytics and website development.

The site has over 22,000 courses to choose from, some of which are available for free. The premium subscription unlocks all courses, removes ads and allows for offline working.

Members are encouraged to actively take part in the community. Course projects can be shared and students can engage in discussions on the board. As a result, this is a really interactive learning platform.

Example: E-Commerce Essentials: How to Start a Successful Online Business

Taught by Big Commerce‘s Tracey Wallace, this is a one hour class breaking down the steps to launching your online business. If you’re looking to start a new business, or expand your existing business into e-commerce, this is a great place to start. It covers product niches, competitive analysis and store set up, so it sets you up with a great foundation.

What users say: PCMag gave Skillshare 4 stars. “With its low price and great range of content, it’s easy to recommend Skillshare to anyone looking to learn new skills or sharpen existing ones. It’s a PCMag Editors’ Choice service for online courses.”



Price: Cost specific to each course, ranging from around £29.99 to £100.

Format: Videos, Downloadable Resources and Assignments

Content Development: Courses are taught by real world professionals

Labelled as the “leading global marketplace for learning”, Udemy is a well known online learning platform. It boasts 400m course enrolments and 130k courses, therefore is seen as a power house in the industry.

Categories cover (among others) IT and Software, Personal Development, Design, Marketing and Finance. In short, Udemy’s platform has something for everyone.

Example: Adobe Illustrator CC – Essentials Training Course

Looking to level up your design skills? If so, Adobe Illustrator is an extremely useful program to know your way around. This course is suitable for all levels, which is a big plus. It will leave you with 30 of your own projects in your portfolio. The course was created in collaboration with Adobe Certified Instructor Daniel Walter Scott.

What users say: PCMag gave Udemy 3.5 Stars. “The overwhelming majority of courses, however, are of good quality or better. Student ratings and reviews sometimes help you decide whether a class will be any good, although even the worst courses seem to get three stars or better.”

Future Learn


Price: Free version or unlimited membership for £199.99 per year.

Format: Video lectures, audio content, readings and (in some cases) assignments.

Content Development: Courses are taught by experts from leading Universities and organisations.

Future Learn works in an interesting way in terms of signing up. Again it is a 100% online learning platform, but it has three options for studying:

Credit: Using Future Learn

This flexible approach to learning makes Future Learn a great option whatever your schedule is. The course duration generally ranges from 2 to 6 weeks, at 2 to 6 hours per week.

They also cover a great range of topics. For example, Business, Technology and Media. The platform includes micro credentials and online degrees, in addition to the short courses you can explore.

In addition, Future Learn’s discussion boards allow you to follow other learners and learn together. Depending on your style, this could be just what you need.

Example: Wellbeing and Resilience at Work

Learning for your business isn’t just about the practical skills. Running a small business is rewarding but hard work! Therefore, learning how to be resilient and manage stress is important too. This course was created by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding. It is part of their “Thriving in the Digital Workplace” program. An excellent program, therefore, for life at the moment.

What users say: gave Future Learn 4.5 Stars. “Most of all, I was very impressed by the peer-to-peer interaction, student forums and discussion boards on FutureLearn. No other MOOC site I’ve used has utilised student discussions as effectively.”

Moz and Moz Academy


Price: Free Content and paid courses (ranging from $49 to $595)

Format: Articles, Video lessons and follow up quizzes

Content Development: Courses are created by SEO pro site Moz

Bewildered by SEO? You’re not alone. Because of this, SEO experts Moz launched the Moz Academy. Through their courses you can learn to understand at a basic, novice or intermediate level. They also have fantastic free content to read and learn through on their main site.

Their courses cover back link building, keyword research and SEO fundamentals. They also have in depth courses if you want to go pro and offer SEO services to clients in the future.

As an online learning platform, this is much more specific to one area than the others. But as we’ve seen in 2020, with more and more business moving online, SEO is a vital skill!

Example: Backlink Basics

Learn how to back link like a pro with this short course. It explores the relevance of links, common mistakes and schemes, and how to measure progress. If you’re looking to give your website a boost in terms of rankings, this could be really useful.

What users say: Entrepreneur and marketer Neil Patel reviewed their Beginners Guide to SEO. “Moz is one of the top names in the SEO industry, and this guide reminds us why. Having been read more than three million times, the advice you receive is up to date and actionable.”


Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Price: Free

Format: Video

Content Development: Videos can be created by anyone

Looking to learn about just about anything? YouTube has you covered. Unlike the other online learning platforms, where tutors are hired or go through a sign up process, anyone can launch a YouTube channel. However, for quick pieces of advice, it can be an excellent resource.

Keep in mind that because of the format of YouTube, it’s useful to do some reading up on the creator. As said, anyone can create a YouTube video and upload it, so check that the source seems to be reliable. Ideally they’ll have a website, social media presence or portfolio backing them up.

That said, just because YouTube videos themselves aren’t accredited, it doesn’t mean the creator isn’t an expert! Envato Tuts, for example, have a channel covering tools and sites including Photoshop and WordPress. They have accredited Adobe trainers making video content for their channel.

The amazing thing about YouTube is that whatever you search for, you’re likely to find a wide range of free videos. Specific photo editing hacks, Instagram tips, admin advice, it’s all there. Because of the scale of YouTube’s platform, it’s unlikely you’ll come up short. Browse their endless channels and find the creator whose style best works for you. As online learning platforms go, it’s pretty great.

Example: Photoshop for Beginners – Free Course

Dan Scott is a certified Adobe Instructor, making him the perfect tutor for this basics of Photoshop video. It covers everything from layers, colour and tone, to resizing, text and retouching. It’s very detailed at 3hours long! This is an incredible amount of training to get for free. So if you’re looking to up your photo quality for your website and social media, check this out.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
My Favourite Small Business and Marketing Tools
Why You Should Work on Your Small Business – Not Just in it
How to Save Time and Automate Your Workflows
How to Access Small Business Mentoring In Scotland

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.