Six free online courses to improve your career prospects in 2016 - from learning Chinese to the art of persuasion

 
Lynsey Barber
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Time to get studying? It's easy with a Mooc (Source: Getty)

New year, new you? Resolutions for 2016 don't always have to be long-winded, life changing or expensive. One of the simplest ways to kick start the year is to look at how you can edge ahead in the career jungle to improve your job prospects in 2016.

And what better way than by learning a new skill with the help of Moocs - that's massive open online course, bringing short courses from some of the world's top universities to you, entirely for free. So, if you fancy adding another string to your bow or achievement to your LinkedIn profile that might just put you ahead of the competition with recruiters (or just want to keep your mind occupied with a new challenge), check out these six courses.

Read more: Three reasons New Year's resolutions are terrible for you

Learn to be persuasive

How to win friends? Maybe not. How to influence people? This is the course for you. From Northwestern university, Leadership through Social Influence is one of a six-part course on being a leader. You'll end up with an "extensive persuasion tool kit" covering: strategies for influencing people’s personal attitudes; strategies for affecting social factors influencing behaviour; strategies for affecting people’s perceived ability to undertake the desired behaviour; and strategies for inducing people to act on their existing intentions.

Learn to code

Feel like you're out of the loop when it comes to technology? Everyone talks about coding, but it can be difficult to know where to start. That's why MIT's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python is a good place to start. Assuming no prior knowledge of computer science, you'll get a broad overview of things, an understanding of Python programming and understanding of simple algorithms, testing and debugging.

  • MIT Edx
  • 9 weeks
  • 15 hours per week
  • Starts: January 13

Learn to become an entrepreneur

Perhaps you're no longer wanting to climb the corporate ladder and feel like it's finally time to make that brilliant idea a reality in 2016. MIT's How to Become an Entrepreneur course is what you're looking for. It promises to give you everything you need to begin, from market research skills to pitching knowledge, in just six weeks.

  • MIT EdX
  • Six weeks
  • 1-3 hours per week
  • Starts: January 25

Learn to learn

If you get enough training on the job to stand you in good stead for that future dream career, how about turbo charging that by becoming a better learner? The University of California, San Diego, promises to teach invaluable learning techniques offering up memory techniques and advice on dealing with procrastination.

Learn Chinese

We're increasingly working across borders, and with China giving the US a run for its money as the world's largest economy, understanding a little Mandarin could go a long way in business. Peking University's Chinese for Beginners course aims to give you the basics, including everyday simple conversations.

Learn to get active

Sitting at a desk all day is not ideal for anyone wanting to get fit. Now, the University of Edinburgh has come up with an online course designed to get you physically active in your everyday life, whether at home or at work. An unusual area for online study, but for anyone office-bound, it could just provide that New Year pick me up you've been looking for, without any particularly drastic lifestyle changes. There are also follow-up messages for six months after the course to keep you on the right track.

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