Monday, May 7, 2012

Lessons learned, unlearned and relearned: A semester of online class

In January, I posted of my intent to put my valuation and corporate finance classes online. As I finished my last sessions in both classes today, I thought it would be a good time to take stock of what the experience taught me about the future of education and how online education can evolve.

A quick review. I teach corporate finance and valuation classes to MBAs at the Stern School of Business at NYU and have done so for 26 years. While I have put my webcasts and material online for many years, I decided to both formalize and organize the online class this year, using a start up firm called Coursekit. It has since been able to attract more funds and has a new name, Lore.

The site allowed me to place the resources for the class (lecture notes, assignments, handouts and exams) and the webcasts of the class in one place, together with a social media add-on where anyone (me or any student registered in the class) could post links, thoughts or questions about the class. Here are the links to the classes:
Valuation: Link to Lore Valuation class
Corporate Finance: Link to Lore Corporate Finance class

I had a lot of fun, teaching these classes, and I am glad I did it, but I did get some valuable lessons in online learning.
1. Discipline is critical on both sides. I had to learn to be disciplined and organized, posting lectures on the site, as soon as I had the links, as well as any other resources I used in my regular class. On the participant side, I recognized how difficult it is for someone (often several time zones away), with a regular job and family commitments, to spend 80 minutes twice a week, watching lectures and then spending more time preparing for the class. While I don't have the statistics, I am sure that of the 2500+ people signed up for the corporate finance class and the 1900 people in the valuation class, relatively few will finish the class on time (today) and that many will not finish the class at all.
What I plan to do about it 
(1) I plan to leave the class online for at least the summer and perhaps longer. Hopefully, that will allow those whose constraint is time to catch up on the lectures and even do the projects for the class.
(2) I also plan to create a shorter (20 minute) version of each 80-minute lecture, delivering the high points of the session for those who really cannot spend the time needed for the full lecture.

2. Diverse backgrounds/experiences: I know that some people struggled more than others, partly due to language differences and partly because of diverse backgrounds (some were more well versed in statistics and accounting than others). I feel badly for those who struggled and wish I could have done more to help.
What I plan to do about it
(1) I am looking for online resources that I can direct people who are in search of basic accounting/ statistics classes to. If I cannot find anything, I will attempt to create my own makeshift versions.
(2) Next semester, I hope to rope in a  few people who have been gracious enough to offer their help and start a tutorial component to the class. Together, we may be able to fill the gap.

3. Technology:  Technology is still evolving and that there were roadblocks, on both sides. On my side, there were at least two sessions in my corporate finance class where the recording system failed, and I had to make recordings to fill in. On the other side, those users who tried to watch the webcasts on Google Chrome were stymied (Don't even ask...) and some had trouble with bandwidth.
What I plan to do about it
(1) Fix the recording system at Stern so that there are no recording failures. Improve the audio and video quality.
(2) Use more conduits for the lectures (iTunes U, YouTube) to allow those who have trouble downloading to be able to go elsewhere to get the material.

In short, there is a great deal that I can do to make the online learning experience a richer, more interactive one, and I plan to keep working on it. For those of you who were and are part of this experiment, thank you for giving it a shot. For those of you who were disappointed in it, I am sorry and I will work on making it better.

As a final point, for those who would rather take your classes in person, I am preparing for two executive valuation seminars that I will be delivering during the next month.
a. The first is a two-day valuation seminar in Mumbai, India, on May 24 and 25. You can get details about the seminar by clicking here.
b. The second is an open-enrollment three-day valuation seminar that I teach every year at the Stern School of Business in New York. This year, it will be on June 4, 5 and 6. While it is intense, I manage to cover almost all of the material that I teach in my regular MBA class (which lasts 14 weeks). You can get details about it by clicking here.

34 comments:

Ishfaq said...

Hi Prof. Damodaran,

Rather unrelated question for you, do u take the Corporate Finance and Valution courses for part-time MBA students at Stern? If not, would you consider taking it in the future?

Best Wishes,

Ishfaq

Anonymous said...

