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: Foundations of Business Strategy
- Parent University: University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
- Description: In this course, we will explore the underlying theory and frameworks that provide the foundations of a successful business strategy. We will develop your ability to think strategically by providing you the tools for conducting a strategic analysis. Strategic analysis is critical for analyzing the competitive context in which an organization operates and for making reasoned and reasonable recommendations for how that organization should position itself and what actions it should take to maximize value creation. Aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, analysts, and consultants all may find value in mastering these fundamentals.
Chosen to replicate HBS MBA course: Strategy
- HBS Strategy Description: The objective of this course is to help students develop the skills for formulating strategy. It provides an understanding of: A firm’s operative environment and how to sustain competitive advantage, how to generate superior value for customers by designing the optimum configuration of the product mix and functional activities, and how to balance the opportunities and risks associated with dynamic and uncertain changes in industry attractiveness and competitive position.
Expectations going in:
- Learn what a strategist does
- See if I like “strategy”, as I was going to focus on this for my real MBA
Specific reasons I chose this course:
- Pick up some basic strategy tools I could use at work
- See what the Darden experience is like
My thoughts of the course:
- Format – this is as good as an online course can get, imho.
- 6 weeks, a quiz and a case study every week, peer feedback via discussion boards, and final project worth 50% of grade at the end
- A certificate of accomplishment is granted to those who earned 70% or over
- Discussion boards with lively discussion of cases gave an opportunity to practice using the strategist tools and get feedback
- Professional videos – best I’ve seen yet on Coursera, most 5-8 minutes long, weekly debrief
- Good, concise reading material provided in chapter-by-chapter pdf’s from the professor’s real textbook
- Fantastic lecturer, well-practiced, comfortable in front of camera
- Appreciates the difference between a video lecture and an in-person lecture
- High energy and enthusiasm for the subject comes through in every video
- Appropriate, at about 5 hours a week. Sometimes the cases took longer, but (amazingly) they weren’t required for a grade.
- Quizzes allowed 100 tries, so ultimately you can get 100% on all by the 4th try. This is nice because you can see the correct answers and learn from your mistakes.
- Final project was an excellent way to amalgamate all course learning, much better than a test would have been
- Again, the best Coursera class I have done so far
What I learned vs. what I expected to learn
- Now I’m familiar with the basics of strategy, feel like I got a real MBA course, learned many strategy tools and how/when to use them
- Didn’t get a “feel” for Darden, other than a few allusions from the professor and the great Darden media team video experience.
Would I recommend this course to others?
This is my favorite course so far. It was amazing, insightful, fun, well paced with a reasonable workload. The people at Darden obviously take Coursera seriously, and did a great job putting together this course. My impression/opinion of the school improved massively (not that it was low to begin with) because of the great content and professional delivery of this course.
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.