At last week’s HP small business event, I was pleasantly surprised to find that HP offers free online courses.
In the Learning Center of the HP Small Business Connection website you will find 65 free online courses. Courses range from understanding the new Windows Vista Business operating system, to designing your own business documents, to technology topics such as learning the basics of firewalls.
The majority of the courses are suited for non-technical business owners, managers and self-employed professionals. There is even a series of courses designed for realtors.
To try out the HP courses I signed up for and have started taking a course called Microsoft Excel Extreme (advanced). Once you enroll you get immediate access to each of the lessons online. Each lesson contains an easy-to-digest amount of information. You can ask questions of the instructor at a private discussion board set up specifically for your class. It is easy to leave and come back to your lessons at any time, whatever your schedule happens to be.
Another notable part of the HP Small Business Connection site contains extensive resources for creating marketing documents. We all know that HP is known for its printers. Well now you can download advanced templates for creating and printing business forms right from your office. There is even a series of unified templates that you can use to give a consistent look to letterhead, business cards, brochures, shipping labels, PowerPoint presentations and other business documents. Naturally, you will want to tailor the standard template slightly, perhaps changing the colors — but it is a convenient start that will save hours of time. You can even get access to 30 stock images free from istockphoto.com, through the HP site (so you don’t have to buy some pricey CD of stock images).
For sole proprietors and startup businesses, the templates are an inexpensive way to get a business identity kit that would cost thousands of dollars if you had to hire a graphic designer. This means that you can save money and still present a professional look while your business is a fledgling. Later on after your business grows and you have more money coming in the door you can spring for a custom design, but at first the templates will work for most of us.
Valerie Taglio, Vice President of HP’s Personal Systems Group, said the website is there because “many small business owners don’t have the support network of an office, so they have to turn somewhere else for advisors.” Not only is her comment right on, but I would add that many of us do not have time to even take a course during regular business hours. Online courses that you can take any time are particularly useful.
To get access to free resources, go to:
Downloadable templates and istockphoto images
Sounds like HP is really putting a focus on catering to their small business market, and rightfully so. I’ve yet to check out the classes and templates available, but from what you’ve described, they might rival the templates available from Microsoft.
I’m sure these classes and templates will prove to be very useful to small businesses that cannot hire an entire marketing and creative team to support their efforts.
Yes, Mila, I think the courses and templates are good for young growing businesses.
But remember that some of these resources are appropriate even for experienced business people and established businesses, such as the class about the new Vista Business operating system or the advanced Excel class I signed up for.
For instance, I have been using Excel for 10 years and consider myself a “power user” of Excel. But there is always something more to learn, such as pivot tables — my understanding of pivot tables is fuzzy. This online course is a convenient way to learn that advanced function.
Great point! I was mostly concentrating on the templates in my response, but I’m glad that you pointed out that the classes offered can benefit larger companies or even more experienced personnel.
It’s also great that these courses offer useful in-depth information. I have found that so many “free” classes focus on just the basics of a given program/topic.