I have audited and will finish the on-line valuation class tomorrow. I'm finishing the new edition of "On Valuation" and have read The Little Book of Valuation. I expect to review the Corporate Finance course as well. I look forward to taking the Executive Valuation course in person at Stern, at some point. The courses and on-line databases are an extraordinary resource and I thank you for making them available. R. Poag

Booster said...

I admire your zeal to disseminate knowledge and promote distance learning. I trust the materials would serve as very good reference for all. Keep it up and thanks.....

The Contrarian Individual Investor said...

Pretty amazing both what and that you are sharing this knowledge. Many thanks. After a career in helping corporations maximize their valuation I found many new insights. Frightening how little the knowledge of valuation finds it's way into markets in the short term and reassuring how it finds it way in the long term. Especially appreciate your understanding the treatment of different situations

Basil2 said...

Prof. Damodaran, if you have a chance take a look into two recent startups for delivering online courses. One is coursera and another one is udacity. I like them both they are similar in how they do it. Perhaps you could consider their apprach.

Barry said...

Prof. Damodaran I have taken both courses and the experience has been very enlightening .I never would have had access to this level of education without your efforts and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof.,

I'd like to thank you for making so much knowledge available online. I hope you are not discouraged by the limited number of participants.

I would have liked to but did not sign up for your courses because I'm already committed to another curriculum and I simply don't have enough time for both. However, I do use many of the resources you post online as a reference. A sincere thanks for all of your efforts.

eduberry said...

While organizations are willing to invest a lot on the front end of a change, they often don't put money and time into supporting the roll-out.

school erp

eduberry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loganthan said...

Professor
We should all be immensely thankful for your selfless attitude and passion to disseminate knowledge. Thank you.

Your suggestion to have a course in statistics would be of immense help. I would like to make a suggestion that if possible (I don't know what the space constraints are) to keep all the lectures together with the weekly test and the quizes of this class in archive either at Lore or on your website as this would greatly benefit those who want to go back and refer your lectures beyond fall.

Marcos Carvalho said...

Dear Professor,
thabks for all your effort/engagement to make your knowledge available for everyone.
I´m still watching your corporate finance classes and had been a great experience. I also have to tank you when you answered my questions, what you did really quickly.
As a review, I would say that would be great for us if we had the chance to put your quizzes online and then we could compare ourselves with all the other online students. Other point, tough much more complex, if we could make some adaptation on the projects to make them feasible to receive correction from you or your team. I recognise your effort to put all the criterias available for us, but still being different, you know what I mean...

Thanks for everything

Peter said...

Prof Damodaran,

I have to say that I am eternally grateful for you putting these classes online. I'm currently an Arts student in Political Science at the UNiversity of British Columbia, and am working at a student run hedge fund out here, and your classes have been the basis for our models and valuation techniques, and the experience of taking your class online has gotten me an internship this summer at a securities firm. Again, thanks so much, it really means a lot to me as a non-commerce student hoping to go into finance to be able to access these resources.

Marlon Fernandes said...

Professor,

I had great difficulty with the idiom but I prepared myself better since then and I think I'll be able to complete the course next time. Thanks for the opportunity.
But thinking about incentives, have you considered about charging a small fee? Not thinking about profits, but perhaps could result in a stronger commitment of the students.

Best whises,

Marlon

Anonymous said...

I also had great difficulty with the idiom, however I found a solution. I decided read your book (1000 pages) first before see the class.

Maybe I'll be able to complete the course next time.

Your research and paper articles are incredible. You have done a good work.

Thank you.

Alex

sganesan said...

Dear Prof. Damodaran, I attended the Corporate Finance lecture. I started attending both Valuation and CorFin, but later found that my knowledge of corp Fin wasnt strong enough to keep up with the Valuation classes.

I cherished the class experience. I have followed your website and knew the availability of primers and notes. But your active engagement was a motivating factor in keeping me engaged with the class. Thanks for looking out for us.

One more comment on the video quality; I was most engaged in the videos that you posted from your office (when the technology failed). If your class video shows you and the slides together (clearer than it shows in the Quiz prep classes), that would be great. Considering you have already provided us with the slides.

