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 Marketing
- Parent University: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
- Description: Part of the Wharton MBA Foundation Series, this course is part of the Wharton MBA foundation series in the MOOC format. It is taught by three of Wharton’s top faculty in the marketing department, which is consistently ranked as the #1 marketing department in the world. This course features on-location videos and debates between the three professors. The three core topics focus on customer loyalty. The first is about branding: given a very disparate world in which new startups are emerging constantly, brand equity is one of the key elements of keeping customers so that they have a trusted source for their needs. The second topic is customer centricity, which is taught in a global context where students learn how to gather needs and focus on the customer via discussion forums and empirical examples which are advanced by the mix of cultures in the course. Finally, the course explores practical, go-to-market strategies to help students understand the drivers that influence customers and see how these are implemented prior to making an investment.
Chosen to replicate the HBS MBA course: Marketing
- Description: The objectives of this course are to demonstrate the role of marketing in the company; to explore the relationship of marketing to other functions; and to show how effective marketing builds on a thorough understanding of buyer behavior to create value for customers.
Expectations going in:
- I work in Marketing, so I have pretty high expectations for this course. I expect some sort of definition and description of the major elements of marketing including market analysis as well as promotion. As Wharton is a top tier business school (which claims to be ranked #1 for Marketing in the course description itself), I expect the professors to be subject matter experts, and that the course material will be on the cutting edge of marketing knowledge. Side note: I always thought the “best” business school for Marketing was Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, but I guess rankings are always up for debate.
Specific reasons I chose this course:
- The main reasons I chose this course were: to complete the Wharton MBA Foundation Series of business/MBA classes, to learn the academic theories of marketing (and to see how they compare to the real-world), and because Marketing is such a fundamental component of an MBA that and self taught MBA would be remiss without it.
My thoughts of the course:
- Format – good
- This class had a mix of traditional and modern structural elements. The core of the class was traditional video-lectures and quizzes, with a comprehensive final exam at the end. However, the modern twist of the course was that it was divided into three main units: Branding, Customer Centricity, and Go to Market Strategies. Each of these units was presented by a different professor – each the subject matter expert for the topic (Barbara Kahn for Branding, Peter Fader for Customer Centricity, and David Bell for Go to Market Strategies). This structure was similar to the University of Geneva’s course on International Organizations Management, however this class was presented in a much better way. To summarize, each professor had three weeks of content in this class (compared to just one in the University of Geneva course). This gave each professor sufficient time to cover their material in depth without being rushed. Following each three-week session, there was a 20-question quiz that covered each subject area. The final was 40 multiple-choice questions. The format worked very well, and I found it effective and enjoyable.
- Material – top notch, cutting edge
- The video lectures for this class were superb. As I mentioned before, I’m really surprised by how much variation there is among the Wharton MBA Foundation Series of MBA classes. I have now completed all four MBA Foundation Series classes (Accounting, Finance, Operations Management, and now Marketing), and they range from a simple web-cam in a professor’s office to professionally edited and produced video-lectures in front of a green screen or on location in a relevant venue. This class was the latter of the two, with very concise, professional videos that were all very high quality.
- One minor complaint about the final exam: there seemed to be quite a few questions on the final exam that were not covered by the video lectures or by the reading material provided. While it didn’t prevent me from scoring well enough to pass the class, it did frustrate me. What’s the point of watching all the lectures and reviewing all the material if there are going to be questions on the exams that weren’t discussed in the material provided? For those of you reading this who also took this class, did you notice this as well? (I’m hoping it wasn’t just me!)
- Professor – multiple professors, all great
- As you would expect from a prestigious institution like Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania, these professors were outstanding. Barbara Kahn, Peter Fader, and David Bell were all very good lecturers who provided useful and timely examples and stories to demonstrate, explain, and reinforce the concepts they discussed. All of the professors provided their lecture notes as .pdfs we could download, and provided supplemental reading suggestions for each unit they taught. These were some of the best professors I have come across yet in my homemade MBA project.
- Workload – medium/light
- The workload for Intro to Marketing was as advertised in the course overview materials – about five to six hours per week. Most of this time was spent watching the video lectures, with some of it spent reviewing the recommended/supplemental reading materials. There was a 20-question quiz at the end of each three-week unit, which took about 30 minutes to complete. All-in-all, this was a pretty easy class to complete as long as you kept on schedule.
- One pleasant surprise in this class was a guest-speaker who joined for a few video lectures. Professors Kahn, Fader, and Bell hosted a question-and-answer session with a former Wharton MBA student (and current successful entrepreneur) to discuss some of the real-world applications of the theories and concepts the professors taught in the class. This was a great insight into how some tools and techniques work in some places and situations but not in others, and provided some great examples of where the rubber meets the road in the Marketing world. It would be great if other courses did something like this as well.
What I learned vs. what I expected to learn
As I mentioned previously, I work in Marketing so I had high expectations of this class. I’m pleased to say that Introduction to Marketing delivered on my expectations of learning about market analysis and promotion. In addition, I was very pleased with the emphasis on Customer Centricity. I think Professor Fader is on to something here, and the macro shift from a product-centric to a customer-centric business philosophy (and culture) is upon us. I look forward to keeping abreast of the latest developments in this area of Marketing, and I am grateful for being exposed to the concept through this class.
Would I recommend Wharton’s Introduction to Marketing to others?
- I don’t think you could ask for more in an Introduction to Marketing class. I was very impressed with all aspects of this course, and can say with the confidence of a real-life practitioner of Marketing that this is a fantastic introduction to the subject.
As a reminder, each course of my homemade MBA curriculum replicates a course from Harvard Business School’s first-year Required Curriculum (as noted here in my post explaining how I made my homemade MBA 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.