A course in social impact can provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference in their communities. It can also help them understand the root causes of social problems and how to address them effectively. Moreover, such a course can equip students with the tools to become agents of change themselves.
There are many reasons why taking a course in social impact can be beneficial for students. Below we have created a list of 10 social impact courses by top universities that can be audited for free. You can choose to opt-in for a paid certificate for an extra fee.
Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators is a free online entrepreneurship course offered by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. This course guides students through the four steps needed to launch a nonprofit organization or a for-profit social enterprise: Define, Design, Pilot and Scale. Instruction is given through a series of online videos in English. Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and Russian subtitles are available. Students are free to complete coursework at a pace that suits their schedules; however, the instructor recommends that students spend four weeks on the class, completing one video module each week. A total of seven hours of video lectures is provided.
Business Strategies for Social Impact is a free online business strategy course offered by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States taught by two celebrated faculty members from the Wharton School of Business, Katherine Klein and Chris Geczy. This class is intended for individuals, investors and organizations that wish to learn more about how business and social change intersect. Lectures are presented through 11 hours of online videos, and the instructors recommend that students divide the work into four weekly modules. Working at this pace, students will need to spend two to three hours on the coursework each week.
Unleashing the Impact of your Social Enterprise is a free online entrepreneurship course offered by the Centre for Corporate Responsibility at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. This class is offered as a part of the university’s online Social Entrepreneurship Specialization program but can also be taken on its own. By the end of the class, students will know how to evaluate the mission of a social enterprise and to implement a business plan and acquire funding. The instructor recommends that students divide the 18 hours of video lectures into five modules, completing one module each week. Students are still free to complete the coursework at a pace that fits their needs.
Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation is a free online entrepreneurship course offered by the University of Cape Town in South Africa in cooperation with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Intended for beginners, this class teaches students how to conceive and launch social enterprises. The class consists of six weekly units: What’s our problem?, What do we have to work with?, Getting out of your comfort zone, Innovating by design, Changing the system – who me?, and What if it works. Each unit consists of online videos, readings and quizzes and takes roughly four hours to complete.
is a free online social sciences course offered by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and taught by leading scholar Professor Sir Paul Collier. An intermediate-level course, the class is geared toward individuals who have some prior knowledge of economics and wish to delve into how poor societies can become prosperous. Students who complete the online videos and assignments as six weekly modules should expect to devote two to three hours of study time to the course every week. At the end of the class, students complete a final assignment.
Innovative Finance: Hacking finance to change the world is a free online finance course offered by the University of Cape Town in South Africa. During this beginner’s level class, students will learn about the problems posed by distributing resources to address global poverty and how social entrepreneurs, non-profits, development funders, impact investors, governments and foundations can seek and provide funding to overcome these obstacles. The class includes 23 hours of video instruction plus supplementary assignments. Deadlines are flexible; however, the instructors suggest that students complete one module each week over a five-week period. To follow this schedule, students will need to devote about five hours to the course weekly.
Research for Impact is a free online governance and society course offered by the University of Cape Town in South Africa. This class is taught by Jesse DeMaria-Kinney and Mark New who together implemented the Adaptation at Scale for Semi-arid Regions (ASSAR) Project. Specifically, the class introduces the five elements of the approach used to launch the project: Theory of Change; Stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, Strategic Communication, Capacity Development; and Influencing. The class includes video lectures, readings and assignments. Most students can complete all of the coursework within twenty hours. Although the class is self-paced, it is suggested that students divide the work into five weekly four-hour units.
Leadership Communication for Maximum Impact: Storytelling is a free online leadership and management course offered by Northwestern University in the United States. Students have the option to take the class on its own or as a part of the school’s Organizational Leadership Specialization program. The purpose of the course is to teach managers and other business leaders how to tell compelling stories that inspire subordinates, encourage collaboration with investors and engage customers. Each week students complete one video module. Topics include: Leadership Lessons From Great Brands; The Art of Leadership Storytelling Made Simple; Storytelling in Crisis: The Ultimate Marketing Event; and Storytelling in Crisis: The Ultimate Marketing Event.
Social Norms, Social Change I is a free online governance and society course offered by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. The class is taught through a partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and seeks to educate students about the differences between customs, descriptive norms and social norms. By the end of the four-week class, students will have a thorough understanding of the terms and will be able to clearly see how they impact social change. Each week, students complete one module that includes video lectures, readings and quizzes. These modules take two to five hours to complete.
Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence is a free online leadership and management course taught by Case Western Reserve University in the United States. This eight-week course helps leaders develop emotional intelligence so that they can more effectively supervise, coach and train their subordinates. The class is divided into eight video modules: Resonant Leadership and the Neuroscience Behind It; Renewal As an Antidote to Chronic Stress; Emotional Intelligence and Its Link to Leadership; Inspiring and Motivating Sustained Development, Growth and Learning; Coaching with Compassion to Inspire Sustained Learning and Development & Peer Coaching: With a Little Help from my Friends; Inspiring Change Through Hope and Vision; The Multilevel Nature of Sustained, Desired Change and The Real Self and Learning Agenda. After completing the course, students have the option to continue taking classes in the Inspired Leadership Specialization to earn a certificate from the university.