I still have 2 classes to finish. But the project did help me understand the business model of my company. Breaking down the businesses and actually ask a question during a quarterly meeting about the cost of capital of each of the new businesses that my company takes. (I am an Engineer by profession)

Thanks for the opportunity.
SG

Anonymous said...

"This is fantastic, Aswath. Have you thought about going to NYU and seeing if they can offer some sort of "Certificate of Completion" or something of the sort, much like what MIT has begun to do with one of their classes? I believe that class is taught and graded exactly like the actual MIT class, and the certificate is only given out upon successful (and on time!) completion of the class. I think it could be an interesting way to get more people involved in the long haul, as it would add "legitimacy" to what you are doing (I put it in quotes because I have gone through much of your material and all of your stuff is absolutely wonderful, but this would give people something concrete). This is an awesome concept, and once again we can see just how much online learning has, and will continue to grow."

from http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/lessons-learned-unlearned-and-relearned-a-semester-of-online-class

Thanks again for the syndication, our site loves your writing.

Andy
WSO's COO

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof.,

Thank you again for taking the classes. Even though I have not been able to complete all the courses outlined, it has still been a very enlightening experience.

I especially like your thought on Diverse backgrounds/experiences. I come from a non-accounting/statistics background and it will go a long way for me and others who share my thought about creating some basics on those subjects. It will be highly appreciated.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Professor Aswath, In plain words I simply love you.Last years due to your corporate finance and valuation class helped me a lot to pass my CFA level 2.
It is honour for me to know and listen someone like you.

Your true lover from pakistan.

school erp said...

Hello Friends.........

Great information.Thanks for sharing this useful information with all of us.Keep sharing more in the future.

Have a nice time ahead.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Professor,

Thank you so much for bringing your classes online. I have started with your valuation classes and I am thoroughly enjoying them. Wish I had gotten access to these earlier!

Regards,
Ram

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof, im one of those who enrolled in your online classes at coursekit. I live in Singapore and am already an mba in finance with a proper job at a bank. I am also one of those who didnt complete the course in time and am still at lecture 4 :-(

I request you to please keep the material intact for atleast 3-4 months after the classes get over for people like me , who have fallen seriously behind, but are still committed, to finish the class.

I think it was a brilliant idea to put the material online like this. Thanks so much!
Regards
Ruchir

Don Quijote said...

Congratulations for your work and website.

I am a daring one doing to him suggestions but with this post I allow myself the luxury of some suggestion:

It would be marvellous videos with subtitles but you would have to ask for collaboration in the network to do it.

I would like to see post reviews on valuation's books that you are reading.

Also a section or links of the people who reads and who believes interesting

I am impatient to read a new post:D

P.S: sorry for my bad english

Piseth said...

Hi Prof. Damodaran,

I really appreciate you putting up your lectures online. I feel I have definitely learned a lot from them so far. I do feel you definitely need some background on accounting, CAPM, and investing/valuation in general to really get your lectures though. Too bad I will actually have to get an MBA to have a chance at a job in investment management though.

Keep it going!

Anonymous said...

can you post the lectures on itunes university?

Total Wealth said...

Dear Aswath

Yes, the Joy of Giving is the greatest Joy of all.

Certainly you have that Joy.

You have given so much to your students and my students.

www.totalwealthplan.com

Anonymous said...

I did not had the time to finish the courses. I am at my last semester of my undergraduate degree in Norway, so i had a lot to do this year. But i will see them all during the summer! Thanks a lot for great classes.

Loki said...

Sir,

Thank you for the effort you put in to upload your course, true to the adage that knowledge increases when it's shared.
I signed up for the CorpFin course,but hardly did much.I hope to catch up,but I'm sure that many motivated students in India were helped immensely by your course.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if the webcasts for the executive corporate finance class are still available somewhere? The links on the main webpage are all broken.
Many thanks, great resource!

legal translation said...

Its really good that you provide these classes online.Thanks for it.I am also want to take addmission in your classes as soon as possible.

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