For each course in my homemade MBA curriculum, I will provide before-and-after commentary – think of it as a Coursera course review. The before section will cover my expectations going into the course and any specific reasons I chose to take it. The after section will be a reflection of what I thought of the course (format, material, professor, workload, etc.), what I learned vs. what I expected to learn, and whether or not I would recommend it to others (and why). I hope this Coursera course-review format is useful for the rest of you out there who are making your own homemade MBAs using Coursera.
Homemade MBA Coursera course: Introduction to Financial Accounting
- Parent University: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
- Description: of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, the course is designed to provide an understanding of financial accounting fundamentals for prospective users of corporate financial information, such as investors, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers). The course focuses on understanding how economic events such as operating activities, corporate investments, and financing transactions are recorded in the three main financial statements (i.e., the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows). Students will develop the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis. Students will also learn how accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the financial reporting process.
Chosen to replicate the HBS MBA course: Financial Reporting and Control
- Description: Recognizing that accounting is the primary channel for communicating information about the economics of a business, this course provides a broad view of how accounting contributes to an organization.
Expectations going in:
- I expect to learn the basics of Accounting in the class. As I have no prior experience in Accounting, or Accounting classes, I’m not entirely sure what the basics even are. But I expect to learn them through this class.
Specific reasons I chose this course:
- I chose this class for two main reasons: first, because I have no formal education in Accounting, and I think it’s a very important subject to know if you want to have a meaningful career in the business world (especially in Sales and Marketing, which is my domain); and second, because it is being offered by Wharton (a top business school).
My thoughts of the course:
- Format – good
- This class used the reliable structure of posting a week of video lectures accompanied by a weekly homework assignment. There was also a mid-term exam, and a final-exam. The homework contributed to 60% of your final grade, and each exam was worth 20%. To get a statement of accomplishment you had to earn 70% of the possible points.
- One minor complaint about the homework assignments was that we were only allowed two attempts. Limiting the number of attempts to two meant that you didn’t really get to use the homework to learn from your mistakes (though in comparison to a traditional class, I guess two attempts is still pretty generous!). However, only having two tries did make me take the assignments more seriously, so perhaps it was good for me overall.
- Material – thorough
- I was pretty critical of the video lectures for this class in my First Impressions post, and they were pretty cheesy, but, week after week, I slowly warmed up to them. In the end, the mock-dialogue Prof. Bushee created between himself and his virtual students did serve as a good way to break up some otherwise dry material (sorry Accountants!), and made it a little more palatable. After my experience in this class, I think that Accounting is a very tough subject to teach – it isn’t exciting, it’s full of rules and specific terminology, it requires some memorization, it’s complicated, the rules change over time, there are grey areas, and much of the financial information we were trying to decipher seems to have been made intentionally confusing (or misleading) by the corporate accounting wizards who drafted the financial statements. In hindsight, I give Prof. Bushee, and any other Accounting professors, lots of credit for tackling a difficult-to-teach subject and making it accessible to “the rest of us” non-accounting types. Seriously, well done.
- I especially liked Prof. Bushee’s use of the Pause button in lectures. This is a great example of taking advantage of the fact that the lectures aren’t real-time, so us students could practice the concepts being presented during the lectures. For example, Prof. Bushee used this so we could practice making journal entries before he took us through the examples.
- Although there is a lot of material (10 weeks!) and lots of very long (28 minutes!) videos, Prof. Bushee did cover a lot of material, and I think this was a very thorough and informative Introduction to Financial Accounting class. I will also say that this class was much more substantial than a lot of other Coursera classes I have taken so far; this felt more like a real college or graduate course.
- Professor – great
- As I mentioned in the Material review, it took me a while to warm up to Prof. Bushee, but in the end I came to really respect and ultimately like him. The virtual students, the puns, the bad movie references, and bad accounting jokes in general…all added up to be a great combination that actually had me chuckling a few times by week 10. I’m sorry, prof. Bushee, that I doubted your ways in the beginning. Now that I’m sitting here with my newly acquired knowledge of Accounting (and a statement of accomplishment to back it up), I have to say thank you for taking the time to make Accounting approachable, if not entertaining, for those of us non-accounting types in the world. You did a really great job.
- Workload – heavy
- This class was 10 weeks long, with over two hours of video lectures per week, a 10-question assignment every week, a mid-term and a final exam. In other words, this course was serious business. It is, after all, a Wharton class – the Wharton intro to accounting class the real MBAs at the #3 b-school in the US take every year, and it felt like it. With the high workload comes the reward of knowing that I accomplished something real, and did something worth doing.
- I must say it again – well done Prof. Bushee. Also, I liked the grading policy that rewarded effort on homework by giving it 60% of the final grade. This took some of the pressure off of the exams if you did well enough on the homework.
What I learned vs. what I expected to learn
- This class exceeded my expectations. I expected to learn the basics of Accounting, but I think I learned much more than just the basics in this class. This class did not make me an Accountant, but it did make me comfortable, confident, and competent enough to discuss projects with my company’s Accounting department, budgeting with my company’s senior management, and to review company financial statements with more than a rudimentary understanding of what the information is telling me.
Would I recommend this course to others?
- I can’t imagine that you can find a better Introduction to Accounting class (for free, online) than this. It is obvious that Prof. Bushee dedicated a lot of time and energy into making Accounting teachable in a MOOC, and if you stick with this class until the end, it will pay off.
As a reminder, each course of my homemade MBA curriculum replicates a course from Harvard Business School’s first-year Required Curriculum.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this course or my review of it, please let me know in the comments section below.